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Magnesium may boost electric bikes

Kymco proposes battery swap scheme for Ionex electric scooter

Rechargeable batteries with magnesium instead of lithium could extend the range of electric vehicles as much as 50% and make them lighter and cheaper, new research has found.

CVMR Energy Metals says their eight-year research has found that magnesium (Mg) anodes in rechargeable batteries pack 50% more power as it has a higher energy density than lithium.

Rechargeable Li-ion batteries have dominated the rechargeable battery market since the 1990s and are the main energy source in electric vehicles.

All of the current and coming electric motorcycles and scooters use lithium-ion batteries

Harley electric LiveWire magnesium
Harley’s electric motorcycles, bicycles and scooters

However, lithium is rare and expensive, while magnesium is more widely available and therefore cheaper.

Other advantages are that Mg does not need an “intercalation” compound layer, so you can pack up to five-times more metal than lithium in the same-size rechargeable battery.

That also means batteries can be smaller and lighter, which is a huge boon for smaller electric vehicles such as motorcycles and scooters.

CVMR’s breakthrough comes in the use of a higher energy density cathode material and an electrolyte that helps the chemical reactions generate higher energy density than lithium batteries.

The American company hopes to have their magnesium-based batteries available in the next two years. 

Magnesium batteriesBike Battery start

Magnesium use in batteries is not new.

Non-rechargeable Mg batteries have been available for decades.

Magnesium dry batteries were widely used by the US military from 1965 to 1984 and Mg air batteries have been used as land-based backup systems and undersea power sources, using seawater as the electrolyte.

Although magnesium air batteries are primary cells (not rechargeable), they have the potential to become rechargeable by replacing their anode and electrolyte.

Rechargeable issuesKymco proposes battery swap scheme for Ionex electric scooter magnesium

The potential for rechargeable magnesium batteries has been known for some time.

However, finding a cost-effective high-energy density cathode material and suitable electrolytes has slowed progress.

The major problem has been the formation of a non-conductive layer on the Mg anode blocking the recharging of the battery.

In 2016, Honda’s Saitama Industrial Technology Center claimed they had a commercially viable Mg rechargeable battery that used vanadium as a cathode. However, these batteries have not yet hit the market.

Although CVMR owns one of the largest vanadium reserves in Africa, and vanadium has been touted as a suitable cathode in magnesium batteries, the company tested a host of other elements and compounds, such as zirconium, cobalt and tungsten.

They claim vanadium, manganese and transition metals are the most promising.

The US Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research has also researched chemical reactions involving magnesium.

As part of those studies, Berkeley Lab discovered that the self-stabilising, thin oxide surface layer that forms on the magnesium has some inherent defects that cause unwanted reactions.

CVMR spokesman Kamran Khozan claims they have overcome these defects.

“Today’s scientific discoveries cannot take place in isolation,” he says.

“We all benefit from each other’s efforts, and owe a debt of gratitude to those who have the vision to be leaders in their field of specialisation.”

  1. That’s one of the problems with patents – the lack of sharing of ideas and discoveries. Lawrence Hargrave, for example, who many believe achieved powered flight (in Australia) before the Wright brothers took to the air, shared his discoveries and helped to advance the field of aviation. The Wright brothers, on the other hand, behaved like typical American capitalists and patented all of their discoveries (along with discoveries made by others such as Hargrave), thus retarding progress in aviation. It’s good to see some sharing of information with respect to battery technology.

  2. Magnesium fires burn very hot and are difficult to extinguish, I don’t think I would like one on charge in my garage. Lithium cells are bad enough as it is when things go wrong!

  3. ….and in NZ, Richard Pearce (it is contested) also flew powered aircraft before the Wrights. Pearce not only designed the plane which had (unlike the Wright contraption) tricycle undercarriage, controllable flight surfaces and took off under it’s own power (1902/3 ) from the local road powered by a home designed and built engine which could be fired up as either a 2 or a 4 stroke driving a variable pitch traction (puller) propeller at the front end.
    Back to the subject…BBC ‘Hardtalk’ recently interviewed the French balloonist and pioneer aviator Bertrand Pickard. He said that “without any doubt” electrical powered flight would be achieved within 8 years. An American aircraft producer is already constructing a 125 seat plane. You have to wonder what sort of battery technology would have to be available given that weight is crucial and you can’t plug in to something half way across the Atlantic.

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