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.