CSE And Department Of Science And Technology Join Hands To Develop EV Batteries Suited For India

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Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of the Government of India have collaborated to create a platform that will support the development of new electric vehicle (EV) batteries to suit Indian requirements. A white paper will be prepared on a roadmap for the development of new battery technologies in India; this would be followed by the creation of an expert-industry forum or platform to support this process. 

This collaborative initiative was kicked off recently with a round table on locally appropriate EV batteries that are safe, durable, and effective within the constraints of a hot and humid tropical climate  

This was the first in a series of consultations that will be held with experts from leading institutions and representatives from vehicle manufacturers, the battery industry, regulatory bodies, testing entities, and independent laboratories focused on battery chemistries.   

Says AnumitaRoychowdhury, executive director-research, and advocacy, CSE, “India has been working with FAME and production-linked incentives to push the EV story, but challenges abound with regard to cost, safety and charging infrastructure – all of which point at gaps in fulfilling the country’s zero-emission ambitions. The gaps range from concerns relating to safety, supply chain, cost sensitivity, and need for quick charging opportunities among others.” 

According to MoushumiMohanty, senior program manager, Clean Air, and Sustainable Mobility, CSE, “This joint initiative of DST and CSE is aimed at addressing these gaps and to create a platform that will assess, evaluate and identify technology solutions that are safe, have locally appropriate supply chain systems and can be customized for the various vehicle applications.” 

The round table consultation highlighted the following key issues for establishing future pathways: 

  • Build volumes for EV battery manufacturing and ensure the supply chain to further develop the pathways: If the global EV battery storage is expected to be 10,000 GWhrin 2030-35, India cannot be less than 5 percent of the global battery manufacturing capacity. This will require enormous preparedness. Multiple chemistries will co-exist. No one will dominate. Ensure a constant supply of raw materials and use materials more readily available in this region. Technology improvement will require a supply guarantee to drive the market. 
  • Assess the needs of Indian vehicles and the climatic stress to develop pathways for battery management and thermal management systems: Methods, standards, certification, and protocols for specific battery needs must address these requirements. Innovation will also require commercialization. There is a need for detailed electrochemical models, rigorous tests for tropical conditions, and failure mode analysis. While the need for innovation in battery technologies in the country is very important, it must have industry relevance. With any technology change, the industry needs to plan at least three years in advance. 
  • Need appropriate cost-effective solutions for small format two-wheelers: With two-wheelers, battery development has to straddle various kinds of tightrope walking. The two-wheeler customer in India is both cost-conscious and has high expectations of range and performance. High-end technologies will require customization before being deployed in such a price-sensitive market. Innovation has to be design-rich for good packaging in limited space and cannot depend too much on high-end electronics. 
  • EV battery chemistries in India need to be application-specific: Higher energy density batteries can be installed in vehicles with higher performance demand. EV batteries used in India mostly run on either lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) or lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cathode chemistries, of which NMC batteries have much higher energy capacity compared with LFP. In comparison, lithium-titanate (LTO) batteries charge faster, but have much lower energy density — 110 Wh/kg compared to 260 Wh/kg offered by NMC and 150 WH/kg offered by LFP. LTO can be a potential solution for high-use cases such as public transport. Sodium-ion batteries offer the advantage of cost and easy access. Though they have low energy density compared to lithium, they could be deployed in e-rickshaws which are low-speed vehicles. These technology pathways will require careful evaluation. 
  • Need innovation in Li-ion batteries that will dominate for a considerable time, especially in small vehicles: This is needed for low-cost non-flammable electrolytes, lightweight, safe and cost-effective options, especially in two-wheelers. Innovation in electrolytes is important for fast charging and safety. Design electrolytes such that heat problems can be addressed. 
  • Develop regulations and technical standards to push the battery trajectory: Need better product definition. But be technology agnostic. Technology agnostic cell assembly process has to improve.   
  • Pay attention to the ageing of batteries: Regulations need to get stronger to pay attention to the ageing of batteries and define useful life. If not addressed, reliability and safety issues can be daunting. Incremental ageing is needed. 
  • Develop regulations for in-use performance and durability of EVs: These regulations need to evolve quickly as loss of range and energy efficiency and excessive battery degradation during the useful life of EVs can increase the energy consumption of the fleet and upstream emissions.  
  • Need databases on performance and safety parameters to develop locally appropriate battery technology pathways: This requires a data platform to gather data and share databases from industry, research bodies, and certification systems. Data is needed on lifecycle and real-life performance. But this will also require capacity for data analytics and protocol to utilize the data for a feedback loop on technology performance. 
  • Recycling of end of life batteries will be important for material recovery though it will take time to mature: As the EV market is taking off now it will take a few years before a substantial number of batteries will reach end-of-life. Recycling can meet about 5-15 percent of the material demand and scale can pick up only after 2027. 
  • For safe batteries, start-ups may require open-source battery management support. 
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Says Roychowdhury, “This DST-CSE initiative is important in view of the fact that India is poised for volume production in the EV sector to meet its zero-emission goals and needs its own knowledge ecosystem to inform, support, and drive the technology development.” 

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