Any Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Mechanic Will Be Surprised About This New Way to Use Rust

If you’re at all interested in the world of hybrid and electric vehicles, you’re probably always on the lookout for new technologies that have the potential improve the efficiency, sustainability, and performance of hybrid and electric vehicles. Hybrid and electric vehicle technology has advanced significantly over the past few years, with manufacturers such as Tesla consistently pushing the envelope and showing us what hybrid and electric vehicles are capable of.  

With the current increase in attention and demand for hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs), some are expressing concern about the strain that a surge in electric vehicles could put on the power grids that they rely on. As a result, scientists are looking to new sources of electricity for power grids. A surprising new contender has been making waves in the EV community recently. What is it? Plain old rust.

So how can rust generate electricity for the power grid? Let’s start off by exploring how EVs put strain on the power grid, and how rust could solve this problem.

Power Grids Explained for Those with Hybrid and Electrical Mechanic Training

Electric vehicles obtain power for their motors via an electric battery. Hybrid vehicles, on the other hand, can obtain their power from a combination of a combustion engine and a battery. In both hybrids and EVs, these batteries are rechargeable, and in many cases, they can gain their charge via charging stations that operate on an electrical grid. On average, an EV requires 30 kilowatt-hours for 160 km of travel, an amount of electricity equivalent to the amount that a home and all of its various appliances might use throughout the day. 

Electric vehicles rely on power grids to charge their batteries

As a hybrid and electric vehicle mechanic might know, EVs and hybrids are growing in popularity, and some are concerned about the extra strain that their electricity needs may put on local power grids. Simply put, power grids are interconnected networks that transfer electricity from generating stations to consumers via transmission lines. EVs and plug-in hybrids rely on these power grids to charge their batteries and obtain the electricity they need to operate.

How Rust Can Generate Electricity

Research conducted by chemists Tom Miller and Franz Geiger, professors at Caltech and Northwestern respectively, shows that rust can generate electricity when it interacts with saltwater. Rust forms iron alloys on its surface, and if these alloys are formed in a uniformly thin layer, the iron oxides in the rust can generate electricity. Electricity is generated by kinetic energy from the flowing of saltwater, which, upon interacting with the iron oxides, can turn into electricity. 

Rust has the ability to generate electricity for power grids

Although this process doesn’t work on just any rusting object, Miller and Geiger used a physical vapour deposition method to create rust, which involves laying down consistent sheets of thin rust in a process similar to manufacturing solar panels. By pouring saltwater on the surface of these sheets, an electric current can be generated. 

What Does Rust Mean for EVs?

The discovery that rust can generate electricity upon interaction with a saline solution has great potential for electric grids, and thus, for EVs and hybrids, as a hybrid and electric vehicle mechanic might have guessed. Because rust is so cheap, using rust to generate electricity could be a great way to supply power grids with more electricity at a lesser cost. Although the science is relatively new, this is great news for the manufacturers and owners of electric and hybrid vehicles, who rely on power grids for operation. 

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