With Lithium-ion batteries utilized in electric automobiles and other gadgets primarily imported from China, IIT-M researchers believe that additional research on Zinc-air batteries can provide India with a locally produced answer. This has led India’s IIT Madras team to develop Zinc-air batteries that could power E-scooters without a risk of fire.
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An indigenous remedy is being developed at a time when worries are being expressed in India about the safety reputation of electric scooters due to several cases of automobiles catching fire. This gets to the heart of the matter, and it is an endeavor to substitute Lithium-ion batteries (which power today’s EVs) with Zinc-air batteries developed in India, which have significant benefits over the former.
Dr Aravind Kumar Chandiran, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, IIT Madras, spoke with WION about his team’s work on the Zinc-Air Battery prototype.
In comparison to Lithium-ion batteries, he claims that Zinc-air batteries are more ecologically friendly, cost less, provide comparable mileage, are simpler to build and maintain, and can quickly be mass-produced in India, given the country’s plentiful Zinc reserves.
“Zinc is actually a nutrient found in our food and is safer when compared to lithium. In Zinc-air batteries one electrode is zinc and another is oxygen (derived from the air) and this setup sits in an aqueous electrolyte. This makes it water-based and hence can fully prevent any possibility of fire. The worst-case scenario in case of a failure or malfunction is that the battery won’t deliver power” he explained.
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While Lithium-ion batteries must be swapped (a drained battery must be swapped with a fully charged one), Zinc-air batteries do not. Only a minor part of the battery needs to be replaced, such as the ‘Zinc cassette’ (anode). In layman’s terms, replacing a Zinc cassette is similar to removing and replacing a memory card from a device.
It must, however, be done at Zinc cassette replacement facilities or charging stations (similar to fuel stations or EV charging stations). The exhausted Zinc oxide cassette may be removed and recycled directly to Zinc, making this method sustainable. The process for changing the Zinc cassette might be safely performed at home by a layperson with some basic instruction.
With Lithium-ion batteries utilized in electric automobiles and other gadgets primarily imported from China, IIT-M researchers believe that additional research on Zinc-air batteries can present India with a locally produced answer. According to reports, India’s significant zinc reserves contribute in the rapid development of large-scale battery manufacturing. In roughly a year, the team will be in talks with automobile OEMs to integrate these new-age batteries into vehicles.
When asked about the capacity of their batteries to hold power, Dr Chandiran replied, “We have built batteries that can store up to 1.3-2.6Kilo Watt Hour(KWh) and this is sufficient as most E-scooters use 2KWh batteries. The Zinc-air batteries that we have developed are far simpler to manufacture and the process can be done even in a normal room with ambient conditions and standard machines. This is in contrast to Li-ion batteries that require special ultradry conditions and high pure chemicals at the manufacturing facility.
However, there is one technical aspect where these Zinc-ion batteries fall significantly behind their Lithium-ion counterparts. “Such batteries can only be used in two or three-wheelers and not cars, as cars require high power and these batteries can’t cater to that need. Simply put, these Zinc-air batteries are capable of storing high amounts of energy(on par with Li-ion ones), but cannot deliver power as rapidly as Li-ion” Dr Chandiran explained.