One of the most talked about automotive subjects globally is the future of electric mobility, and how the development of battery technology is paramount to its success. At Auto Tech Review as well, we’ve been constantly focusing on this subject through incisive articles by our panel of experts. There’s a lot of interest among the Indian manufacturers as well, but unfortunately nothing is being done towards finding cost-effective solutions for battery technology. The want of a clear directive from the government isn’t helping much.
Globally, researchers continue to work on finding answers to the two biggest concerns –cost and range. One of the recent findings by a team at IBM seems to be sending out the right signals. A new type of lithium battery – lithium-air batteries – could provide an EV about 8-10 times the energy that today’s lithium-ion batteries supply, increasing therange to about 800-1,000 km on a single charge!
There is no working model for the finding yet, but the prospect sounds very exciting. It could be a lighter, longer-lasting, air-breathing power source for the next generation of vehicles. By the end of 2013, IBM plans to build a working prototype. It has got the support of two Japanese technology firms — chemical manufacturer Asahi Kasei Corp and electrolyte maker Central Glass – for the IBM Battery 500 Project, a coalition IBM established in 2009 to accelerate the switch from gas to electric-powered vehicles among carmakers and their customers.
It’s still not sure how lithium-air batteries will operate, but the basic principle is to collect oxygen from the air when the EV is in motion, rather than using heavy metal oxides. Any commercial progress, if at all, is at least a decade away, say the developers. But steps being undertaken by researchers to find viable alternatives are certainly in the right direction.
A matter of concern in the Indian context, as expressed by many OEMs, is the lack of focus in engineering, research, design or development among most Indian suppliers. To stay competitive in an increasingly converging world, they must up their stakes.
Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
New Delhi, May 2012