Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras are developing mechanically rechargeable zinc-air batteries as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries to power electric vehicles (EV). They have filed for patents for their technology and are collaborating with major industries to develop the batteries.
As zinc-air batteries are economical and have longer shelf-life, they can be used in two and three-wheel EVs, the researchers say.
Aravind Kumar Chandiran, assistant professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at the Institute, and his team is working on zinc-air batteries as zinc is a widely available resource in the country. Currently India imports lithium-ion batteries from China. “Our research team is developing a futuristic model for zinc-air batteries for EVs. The team has developed zinc-air cells and is working to develop zinc-air packs for EVs,” he said.
The researchers are mooting separate zinc recharge stations similar to petrol stations. Zinc-air battery users can swap their empty batteries for charged ones. “This is a major advantage of the zinc-air batteries as currently the only option available with the lithium-ion batteries is that the entire used battery pack has to be removed and be swapped with a complete lithium-ion battery pack. This results in double the capital investment in the case of lithium-ion batteries,” he added. The researchers are also mooting recharge of used ‘zinc cassettes’ through solar panels.
Not only will it take just a few minutes to recharge batteries but they are also safe as the batteries use aqueous electrolyte that does not catch fire. While lithium-ion batteries costs $200-250 per KW hour zinc-air batteries cost $150/Kwhr. The cost would reduce with wider usage, the researchers say.