Electric cars are the future, and there’s no denying that. Most carmakers have embraced the change and are working on it already, while some have production cars on sale right now. Carmakers such as Tata Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Hyundai have EVs that offer a usable real-world range. Even the two-wheeler segment is transitioning, and brands such as Ather, Revolt, Harley-Davidson, and even Ola, are good examples.
Compared to a few years ago when the Reva was the only electric car in the Indian market with a range of ~100 km, to the present day where a Tata Nexon EV offers ~300 km, the country has seen significant development in the EV tech.
The two-wheeler segment is slightly different when compared as consumers commute within city limits where charging stations are not a concern. This allows electric two-wheeler manufacturers to concentrate on offering decent power, good features, and a usable city range of ~80 km. There is a drawback, however — recharge intervals. Quick chargers are available but are expensive and have their own set of limitations.
So how does one go about it? The answer is ‘supercapacitors’. Express Drives spoke to Dr Akshay Singhal, the Founder of Log 9 Materials, a nanotechnology company based in Bangalore. Founded in 2015, Log 9 has applied its core competence in material science to develop pioneering solutions using ‘graphene’. The company aims to address the chronic problem of climate change while building a sustainable and scalable business. Log 9’s newly-developed rapid charging battery packs solve multiple challenges to expedite 2 and 3 wheeler EV adoption.
Singhal explains, “A supercapacitor is a charge storage device with very high capacitance. What this means is that the device can offer high exchanges of current in a relatively short time. A high amount of power can be supplied to the motor allowing rapid acceleration. On the other hand, while braking, we can store energy regeneratively instead of being wasted as heat.”
Lithium-ion batteries can harness regenerative energy as well, but not as efficiently as supercapacitors, “as most chemistries do not allow current absorption at high C-rates, while also damaging the battery at the same time,” says Dr Akshay Singhal.
So who is Dr Akshay Singhal? As mentioned earlier, Singhal is the Founder of Log 9 Materials and a 2019 Forbes Under-30 Asia awardee. The young entrepreneur has had a keen interest in science and technology since his childhood, and during his time at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, he started researching in the field of nanotechnology. His current focus is to scale up Log 9’s indigenously developed Rapid Charging Battery Packs and their commercial rollout.
Setting up a business that deals with Rapid Charging technology has its setbacks, and speaking on that, Singhal says, “Fast-charging is an alternative approach as compared to most companies in the market. Other companies focus on increasing the range by using higher energy density or larger batteries with form factor constraints and power limitations (required for quick acceleration, load-carrying capacity, and more) or by swapping batteries.”
“The local unavailability of battery-grade raw materials, ancillary components like relays, connectors, fuse, negligence from the aluminium and graphite industries have added to the challenges faced. Nevertheless, Log 9 has overcome these and is on the path to begin commercial production in a few months,” says the Founder.
When asked about the durability of the supercapacitor technology compared to the well-known lithium-ion technology, Singhal says that the former is apt for high power applications. He says, “Supercapacitors can have 10 to 1000 times more life than lithium-ion batteries depending upon their type. Also, High power battery technologies like supercapacitors are far safer and temperature resistant than lithium-ion batteries. Supercapacitors can sustain penetration tests at the cell itself.”
Singhal says that supercapacitors have 100 times more power capacity than lithium-ion batteries, but lithium-ion batteries have better energy density. He adds, “Hybridisation of these technologies at the cell and pack level enables to leverage benefits, both from energy and power perspective.”
Log 9 Materials caters to Amazon, Shadowfax, Delhivery, and other last-mile delivery operators considering their daily travel. “The concept of Total Cost of Ownership, and improved earnings is, therefore, more straightforward. Besides, each ticket size can be considerably larger. Also, almost 2/3rd of all the transport-related CO2 emissions come from commercial vehicles, hence solving for this segment is a priority for Log 9,” adds Singhal.
RAPIDX 2000 -The safest battery for two-wheeler EVs in its class and has been tested to withstand high temperatures, pressure and collisions. It is designed to power up two-wheelers (scooters) for Indian road conditions, and provide uniform performance up to the last packet of energy. The charging time for RapidX 2000 is 80% in 12 minutes and 100% in 15 minutes. The battery life is of 10 years, and the range offered is more than 70 km per charge.
RAPIDX 6000 – Built to power up three-wheelers for Indian road conditions. The battery life is 15 years+, and the range is 90 km (without bearing load). The charging time is 80% in 32 minutes and 100% in 40 minutes.
ZAPPUP – Power backup solution for industrial, telecom, and home usage where the duration of power requirement is less than 30 minutes.
Addressing the question as to if the products will be available to the retail market, Singhal says, “As the EV infrastructure in the country matures, and the scale of our partnerships with OEMs grow, the company will certainly delve into the retail segment.”
And when speaking about the retail segment, the range is a concern. To this, Singhal says, “While range is a challenge for intercity vehicles, it’s not the case for platforms like 2W, 3W and intracity trucks. For these platforms, charging time, performance, and battery life are crucial concerns that our Rapid Charging battery packs can solve while maintaining the range of similar EV options in the market.” He adds, “Supercapacitors allow better utilisation of energy by absorbing the energy released while braking, energy which would otherwise convert to heat, raising the temperature.
From a manufacturer’s point of view, parts such as relays, connectors, fuse, steel casing, battery-grade aluminium, essentially the components that make up a battery pack apart from the cells themselves, need to be available. Singhal says, “There’s a serious need for the development of a local EV manufacturing ecosystem, focussing on the development of ancillary components.” He adds, “Considering the manufacturing scale already achieved globally for conventional Li-ion batteries, India seems to have already missed the bus.”
And speaking about how the government can help build a better EV infrastructure, Singhal says that the government should lead by example. He says, “Scaling of novel applications might require unconventional business models which need to be identified and supported in policies. Additionally, the government can lead by example with an initiative to set up public fast-charging infrastructure (either by setting up a new company/via PSUs/PPP model), which can significantly ease the transition to EVs.”
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