A ground-breaking car battery that requires no mains recharging may revolutionise ecofriendly transport.. The Metalectrique battery powers a car for a claimed 10 times further than existing models, Devon-based engineer Trevor Jackson and colleague George Adams say that bench tests indicate their battery is capable of distances of between 1,400 and 4,000 miles without stopping off to re-power.
When the batteries are spent, they are removed and replaced, with the idea that drivers will eventually be able to swap them at depots or services stations at a cost of around £27, working out at around 13p per mile travelled. Known as long-range metal air batteries, energy is transferred through the corrosion of aluminium by a chemical solution. While the driver simply buys a replacement, the spent cells themselves can be re-filled by suppliers, ready to go again.
Until now, the global focus has been upon lithium-ion batteries to provide a green motoring solution. Cars solely powered by this means have an average range of around 100 miles before they have to be plugged in to a mains socket. And, according to the National Grid, of the 83.5 Gigawatts of energy available to it in 2011, 87.5% was generated by coal, oil, gas and nuclear power.
“The chemistry is quite special,” says retired naval officer Mr Jackson of his ecofriendly battery.
Indeed, every time that the green batteries run out of ‘juice’ they leave a residue liquid – a chemical compound called aluminium hydroxide.
“If you take it to a microsmelter and re-heat it, it turns back into aluminium,” says Mr Jackson. “If you sited them and did that at time when wind turbines would be otherwise switched off, we could use that free energy locally and produce aluminium.”
“It’s a closed loop,” added Mr Adams.
Metalectrique’s research has already resulted in the iCan, which turns a tin of soda-pop into a portable power source which they hope could revolutionise the lives of millions of people in the third world.
The company, which recently relocated from Saltash to units at Tavistock’s Pitts Cleave industrial estate, has been supported by the London-based service company behind all-electric smart car, the G-Wiz.
Going Green has provided the business with one of its vehicles, to test the battery on, which will undertake a tour of Britain from the Westcountry in September in a bid to raise awareness of Metalectrique’s green motoring solution.
The Devon company is convinced that its battery will revolutionise green motoring, eventually powering bigger vehicles over longer ranges.
But, although the business has secured the backing of Going Green and mentoring support from a high-profile UK sports car manufacturer that has been keeping tabs on its developments, it needs to raise around £2 million in investor backing to move into production – which it wants to do in West Devon.
“We’ve had no government funding and current sources tends to be loans, which seem to take forever to apply for,” said Mr Jackson.
“It would have been nice to get some support, but you have to stand on your own two feet. When you are a small company it is difficult to break through, however.”
The £2 million would finance Metalectrique’s plans for a ten-strong facility over the two years they estimate it will take to get the battery into full production. It would also enable it to establish a hub and spoke distribution service. It is also set to work with the G-Wiz’s Indian based parent company, as the latter develops models that are compatible with the metal air batteries and make swapping spent ones for new, as straightforward as topping up with fuel.
One technicality to be surmounted, is that batteries on most electric vehicles are stored under the seats.
With lithium-ion, this is not a problem, as the cars have external points for mains recharging. “The preferred government policy is towards plugging in,” says Mr Jackson. “What we are saying, is it’s time to get off the baby harness.
“While research has moved towards the rechargeable lithium-ion, the upshot is that you also make green cars that are perceived by the public as looking like a bit of a joke,” he adds. The aim is to evolve green motoring beyond the tiny city run-about.
Talks are also ongoing with two private investors that could provide Metalectrique with the capital injection it needs to move ahead.
Meanwhile, Mr Jackson last month joined the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership steering committee and will be taking part in its monthly meetings in Whitehall.
“It’s clear that oil and gas are very well represented on those platforms which advise ministers on policy,” he says. “We need to tell people what we are doing and that there is an answer to electric vehicles.” In a further boost for the company, Metalectrique has also just sealed a share-swap deal with an as-yet undisclosed Southampton-based specialist in artificial intelligence, to bring its iCan into production. The Southampton company will move forward with the battery device which Mr Jackson is determined will improve the lives of the poor and needy: “Africa is the number one target, in terms of getting it out to them,” he said.
The arrangement will also bring Metalectrique’s latest green-battery innovation into production. Its iPOG (Power on the Go) is a stylish charger which can re-boost mobile phones, tablets and is even powerful enough to power an electric guitar amp.
‘When you’re a small company it’s difficult to break through’ Trevor Jackson
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