When oxygen from the air around us is introduced into a battery cell, it reacts with a zinc electrode to create electricity. The materials to build these batteries are cheap, and they have high energy density. So why aren’t these things powering your Mini already? Because not even a Mini is small enough to be powered by zinc air batteries. Right now, the most common use for zinc air is in hearing aids.
Despite the small size, Toyota hopes that the move from lead-acid and even lithium-ion batteries to zinc-air will blow open the doors of the EV market, providing the range and speed consumers want from a daily driver. There is a lot of possibility here — it wasn’t that long ago that li-ion batteries were only found in cell phones and laptops, not 100+ mph supercars like the Tesla Roadster.