IIT-Madras researchers are creating mechanically rechargeable zinc-air batteries as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, which are utilized in electric vehicles because of the abundance of zinc in India.
The invention of mechanically rechargeable zinc-air batteries as an alternative to lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, is an important development for India’s stationary battery storage ecosystem and electric mobility industry.
In order to build these zinc-air batteries, these researchers are working with significant industries in collaboration with Dr. Aravind Kumar Chandiran, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT-Madras. The researchers at IIT-Madras assert that their zinc air equivalents to current Li-ion batteries have a long shelf life, are less expensive, are safer, and may be utilized in two- and three-wheeler electric cars (EVs).
We have created safe, inexpensive metal-air battery systems in our lab at IIT-Madras, and the metal is based on zinc. Even at the scale at which we have built them, these metal-air batteries are roughly three times less expensive. Additionally, the technology was created internally. The nation is special in that it possesses large concentrations of zinc. India will possess the most secure and advanced technologies for its upcoming energy storage systems. According to Dr. Chandiran, these batteries may be employed in electric vehicles (EVs) for low-powered applications like two- and three-wheelers as well as stationary energy storage devices.
When it comes to stationary energy storage, solar energy is available during the day. This energy peaks about noon and gradually declines as the day wears on. Batteries are used to store the extra energy that becomes accessible in the midday. We currently have choices based on lithium-ion or lead-acid battery technologies. However, none of these technologies are owned by India, thus we will have to switch to our own internal technologies using local resources. India has an abundance of zinc, and we are also one of its major producers, he continues.
Zinc-Air Battery Powering
The researchers are proposing unique “Zinc Recharge Stations,” which are comparable to gas stations for cars with IC engines. At these “Zinc recharge stations,” which utilize “Battery-Swapping” technology, EV customers can swap out their used battery’s “zinc cassettes” for fully charged ones.
Dr. Chandiran elaborates on this point by saying, “This is a key advantage of the zinc-air batteries as at the moment the only alternative available with the lithium-ion batteries is that the entire used battery pack has to be removed and be swapped out for a complete lithium-ion battery pack. For lithium-ion batteries, this results in a capital investment that is doubled”.
In other words, unlike Li-ion batteries, zinc-air batteries only require the anode to be changed, not the entire battery.
Zinc-Air Battery Benefits
About three years ago, a team at IIT Madras began studying and creating these zinc air batteries. “The driving force was quite clear. According to Dr. Chandiran, the goal was to create internal technologies that provide secure batteries and inexpensive energy storage.
Zinc is extensively accessible in India, as was already mentioned. Naturally, this would diminish reliance on imports from nations like China or South Korea for Li-ion battery cells.
Zinc is also less expensive than Li-ion batteries, as was already said. Researchers point out that zinc-air batteries cost about USD 150 per KWh, compared to USD 200 to 250 for Li-ion batteries.
Better range may be provided with zinc-air batteries. Although we are still testing them, we anticipate that they will last for a few thousand cycles. They can be made without a dry environment, unlike Li-ion batteries. There is minimal CAPEX investment because ambient conditions can also be used to manufacture zinc-air batteries. They have yet to undergo road testing, says Dr. Chandiran.
“We are collaborating with OEMs and anticipate putting them into service following a few trials. Ideally, it will take two years before we see a positive result on the road since we want to put them through thorough testing before we use them in cars“, he says.
Other solutions to zinc-air batteries are being thought about for the Indian EV market. For instance, sodium-ion batteries are, in the opinion of experts, “approximately 30–40% less expensive than lithium-ion cells.” In addition to lower costs, sodium-ion has other benefits such availability in India, battery capacity, and environmental impact.
Researchers at IIT-Madras have provided India with another means of achieving self-sufficiency in order to meet its needs for stationary battery storage and electric mobility.
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