Flow cells for cars eliminate need for battery charging

Article By : Nick Flaherty

Batteries in electric vehicle could be recharged via electrolyte rather than electricity, says a Swiss start-up.

Swiss start-up nanoFlowcell has developed a flow battery technology that uses the combination of positive and negative electrolytes on a catalyst to generate power. This removes the need for recharging, instead refuelling tanks of the electrolytes.

The company is currently road testing electric vehicles with the technology ahead of a stock market floatation next year. It says it doesn’t plan to make vehicles but aims to license the technology to car makers.

Researchers at MIT have also demonstrated flow cell batteries.

"Electric mobility can be executed in a way that is less complicated and costly, and that is also more compatible with the consumer and the environment," said Nunzio La Vecchia, chief technology officer of nanoFlowcell Holdings Ltd and inventor of the nanoFlowcell energy storage technology. "My vision of a future electric mobility starts where all the demands of alternative technologies are floundering right now. Consumers are growing tired of claims and promises that drag far behind reality. Our nanoFlowcell alternative drive and energy storage technology is able to tackle the challenges of modern electric mobility."

Instead of heavy lithium ion battery packs, the nanoFlowcell is the size of a shoebox connected to two fuel tanks containing around 150 litres of separate electrolyte liquids. The electrolyte liquid is neither explosive nor flammable, and is not harmful to health or the environment.

This makes refuelling significantly easier, said La Vecchia. Instead of a new infrastructure of charging points, electric cars using the nanoFlowcell could refuel at existing petrol stations. The electrolyte is easy to transport and could use similar pumps, although it would need two nozzles to keep the electrolytes separate. The non-volatile nature avoids the costs of other refuelling approaches such as hydrogen for fuel cells. This would also be much quicker than charging high voltage vehicles.
He points to a Level 1 120V, 20A charging station for domestic use at 120V in the U.S., which takes 29 hours to charge an electric vehicle with a range of 240 kilometres, and up to 77 hours for an electric vehicle with a range of 480 kilometres. Charging stations with a voltage of 240V and 40A would need seven to 19 hours for this.

Shorter charging times are possible with a commercial charging station, from one to 2.5 hours at 60kW or from 24 minutes to one hour at 150kW, but these cost between ₹18.80 lakh (€25,000) and ₹37.59 lakh (€50,000).

The company is based in Vaduz, Lichenstein, with a holding company in London that is going public using technology developed in Zurich, Switzerland, as Juno Technology Products. The public offering will demonstrate the level of investor support for the technology, said La Vecchia.

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