Q & A with Aviv Tzidon, CEO of Phinergy

Aviv Tzidon is as much a visionary as he is a businessman. An entrepreneur who has founded over 10 high-tech companies – three of which have been listed on NASDAQ and one on the Frankfurt stock exchange – Aviv holds over 15 patents and today is CEO of clean technology company and Alcoa collaborator, Phinergy. He is passionate about alternative energies and believes that thanks to aluminum-air batteries, aluminum will become the next major sustainable energy source.

Q: What is an aluminum air battery? Our aluminum-air battery uses air and water to unleash energy stored in aluminum – approximately 4 kilowatt-hours of energy per kilogram. What that means is that one kilogram of aluminum can power a car for up to 20 miles. For instance, an aluminum-air battery comprising 50kg of aluminum can extend an electric vehicle's range by up to 1,000 miles.

Technically speaking, during operation the aluminum plates – the battery anodes – react to oxygen to produce energy. The plates are consumed as fuel and reduced into aluminum hydroxide, which can then be reused in various ways, including the aluminum smelting process.

 Q: What advantages does it offer over other batteries? Compared to other batteries, the fundamental difference is energy density – the aluminum-air battery allows you to do more with less weight. With greater energy density, you are creating electric vehicles with travel distances, purchase prices and life-cycle costs that are comparable to fossil-fuel cars.

In electric vehicles, we see aluminum-air batteries as a complement to lithium ion batteries. By pairing them up, car manufacturers can shrink the size of the lithium-ion battery – thereby reducing its weight and cost - and use it for daily average commuting distance. When the driver wishes to drive longer distance than its daily average, the aluminum-air battery range extender will provide the additional range needed.

Q: What made you want to partner with Alcoa on the aluminum-air battery? In 2012, after having demonstrated the technology on a fully electric vehicle, we realized it was time to find a partner to work with us move this technology toward commercialization. We wanted someone that understood the material, the overall system and the automotive market – Alcoa met all those specifications easily since they not only invented the aluminum industry, but they have been in the automotive business since the Model T. We were also looking for a company that was integrated throughout the aluminium supply chain and was also innovation-minded and customer focused. Alcoa was the clear choice for us. I’d encourage other small, innovative companies who are looking for a strategic partner to look at Alcoa – it’s been a great experience for us.

Q: What has it been like working with Alcoa on the aluminum-air battery? Alcoa is home to the largest light metals research center in the world so we’ve had the chance to work with teams of engineers, metallurgists and product development experts to studying the entire battery system and how it will be integrated into automobiles on a commercial scale. Alcoa's teams are smart and fun to work with, while very dedicated to our common goal. It's a real team. We all share the same vision: transforming aluminum into the next major sustainable source of energy.