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Editorial: Diversify battery technology

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Published: Published Date – 12:40 AM, Tue – 5 July 22

Editorial: Diversify battery technology

Given India’s ambitious plans to switch to electric vehicles in a phased manner, the time is ripe for diversification of battery technology to meet the growing energy storage market. The off-grid energy storage market is expected to expand exponentially as the country aims to fulfil 50% of its energy demands from renewable sources by 2030, resulting in high demand for storage batteries. The plan is to have electric vehicle (EV) sales penetration of 30% for private vehicles, 70% for commercial vehicles, 40% for buses and 80% for two and three-wheelers by 2030. At present, the two dominant commercial options to fulfil energy storage needs in India are lithium-ion batteries (LIB) and lead-acid batteries (LAB). However, they have certain limitations including environmental and safety-related issues. The accumulation of lead — released from the dominant informal recycling sector— in the human body can be fatal as it damages neurons of the central nervous system and hinders mental growth in children. Lithium, cobalt, manganese and copper are the metals consumed for battery manufacturing. These are geographically constrained, increase battery production cost and their refining is energy-intensive, leaving a carbon residue behind them. Given these shortcomings, there is an urgent need to harness sodium-ion batteries (SIBs) which offer a promising alternative. The advantages are many: the cost of manufacturing an SIB cell is nearly 30% cent cheaper than nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMCs) batteries. They have the potential for further cost reductions with technological advancements; have 45% less global warming potential than the lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries and about 25% less than the NMC batteries.

The cathode for these batteries is manufactured from sodium, the seventh-most abundant material on earth and easily accessible iron-nickel-manganese. In India, the energy storage market is a sunrise sector. The $135 million purchase of Faradion — a leading SIB manufacturing company — by Reliance Industries shows that domestic players are working on diversification of battery technology by investing in expedient alternatives in both stationary storage and EVs that can carve a niche for India globally. The diversification of battery technology is necessary for the rapidly growing Indian energy storage market, considering the issues related to material scarcity, supply vulnerability, production cost, environment and health with LABs and LIBs. SIBs can lead to this diversification in stationary storage systems like roof-top solars and other off-grid storage systems. Their use in EVs is limited at present. But with the increasing investment in capacity building and innovation by domestic stakeholders, this could escalate in the foreseeable future. India’s EV market is estimated to become a $7.09-billion opportunity by 2025. LABs raise concerns due to their low energy density and explosive potential. As far as LIBs are concerned, material scarcity and higher costs restrain their production upscaling.

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