India joins hands with Israel to replace Lithium with Aluminium in E-vehicles batteries
New Delhi: With Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Israel’s start-up company Phinergy announcing a joint venture for commercialising aluminium-air battery technology, India is all set to work on solutions and provide the world with innovative initiatives and vital alternatives. The IOC and Phinergy joint venture will set up a factory in India to manufacture aluminium-air batteries for electric vehicles and stationary applications. The venture has already got its first customers in Maruti Suzuki and Ashok Leyland.
Since 2000, there has been a gradual shift of primary aluminium production centres from west to east largely from North America to China, India and the Middle East. Today, aluminium is naturally, largely available in India and its extraction and recycling technologies are also well established here.
Lithium-ion batteries are in widespread use for electric vehicles and various gadgets in India as well as the world today. Finding and switching to an alternative becomes imperative because there isn’t enough lithium available on earth and is scaringly finite. Aluminium-air batteries are thus being seen as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, majorly because aluminium is way cheaper, light in weight and is one of the most abundant elements in the earth’s crust.
When it comes to being a better potential base for batteries, Aluminium could be seen as a better candidate. This is due to the ability of aluminium to exchange three electrons for every ion, compared to one for lithium. Thus, Aluminium possesses three times more energy density.
In the case of e-vehicles, aluminium-air batteries are also expected to offer a much greater range of 400 km or more per battery compared to lithium-ion batteries which currently offer a range of 150-200 kilometres per full charge.
Aluminium-air batteries produce electricity from the oxidation of aluminium. These have a very attractive energy density because part of the reactants will come from the air. Atmospheric oxygen will react with an aluminium hydroxide solution to oxidise the aluminium and produce electricity.
Because of the high-energy density, aluminium-air batteries will not need a charging mechanism. This, however, is also seen as one of the downsides of such batteries as these cannot be recharged like lithium-ion batteries. Thus, these can more suitably be seen as a potential fuel source for long-haul electric transport. Using them in vehicles would also widely require the setting up of battery swapping stations.
Currently, India is largely dependent on imports of lithium-ion batteries from China for electric vehicles. While some Indian companies have started manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in the country, recycling aluminium will make India ‘aatmanirbhar’ in meeting energy requirements. “This technology to develop indigenous batteries using locally available aluminium fits into the energy vision of India,” said Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
Aluminium is the second most used metal in the world after steel with an annual consumption of 88 Million Tonnes (including scrap). It is also the fastest-growing metal which has grown by nearly 20 times in the last sixty years (compared to 6 to 7 times for other metals). Some of its unique properties like lightweight, recyclability, conductivity, non-corrosiveness and durability have helped establish it as a metal of choice for various applications across various segments of the manufacturing sector. Being lighter (3 times lighter than steel), it also aids in fuel efficiency making it an efficient choice for automotive, defence and aviation. Aluminium is also called ‘the Metal of Future’ due to the above properties.