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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Explained: IOC’s new battery JV, and why Maruti and Ashok Leyland have signed up for it

Why is Indian Oil's joint venture with Phinergy to develop aluminium-air batteries an important development for India's EV space, and how could metal-air technology give electric vehicle adoption a boost?

Written by Karunjit Singh , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 24, 2021 9:03:12 am
Electric cars plugged in at a garage charging station (Max Whittaker/The New York Times, File)

State-owned Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. has entered into a joint venture with Israel-based battery technology startup Phinergy to develop aluminium-air technology based battery systems for electric vehicles and stationary storage, as well as hydrogen storage solutions.

Top automakers, including Maruti Suzuki and Ashok Leyland, have already signed letters of intent with the newly formed joint venture to commercially deploy the battery solutions produced by IOC Phinergy.

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The Indian Express examines the importance of this development to India’s EV space, and how metal-air technology could give a boost to electric vehicle adoption in India.

What is an aluminium-air battery?

Aluminium-air batteries are said to be a lower cost and more energy-dense alternative to lithium-ion batteries which are currently in widespread use for electric vehicles in India. Aluminium-air batteries utilise oxygen in the air which reacts with an aluminium hydroxide solution to oxidise the aluminium and produce electricity. One of the key downsides of aluminium-air batteries is that they cannot be recharged like lithium-ion batteries. Therefore, large scale use of aluminium-air battery based vehicles would require the wide availability of battery swapping stations.

Aluminium-air battery-based electric vehicles are, however, expected to offer much greater range of 400 km or more per battery compared to lithium-ion batteries which currently offer a range of 150-200 kilometres per full charge.

Experts have noted that the aluminium plate in an aluminium-air battery is converted into aluminium trihydroxide over time and that aluminium can be reclaimed from aluminium trihydroxide or even traded directly for industrial uses.

Why is this technology important for India’s EV push?

Currently, India is largely dependent on imports of lithium-ion batteries from China for electric vehicles. While some Indian companies have started manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in the country, metal-air battery solutions including aluminium-air batteries could offer a viable alternative to lithium-ion batteries and boost the domestic manufacture of batteries to meet India’s growing demand for energy storage.

Aluminium-air based batteries are also expected to be significantly cheaper than lithium-ion batteries, thereby reducing the cost of electric vehicle usage and boosting electric vehicle adoption in the country.

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