Metallic hydrides are amazing. The powders, made from blends such as nickel and lanthanum, can store lots of hydrogen at room temperature and pressure. Scientists have begun to exploit them in products such as nickel metal hydride batteries for laptop computers. Going a step further, Ergenics Inc., a startup in Ringwood, N.J., plans to use metallic hydrides for a panoply of products, including a new type of battery that might power electric vehicles.
The Ergenics battery resembles the long-lasting nickel-hydrogen batteries used in satellites and spacecraft. The main difference is that the hydrogen is stored outside the battery in tubes containing metallic hydride, instead of as a pressurized gas inside the battery. The design should make it cheaper than satellite batteries and longer-living than conventional nickel metal hydride batteries. Ergenics aims to complete a 3-kilowatt-hour unit within a year, and a 30-kwh unit, big enough for an electric car, by late 1995.