An instantly rechargeable system for battery-electric and hybrid-electric vehicle batteries being developed at Purdue University is safe, affordable and environmentally friendly, its inventors say.

Researchers at the Indiana university say its system recharges vehicle batteries through a quick and easy process similar to refueling a car at a gas station – and it could have a huge impact on the future of BEVs and HEVs dramatically reducing the need for new infrastructure to support recharging stations.

John Cushman, professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary science and a professor of mathematics, has co-founded Ifbattery LLC with Eric Nauman, a professor of mechanical engineering, to further develop and commercialize the technology.

“The biggest challenge for industry is to extend the life of a battery’s charge and the infrastructure needed to actually charge the vehicle,” he says in a statement. “The greatest hurdle for drivers is the time commitment to keeping their cars fully charged,” he says.

Ifbattery is developing an energy-storage system that would enable drivers to fill up their electric or hybrid vehicles with fluid electrolytes to re-energize spent battery fluids much like refueling their gas tanks.

“Instead of refining petroleum, the refiners would reprocess spent electrolytes and instead of dispensing gas, the fueling stations would dispense a water-and-ethanol or methanol solution as fluid electrolytes to power vehicles,” Cushman says.

“Users would be able to drop off the spent electrolytes at gas stations, which would then be sent in bulk to solar farms, wind-turbine installations or hydroelectric plants for reconstitution or recharging into the viable electrolyte and reused many times.”

Cushman says it’s believed the technology could be nearly drop-in ready for most of the underground piping system, rail and truck delivery system, gas stations and refineries.

Mike Mueterthies, Purdue doctoral teaching and research assistant in physics and the third co-founder of Ifbattery, says the flow-battery system makes the system unique.

“Other flow batteries exist, but we are the first to remove membranes, which reduces costs and extends battery life,” Mueterthies says.

The developers say Ifbattery’s membrane-free battery has other benefits.

Membrane fouling can limit the number of recharge cycles and is a known contributor to many battery fires, Cushman says. “Ifbattery’s components are safe enough to be stored in a family home, are stable enough to meet major production and distribution requirements and are cost- effective.”

Ifbattery licensed part of the technology through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization and has developed patents of its own.

“We are at a stage in the company’s growth that we are looking for additional financing to build large-scale prototypes, and subsequently, manufacturing partners,” Cushman says.