ZINC-AIR BATTERIES IN LAS VEGAS
By Ken McCall (columnist), "LV perfect vehicle for unveiling new electric battery," Las Vegas Sun, Friday, 18 July 1997, p 3A.
Last year, General Motor's released its $40,000 EV1, but it looks like a poor pick in the race for a commercially viable electric vehicle. Its range is only about 60 miles on a charge. In Las Vegas, however, the potential to change the world is a pretty reasonable bet, now that Electric Fuel Corp. and its zinc-air battery are appearing on the scene.
Working with the Center for Sustainable Technology, Electric Fuel is introducing a battery with a range 3 to 4 times that of comparably sized lead-acid batteries about 300 miles which is also significantly higher than the nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries. And there's no recharging, just swapping the old battery for a fresh one. Then the old battery is recycled by a chemical treatment, and its ready for another run. The battery is made up of zinc coated plastic strips, hung in a box. The movement of air across the zinc coating liberates electrons, making electricity. As the zinc becomes coated with zinc oxide crystals, it must be replaced. The replacement operation takes about 10 minutes for large vehicles. Almost all the materials used in the system can be reused, including the chemicals for treatment, according to Ken Partain, President of the Center for Sustainable Technology.
The cost analysis shows that total ownership costs of the zinc-air batteries are about 25 percent higher than the old lead-acid batteries 12 cents a mile, as compared with 9 cents for lead-acid batteries. Unfortunately, personal vehicles will not be available for quite some time, because they will require a national network of battery swapping stations and recycling facilities.
A number of demonstration projects have been started in Europe by Electric Fuel. The German Postal Services is planning to convert 25,000 mail delivery vehicles to zinc-air batteries, in an agreement with Electric Fuel. The Las Vegas demonstration program will be the first in this country. The beginning program will be with fleet vehicles, such as delivery vans or buses, which are a major pollution factor. These programs should start conversions in October 1997. With 31 million people visiting Las Vegas from all over the world each year, where could be a better showcase for the new technology?
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August 19, 1997.