The country has put in place various initiatives to promote electric vehicles (EV). However, there are factors that have stalled the adoption of EVs – one is concerning the power source – the battery
Gegadyne Energy is developing a new power source for EVs that will have increased energy density to outweigh most other battery technologies of the future. Auto Tech met up with Jubin Varghese, Co-Founder & CEO, Gegadyne Energy, to understand about this new power source among others.
Gegadyne started with the idea to develop a new EV even as it focussed on identifying what makes EVs more compelling - it looked into the three major drawbacks of EVs - range anxiety, battery pack cost and overall battery cycle life and charging time. The battery pack cost currently makes up about 40 % of the total vehicle cost. Varghese said any company that dominates the battery industry dominates the EV industry and thereby dominates the entire electric economy.
On the overall battery cycle life and charging front, the long charging cycles prompt customers (mostly electric three-wheeler operators using lead acid batteries) to shift towards battery swapping stations. However, as Varghese pointed out the problem with swapping stations is that there is a need to have a standardised battery pack across verticals, which is not possible. The diversity in the battery pack would be the largest problem for any swapping business, and noted that the swapping model might work with public transport in a hub-and-spoke model.
Amidst these shortcomings Gegadyne focussed on reinventing the method of powering the wheel instead of reinventing the entire wheel itself. Lithium-ion chemistry in batteries is the most commonly used form for EVs, and this is an electro-chemical battery. An electro-chemical reaction takes place inside the battery, which causes the battery to heat and thereby enables energy storage, Varghese explained. Gegadyne realised that in the case of an electro-chemical battery, the cost would be on the higher side while the cycle life would be on the lower side. This encouraged the company to move away from the lithium-ion technology and focus on an alternative mechanism of charge storage called the Supercapacitor technology.
The fundamental difference between a supercapacitor and a lithium-ion battery is that the former stores energy in an electro static form when compared to the electro-chemical energy storage of a lithium-ion battery. Gegadyne began conducting researching on the supercapacitor technology and tried to identify the reasons as to why this technology has not been adopted for EVs globally. The company found that supercapacitors have two disadvantages in the form of low energy density and high cost. Low energy density, which means only a small amount of energy can be stored in a given space, results in battery packs becoming larger in size and this cannot be the case with EVs. Gegadyne began working on supercapacitors at its Mumbai laboratory to enhance the energy density as well as reduce costs. Gegadyne after conducting an extensive R&D on the same, now has supercapacitors with higher energy densities, along with a portfolio of international patents on the technology it is developing, Varghese observed.
Gegadyne achieved an increasing level of energy density of the supercapacitor by improving the conductivity for which it uses carbon and its derivatives as active materials. The company leverages the Core-Shell technology for the battery pack, where the core is made up of a highly energy dense material that is layered with carbon as well as derivates of carbon of nanomaterial. The combination of these materials helps increase the overall energy density of the battery pack. However, the expertise is in ensuring these various components work in harmony. The Gegadyne laboratory comprises a team of PhD scientists, who have passed out from reputable institutions across the country. These scientists are individual chemists having expertise in different verticals of battery technology. As a result of the development work, the company has created its own prototype battery pack with 1 kWh capacity, having the capability of being charged from 0-100 % in under 15 minutes. This prototype supercapacitor offers the same efficiency of a similar lithium-ion or lead acid battery, stated Varghese.
Gegadyne is demonstrating the use case of this newly-developed supercapacitor as a power source on a two-wheeler. Varghese said the supercapacitor technology will have to compete with lithium-ion batteries for market share. In order to be successful, the company provides a design which enables customers to integrate the technology into their existing vehicles without requiring any fundamental redesigning. This will provide OEMs with the liberty to design products according to vehicle specifications alone, along with the choice of power source.
Gegadyne offers solutions under three verticals for the auto industry - battery management systems (BMS), analytic software and battery packs. Varghese said Gegadyne considers itself as a cell-manufacturing company that has invented its own technology based on supercapacitors. This technology is not yet available commercially, since the company believes the right time for a commercial launch in India is a few years away. Gegadyne sees 2022 as the year when a holistic movement will begin, in terms of EVs. The company is carrying out prototyping and testing with its channel partners, Varghese noted.
Varghese claims that Gegadyne will become the world’s first company to offer high energy density supercapacitor-based battery packs and added that it is set to begin pilot manufacturing of these cells in early-2020, with mass commercialisation expected to happen by mid-2022 to early-2023. Gegadyne is also offering solutions around the charging network and aims to be a cell manufacturer and has also lined up plans to cater to the EV ecosystem. In terms of reliability of these high power density supercapacitor-based batteries, the performance standards of these batteries have been verified by one of the largest research labs in India, said Varghese without divulging the name of the entity due to NDAs.
TEXT: Naveen Arul