Lithium-ion batteries have a profound role in triggering the EV revolution going on now. The ingenious idea to incorporate Li-ion batteries transformed electric vehicles from boring and lame to thrilling and exhilarating.
Though the Li-ion battery is a game changer there are a few downsides to the battery and the primary one is its scarcity on the earth. For countries like India where there is no noticeable amount of lithium, it has the potential to halt the ongoing EV revolution.
In order to prevent that from happening and to minimize its reliance on foreign resources and technology, India is investing in battery technology which employs aluminium rather than lithium as the primary element. Indian Oil Corp., the country’s largest oil refiner, has partnered with Israeli startup Phinergy Ltd. to create an Aluminium-air battery.
Another concern is that ‘what to do with the Li-ion batteries once their lifetime is over?’ and the answer is landfilling. Aluminium shines here as well because aluminium can be recycled easily.
Al-Air Battey: How It Works
An aluminium-air battery uses the oxidation of aluminium at the anode and the reduction of oxygen at the cathode to form a galvanic cell. In the process, the aluminium is completely consumed or dissolved to produce aluminium hydroxide. The metal-air battery has a very attractive energy density because part of the reactants come from the air. They have been developed for long-range power supplies for electric vehicles. For example, rechargeable Li-ion batteries could offer a range of 200 miles, but aluminium-air batteries could be used for a 1000 mile range. The battery is then replaced and the aluminium hydroxide is re-processed to produce reduced aluminium metal. In a sense, the energy for this battery comes from electricity consumed in the aluminium refining process.
In a sense, Al-air batteries are a good replacement for Li-ion batteries because,
- Aluminium is abundantly available on earth.
- We have an economical and refined process of converting bauxite, the ore used to make aluminium.
- The energy density is of multiple times of a Li-ion battery.
- Can achieve a greater range in comparison with Li-ion batteries.
The Indo-Israeli Partnership
In early 2020, Indian Oil made a strategic investment in Phinergy, and the company’s 30,000 service stations can act as the infrastructure for the deployment of Phinergy’s technology.
Telecom firms have tested Phinergy’s solutions for backup power at transmission towers and other locations. The company received $60 million in an IPO in Tel Aviv earlier this year. Noticeably, Phinergy has driven a test car that used an aluminium-air battery to keep the vehicle’s lithium-ion power pack charged and achieved a range of 1,750 kilometers, according to the company.
Automakers Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., and Ashok Leyland Ltd. are conducting vehicle testing that is scheduled to last about a year to determine the practicality of wide-scale usage of Al-air batteries in India. If there is adequate demand, Indian Oil and Phinergy want to build a gigawatt-scale battery manufacturing facility in India.
Here is The Catch
The anode of the al-air battery has to be replaced every 1000 miles and water is to be supplied every few hundred miles. This swapping must be done on a dedicated infrastructure canceling out the home charging option entirely.
This is the number one practical issue with the Al-air battery and even though they say that it will take only 3 minutes for the entire procedure we know that is not true. And when the numbers are crunched, it seems that the Al-air battery does not make much of an economical sense as well in the long run.
Indias effort to reduce its carbon emission and foreign dependency has to be appreciated and the nation is headed in the right direction. If the tests being conducted now indicates a positive sign, it will resolve the above-mentioned problems very effectively.
On a personnel note, I would rather prefer an Al-air battery as a range extender or as an energy reserve just like what Phinergy did on the above-mentioned trial run. Think of it this way, your li-ion battery has drained completely and there are no recharging stations in the vicinity( It is very unlikely to happen but still) you can use your Al-air battery to get to a recharge station and recharge your Li-ion power pack and continue the journey. It sounds awesome to me but to be honest, I don’t have any idea about its practicality.
To know more about the Al-air battery watch, https://youtu.be/z0RU_ck64Bs