Ask Sail: Zinc-Air Batteries

Ben Hatheway of New York, New York, asks:

I am racing an ultralight sailboat in a three-day regatta. I am counting every ounce that comes on board, and a conventional wet-cell or AGM battery will put me over my weight limit. Is there any new battery technology I can use to keep my electronics running, including my nav lights at night?

Gordon West replies:

You might want to check out a new, very powerful lightweight zinc-air battery system. Zinc-air batteries are used throughout the world on many sea buoys, and are now being built for recreational use. I just witnessed sea trials of a 275AH zinc-air battery that is capable of delivering up to 12 amps of continuous current. It weighed just 27.5 lbs and yielded eight times the stored energy per kilogram of a deep-cycle lead-acid battery.

Zinc-air batteries are not rechargeable, but they have replaceable zinc “power cartridges” that can be safely thrown out with your household trash. These make up the anode side of the battery; the air we breathe acts as the “fuel” for the cathode side. After installing a power cartridge, you pull the tab covering the internal air holes and within seconds you’ll have a fresh 12-volt source. QuantumSphere now manufactures a wide range of zinc-air portable power products.

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