Liquid electricity for cars of the future

refill batteryThe reason why electric cars aren’t everywhere is simple — at the end of their range, they have to be stationary for hours while the batteries are recharged.

This is a pity, because even cars recharged from ‘dirty’ power stations are three times more environmentally friendly than conventional vehicles. That’s because only 20 per cent of the energy from gasoline or diesel actually reaches the wheels; in an electric car, it’s 60 per cent.

What recharging does is to change the state of the electrolyte fluid in the batteries. Now a Dutch government research organisation, the Innovation Network in Utrecht, has come up with a solution by standing the problem on its head.

Just pump the spent electrolyte out and pump in freshly charged electrolyte — literally, liquid electricity. This would take little more time than filling up with fossil fuel and the spent electrolyte can be recharged and re-sold: you would pay for the difference in electric charge.

It gets better. The Innovation Network foresees a new generation of ‘photon farmers’ using wind, solar or waste biomass to make clean electricity to recharge electrolyte and sell it at filling stations.

Nearly all farmers have enough space on their properties to build wind turbines, solar collectors or biomass plants. And it would end the craziness of using food plants such as corn and sugar cane to produce ethanol, a practice that is already driving the price of food almost beyond the reach of the world’s poorest populations.

More information from the Radio Netherlands Earthbeat program.


  1. Irving Leonard says

    “Liquid electricity” takes the form of a Vanadium Redox battery – technology which was pioneered by the University of NSW.

    It sounds like a great idea for electric car transport – filling up with ‘recharged electrolyte – but that means that you have to empty your car before you can fill it up again.

    How much energy will be needed to transport the electrolyte from the suburban filling stations back to the power station for recharging?

    What is the energy density of the electrolyte? How many kWhrs per litre of electrolyte?

    How much will it weigh? Will I need to have a couple of 44 gallon drums or equivalent sloshing around in my boot all the time with the electrolyte being pumped from a ‘charged’ tank to a ‘discharged’ tank?

    Where is the fuel efficiency in that?

    I understand that Hydro Tasmania were thinking about using the Vanadium Redox technology to ‘store’ wind energy at their wind farms on the Bass Strait islands but I haven’t heard anything lately. Is there a problem?

  2. Richard says

    I have been wondering about this for a few years now. It makes great sense. We currently spend huge amounts of time and energy getting oil from various locations, refining and transporting it to local fuel stations. With an electrolyte solution the consumer delivers the spent electrolyte back to the ‘filling station’ where it is re-charged by either local power generation or the national power network. A nice clean solution. The only problem I can see at present is the inability for the national power networks to meet the demand if everyone were to switch to this solution.

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