Claim: New refillable batteries could fuel an electric car revolution

Posted: February 25, 2019 by oldbrew in innovation, Travel


As with all battery-related news, it has to be treated with caution. Such ideas more often than not fail to turn into practical realities.

New technology promises an end to motorists’ ‘range anxiety’, reports NBC News.

Electric vehicles are easier on the environment than their gasoline-powered counterparts, but their long charging times and the scarcity of charging stations can make life hard for the eco-conscious motorists who drive them.

Now help may be on the horizon.

Scientists are working to develop refillable, or so-called flow, batteries that can be refueled in minutes at a vast network of converted gas stations. It’s a shift that could make electric vehicles (EVs) more attractive to drivers who are wary of long charging times.

“You drive 300 miles, drain your tank and pump in new [liquid] — as long as it would take to fill your car with gasoline — and drive off,” says John Cushman, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and mathematics at Purdue and a leading researcher on liquid battery technology.

Lee Cronin, a chemist at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and another leading researcher on the technology, agrees. He says flow batteries “would turn EVs into the cultural equivalent of a fuel car. Your range anxiety would be gone. And you have the existing pipe infrastructure for moving liquids around” — a reference to the service stations now in existence that could be retrofitted to pump the battery liquid instead of gasoline.


Like the lithium-ion batteries that power most electric vehicles on the road today, flow batteries release energy through chemical reactions between the ends of the battery and a substance known as electrolyte.

In a lithium-ion battery, the electrolyte sits between the ends of the battery; when it’s depleted, it has to be recharged.

In a flow battery, the electrolyte is pumped from a tank through the battery; when it’s depleted, it can simply be swapped out for a fresh batch.

Continued here.

  1. tom0mason says:

    So, yet again ‘jam tomorrow’ …

    So just convince millions of motorists of this technology’s worth with vehicles that are on par with today’s offerings of cost, performance and reliability.
    Next convince enough filling stations (and the oil companies behind them) that it’s profitable to offer the battery refill service.
    Lastly ensure that the infrastructure is built to either safely dispose of the spent electrolyte or safely reprocess it.
    Now choose where to start chicken or egg, vehicles or reprocessing industry — or both. A high risk, high cost investment start-up, that would probably need an Elon Musk type of personality and wealth to gee it along.

    From the nbcnews link above is this telling quote …

    And Gil Tal, director of the Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California, Davis, says he has seen many claims like Cushman’s and Cronin’s in his decade of working with electric vehicles — and they seldom pan out. “Between cost, reliability and safety,” he says, “most of these things will never make it all the way to cars.”

  2. Ve2 says:

    Scientists are working to develop refillable, or so-called flow, batteries

    Great and infallible solution to the energy crisis.

    One small thing, with what do you fill the batteries?

    One thing we know about scientists is that every idea they work on always works and comes into production in short order.

  3. hunter says:

    We’ll see…

  4. Gamecock says:

    ‘Electric vehicles are easier on the environment than their gasoline-powered counterparts’

    That is not in evidence. Hence, an empty assertion. More precisely, propaganda.

  5. Bob Greene says:

    Electric vehicles are much easier on the environment because you get to ignore production of the vehicle, producing and infrastructure improvements for delivery of the electricity. I have a bit of trouble getting my arms around driving my Hubmobile down to the local filling station to get the batteries drained and refilled. Seems like a longer and much more expensive activity than I would like.

    Why do the green solutions all seem to be clumsy and more expensive?

  6. oldbrew says:

    Electric vehicles are easier on the environment than their gasoline-powered counterparts

    At the point of use, probably true. But electricity has to be generated and that’s where the environment takes a hit, whether it’s wind turbines with their cross-country service roads and hefty concrete bases, plus spaghetti power lines all over the countryside, or fuel burning power stations.

    Batteries also have to be manufactured, and disposed of when they expire. Where are millions of old EV battery packs supposed to end up? And retired solar panels too?

  7. pochas94 says:

    Definitely needs government subsidies!

  8. stpaulchuck says:

    “Now help may be on the horizon”

    yeah, it’s called Prozac, take some and then go watch Gilligan’s Island reruns. It’ll be better for the planet.

  9. Greme No.3 says:

    No mention of power density i.e. (available) energy per kilogram. Will these cars require 900Kg of fluid?
    Also, vanadium flow batteries which are current technology are noted for their self discharge rate (as are NiCd cells). If you go on holidays how do you drive your now flat car down to the recarge station?

  10. ivan says:

    I see that some ‘scientists’ are becoming farmers now – grant farmers.

    From an engineering view point this type of technology is much better suited to stationary usage. In a car you need two tanks, pumps and other ancillary equipment (a Stanley steamer used less equipment and was more efficient).

    I note that there isn’t any information about the fluid they propose using which begs the question of how toxic is it and is it corrosive, can a spill be cleaned up with hazmat gear. Since the used fluid has to be dumped what is going to happen when some yob opens the dump valve in the parking lot.

    These guys would be better off designing a better natural gas flash boiler for something like the Stanley steamer. With one of them you are not limited to the charge in the battery – in fact it wouldn’t need any electricity from the grid at all.

  11. stpaulchuck says:

    whatever happened to the power cells that were supposed to convert gasoline with catalysts into hydrogen? or even directly use gasoline in a chemical reaction for electricity?

    more magic beans I guess

  12. Skeptikal says:

    I think that I would prefer the Mercedes AA Class Car.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s