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New car battery promises instant recharging

A group of researchers from Purdue University in the United States have developed a car battery that might change the world. They just need some funders.

They are now trying to get enough people excited so that the money flows in. That is likely, given
the massive investment going into battery technology around the world.

For now, the Ifbattery only has three people working on it. It needs more people. More people will mean more progress and tests to prove that the battery is revolutionary.

It could solve some of the biggest problems for existing battery-powered and hybrid vehicles — such as how and where to recharge. Battery-driven cars take hours to recharge. It also requires a network of recharging points, which in turn means a large amount of money has to be sunk into infrastructure.

In South Africa, not having a network means people can only use electric cars when they can charge them at home or at their place of work.

This also presents the single biggest obstacle to electric vehicles: people are used to driving to a petrol station and quickly filling up. Sitting around and waiting for a car to charge, and then not being able to go far on a single charge, has been shown by countless studies to deter people from buying electric cars.

This is what makes the Ifbattery potentially important. Drivers will be able to swoosh up to a pump, drop off the used fluid electrolytes in their batteries, and recharge the batteries from a pump — just as they do with a petrol or diesel car.

The Ifbattery uses a mix of water, ethanol, aluminium and zinc to cause a chemical reaction. These materials are readily available, unlike the expensive lithium in most other batteries. The team says this would make topping up the Ifbattery “almost free”.

Petrol pumps can be retrofitted at existing stations, making the infrastructure rollout much cheaper than it would be for conventional electric batteries.

The used fluid can also be taken away and recharged, creating a renewable source of energy.

Critically, the Ifbattery gets rid of the membrane separating the chemicals in conventional batteries. These membranes are the reason batteries catch fire and become inefficient in storing energy. They also create an environmental headache when they are thrown away, with toxic chemicals leaking into the environment.  

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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