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  • Context (TH): With Electric Vehicles (EV) recording a 50% growth in 2023, compared to 2022, the heart of it, i.e. Lithium Battery is a topic of discussion.
  • A Lithium-ion or Li-Ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery that uses lithium compounds as one of the electrodes.
  • In 1985, Akira Yoshino developed the first prototype.

Lithium battery Cell

Lithium battery cell
Lithium battery cell
  • Each Lithium battery cell has essentially three components.
    • A Positive electrode – (Lithium cobalt oxide, or LiCoO2).
    • A Negative electrode – (Carbon).
    • A Separator Electrolyte – most commonly used (lithium salt, such as LiPF6) in an organic solution.
    • In addition, lithium-ion batteries incorporate other elements that improve their performance and safety: a temperature sensor, a voltage regulator circuit and a state-of-charge monitor.
  • When the battery is charged, lithium ions flow from the positive electrode to the negative electrode through the electrolyte and attach to the carbon.
  • During discharge, the lithium ions return from the carbon to the LiCoO2.

Why Lithium for EV Batteries?

  • High power density.
  • Easy maintenance.
  • Variety of models available.
  • Higher Battery Life.
  • Much lighter than other types of rechargeable batteries of the same size.
  • High specific energy and high load capabilities with Power Cells.
  • High capacity, low internal resistance.
  • Simple charge algorithm and reasonably short charge times.
  • Low self-discharge. A lithium-ion battery pack loses only about 5 percent of its charge per month.
  • Energy density is the amount of energy the battery can store with respect to its mass.
  • Power density is the amount of power that can be generated with respect to its mass.

Applications

  • Emergency power systems – server farms, the batteries of a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply).
  • Solar energy storage: Solar energy storage is intermittent, and these batteries are best suited to solar panels because they charge fast.
  • Consumer electronics and mobile devices: Allows for ever-increasing miniaturisation.
  • Disability assistance: electric wheelchairs, stairlifts or motorised prostheses.

Problems with Lithium-ion Batteries

  • Energy density is still lower compared to petrol.
  • Requires higher protection circuit to prevent thermal runaway if stressed.
  • Performance declines with time.
  • At freezing temperatures (zero degrees Celsius), quick charging is not possible.
  • Lithium-ion battery packs degrade significantly more quickly when exposed to heat.
  • Environmental concerns are primarily related to the mining of lithium.
  • The liquid electrolyte used in EV batteries is highly flammable.

Other Types of EV batteries

  • Lead Acid Battery: They are heavier and have a low energy density.
  • Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) Battery: They had a low cycle life. Banned because of their toxicity.
  • Nickel-Metal Hydride (NIMH) Battery: Sufficient for smaller battery applications. It does not require an external source for charging. It is charged only by the regenerative braking mechanism.
  • Sodium-ion batteries: Sodium ions are physically larger than lithium, which translates to lower energy density resulting in lower range for EV’s.
  • Solid-state batteries (SSB): Lower risk of ignition, can also hold more energy compared to their Li-on counterparts. (Potential viable alternative so far).
  • Potential benefits of SSB: reduced weight, improved charging speed, and enhanced safety.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells
    • They are a clean, reliable, quiet, and efficient source of high-quality electric power.
    • It produces electricity, with water and heat as the only by-products.
    • Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements on earth.
    • Disadvantages: quite expensive, need to build a network of hydrogen filling stations.

Approaches to improve Lithium batteries

  • Retaining basic lithium-ion battery structure with tweaks to electrodes (e.g., Tesla’s use of Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt (NMC) and Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP).
  • Deployment of sensing and control infrastructure (Battery Management System) for safety and faster charging.
  • Exploration of Solid-State Lithium Battery (SSB) for significant improvements in performance.

India’s EV Battery Ecosystem

  • Last year saw 50% growth in EV sales in India.
  • EV market expected to reach $100 billion by 2030.
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