Hyderabad: India which is stepping up efforts towards electric vehicle adoption has been severely dependent on import of lithium-ion batteries. To address this dependency, the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) entered into a collaboration with an Israeli startup Phinergy to form a joint venture entity IOC Phinergy. The collaboration will manufacture aluminum-air systems in India and recycle used aluminum. The JV aims to enhance domestic energy supply based on domestically available aluminum.
Indian EV market is likely to be valued at Rs 50,000-crore by 2025 and the Government of India has set an ambitious target of becoming an all-electric vehicle nation by 2030. The current Covid-19 situation is expected to accelerate the rate of EV adoption in the medium-term as customers look for environment-friendly and cost-effective personal mobility solutions, with petrol and diesel hovering around Rs 90-100 mark. In this scenario, an alternative to lithium-ion batteries will make EVs less expensive and make India self-reliant.
Dr SSV Ramakumar, director (R&D), IndianOil told Telangana Today, “E-mobility and batteries are inseparable, and without battery, mobility cannot be realised at all. Today when battery means, everybody construe as lithium ion battery. But in India, lithium is not naturally available. As a company, we have a very clear-cut vision not to jump into the bandwagon of lithium-ion batteries. If we do so, we will just be shifting import dependency from geography to other. Lithium is controlled by one country, China.”
“When we see a battery, we look beyond lithium. The cardinal principle is that we want to make batteries with those raw materials which are abundantly and naturally available in the country and which can be recyclable. Today, lithium is not recyclable. We are looking at aluminum, which is richly available in our country. Many PSUs and private companies are extracting aluminum and exporting virgin/export grade aluminum. India taught aluminum recycling science to the entire world and are pioneers,” he added.
All leading Indian passenger car and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers are on board of the joint venture entity. Right now, prototype validation exercise is going on and a centralised GW scale aluminum-air system manufacturing facility will be set up. Maruti Suzuki and Ashok Leyland have signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with the IOC Phinergy recently.
Ramakumar added, “While lithium-ion batteries offer 150-200 km mileage range on road, the proven mileage of aluminum-air systems is 400 km between two charges. Moreover, an aluminum battery does not require electricity or charging stations to recharge. It can be recharged mechanically. They can be swapped. The JV company will look into the capex requirement to set up the facility. Niti Aayog has already approved the project.”
Meanwhile, Phinergy completed a prototype of an electric three-wheeler with Mahindra Electric Mobility using aluminum-air technology. Phinergy’s technology will allow the Mahindra TREO to extend its driving range from 130km to 400km.