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Flow battery lets electric cars travel 1,000 miles, recharges in minutes

A new battery technology could make electric vehicles go 500 to 1,000 miles on a single charge ─ five times longer than is possible now, researchers claim.

The technology, being developed by the Illinois Institute of Technology and the Argonne National Laboratory, will use a modified version of a flow battery. Rather than rely on solid electrodes to provide power, the new battery would run on liquid nanoelectrofuel electrodes.

It’s not exactly clear how the range improvements are created from a scientific point of view, but there are said to be a number of benefits. Lead researcher Carlo Segre explained that, unlike commonly used lithium-ion batteries, there’re no flammable items inside to catch fire.

Segre also said temperature is much easier to control compared with a solid state battery. Knowing lithium ion batteries often use cooling and heating to keep within an optimum temperature range, this could mean a less energy intensive system would be needed to ensure the battery is running optimally.

Most interesting of all is how you could refuel the modified flow battery. Besides plugging your car in as you would normally, it could be possible to top up your car with the liquid nanoelectrofuel electrodes at your nearest petrol station, making your electric vehicle more akin to a petrol or diesel. No more waiting for your car to recharge.

Of course, there’s a chance the liquid could leak out, leaving you stranded, and let’s not forget you would need to drain the old liquid to add the new, which could slow the process. But these seem like small design hurdles given the improved safety and efficiency touted.

Cars may not be the only thing to benefit. Assistant chemist at Argonne National Laboratory, Elena Timofeeva, said the liquid battery substance could be used to store and distribute green energy created by solar and win farms.

The US Department of Energy has given the technology’s creator a federal grant of US$3.4 million to develop a prototype battery.

As with any research, the impact of its prototype battery may take a good few years to filter down to electric vehicles you can actually buy. Here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later.

Image: Flickr