As India moves towards cleaner and sustainable mobility solutions, the potential and scope of electrifying the existing transport ecosystem is increasing significantly. The batteries comprise the core of most EVs and are often considered the backbone of the overall electrification trend.
As the cost of batteries continue to be a roadblock towards affordable EVs, researchers have started working on exploring the various alternatives to the existing lithium-ion batteries as well, in their bid to move towards cheaper and safer options.
Even in the context of looking for sustainable solutions, lithium-ion batteries come across as a potential threat to several environmental concerns coupled with supply chain issues, given the limited supply sources and the ongoing protests globally. Zinc-air/zinc-gel batteries which work in a very similar fashion, hence, have emerged as a potential replacement,.
Talking about the advantages that zinc-based batteries offer, the most important one is the improved intrinsic safety over lithium-ion batteries. Li-ion batteries are subject to combustion, whereas zinc batteries have water as an electrolyte, making them significantly safer.
When it comes to the availability of raw materials, zinc wins the race with the abundance, especially in Indian context. Well, it is not been so long that the auto industry has been battling supply chain shortages and is still struggling. So
Experiments have been underway, the industry is innovating, and extensive research in the industry and academia indicate that zinc-based batteries are a key consideration with many potential applications.
As per the experts, while Li-ion batteries cost between $200 (Rs 15,916) and $250 (Rs 19,895) per KWh, zinc-air batteries cost roughly $150 (Rs 11,937) per kWh. With more widespread adoption, the price is predicted to fall below $100 (Rs 7,958) per kWh.
It is not just the zinc batteries, there are many other alternatives as well that the EV industry is exploring like the sodium-ion batteries. Sodium is not only available in abundance, but it is very easy to extract.
Experts believe that sodium-ion is 30-40 percent less expensive than lithium-ion cells. Besides lower costs, sodium-ion is advantageous when it comes to battery capacity and the impact it creates on the environmental front. So, viable options do exist, it is time to amp up the game and get going.
In its 62nd Annual Convention, SIAM, the apex automobile industry body, discussed the significance and ways to decarbonise the Indian auto sector to help India accomplish its goal of net zero by 2070.
Talking about climate change and the need for sustainable mobility, Sharad Verma, Managing Director and Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group, said, “India needs to solve three key considerations, which are carbon footprint reduction, economic affordability of vehicles, and self-sufficiency of the industry while ensuring continued competitive advantage.” And alternatives like zinc-ion batteries, sodium-ion batteries can definitely address these factors in a better way, surely.
Battery cell chemistry is the key for next-generation electric vehicles and industry players have already picked up their preferred options.
For example, Tesla has opted for lithium-ion as the cell chemistry technology whereas Nissan is working with the all-solid-state battery chemistry that focuses on replacing the current battery to achieve faster charging.
While General Motors is banking on chemistry breakthroughs to cut battery costs, BMW is working with dual battery chemistry for power and storage.
So, can we really call the zinc-based batteries an alternative to the Li-ion batteries, well, the experts are still figuring out. However, the potential of zinc batteries to serve as a feasible alternative along with the merits and limitations which may come is a key topic of discussion at the moment.