State-run Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is planning to launch first-of-its-kind aluminium-air batteries that are potentially a more cost-effective alternative to lithium-ion batteries for use in electric vehicles (EV) and stationary applications. The idea is to manufacture these barriers in sites closer to demand centres such as Chennai or Pune. IOC bought a minority stake in Israel-based startup Phinergy that specialises in aluminium-air and zinc-air battery systems in February. SSV Ramakumar, Director (R&D) at IOC told Financial Express that the company has initiated discussions with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the Indian automotive sector. Test runs can be done either in India or they can be taken to Israel to run on the prototypes prepared by the Israeli company. “The aluminium-air batteries are expected to reduce the cost and their adoption by the EV and other industries in the country,” said Ramakumar.
The reason why the public sector oil company is evaluating the Al-air batteries is because of its lightweight and not having the necessity to electrically charge the batteries, unlike Lithium-ion variants. Ramakumar, who pioneered the Aluminium-air project at IOC, said, these batteries are one-fourth the weight of Lithium-ion batteries, and run more than double the lithium-ion batteries on a single charge. “The proven range in India of any variant of Lithium-ion battery is between 150-200 km/charge, but Aluminium-air batteries even on a modest expectation run more than 400 km/charge.”
There is no mechanical electric charging or replacement required for Aluminium batteries. “It is just the replacement of Aluminium metallic plate in the battery that exhausts over time to liquid to form Aluminium Trihydroxide, from which the aluminium can be reclaimed. The Trihydroxide also has other industrial applications and is directly traded or sold in the market,” claims Ramakumar. The government as part of its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the impact of vehicular pollution wants to shift the conventional fuel-driven passenger vehicles into EVs by 2030. At present India imports 100% of its EV and other Lithium-ion based batteries from abroad.