As Researchers Worldwide Test Energy Alternatives,

(NUI) - As researchers worldwide test energy alternatives, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California are putting a new spin on an old idea.

They installed a prototype of a zinc-air battery in one of 12 electric shuttlebuses from the city of Santa Barbara and put it through its paces on laboratory grounds.

After five hours and 75 miles, the conventional lead-acid batteries were discharged, but the zinc-air battery still had 85 percent of its original capacity, according to principal investigator John Cooper.

Cooper explained the battery has four key advantages over lead-acid batteries:

* It's refuelable. This could mean day-long usage in a Santa Barbara bus without refueling, compared to the four hours of operating time and four to eight hours of recharging for lead-acid batteries. The zinc-air battery is refueled in 10 minutes.

* The energy density potential could mean the equivalent of two tons of lead-acid battery weight being shaved off of a 12-ton bus.

* Its electrical generating efficiency is less than lead-acid, but the lighter construction means zinc-air batteries save power by having to propel substantially less weight.

* Zinc-air is probably the least expensive advanced battery, based on the cost of components and construction.

Cooper said, "The research we're doing now may one day lead to a battery that could power a private vehicle and be refuelable in your garage or at a service station. But that's far down the road."

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