NEW YORK – Remote villages in Africa and Asia are receiving electricity using a little-known type of technology: zinc-air batteries.

California-based NantEnergy said Wednesday it has created a rechargeable zinc-air battery storage system that can provide power at a lower cost than lithium-ion systems.

“Today the only batteries that are in that price range are lead-acid batteries,” said Ramkumar Krishnan, chief technology officer of NantEnergy.

Krishnan did not immediately provide performance data on the batteries to support NantEnergy’s claims.

The company is deploying its batteries to remote villages to establish “Microgrids,” which are localized power sources that distribute energy to homes, communities or businesses without being connected to a traditional utility’s electric grid.

Electricity from the solar panels is used to separate zinc oxide into zinc and oxygen, and the zinc generated in the process stores energy that can be used when it’s dark or cloudy.

Challenges include developing batteries that are rechargeable, have a long enough life and deliver enough power density, Srinivasan said.