Purdue spinout looks to commercialise flow batteries for electric cars

February 25, 2019 //By Nick Flaherty
Purdue spinout looks to commercialise flow batteries for electric cars
A professor from Purdue University in the US is looking to commercialise a membrane-free flow battery technology for electric cars, competing with European startups.

"The jump that this technology has made in the past two years is a testament to its value in changing the way we power our vehicles,” said John Cushman, Purdue University distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences and a professor of mathematics (above). “It’s a game-changer for the next generation of electric cars because it does not require a very costly rebuild of the electric grid throughout the US.  Instead, one could convert gas stations to pump fresh electrolyte and discard depleted electrolyte and convert oil-changing facilities to anode replacing stations. It is easier and safer to use and is more environmentally friendly than existing battery systems.”

Cushman and Eric Nauman, professor in mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering co-founded IFBattery to commercialize the technology.

The battery has the potential to generate enough energy to drive an electric car up to 3,000 miles using a patented liquid and anode technology that is safe and affordable for recharging electric and hybrid vehicle batteries by replacing the fluid in the batteries about every 300 miles through a process similar to refueling a car, and costing around $65 Every 3,000 miles, the anode material is replaced, taking less time than is needed to do an oil change.

“The battery does two things: it produces electricity and it produces hydrogen. That is important because most hydrogen-powered cars run on a 5,000 or 10,000 PSI [pounds per square inch] tank, which can be dangerous,” said Michael Dziekan, senior engineer for IFBattery. “This system generates hydrogen as you need it, so you can safely store hydrogen at pressures of 20 or 30 PSI instead of 10,000.”

The flow battery technology was first tested in scooters and then larger off-road vehicles. The next step will be industrial equipment and then automobiles, according to Cushman. 

Swiss flow battery deveoper NanoFlowCell has designed entire cars around its technology to demonstrate how it can be used. 

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