Electric vehicles are often deemed the cars of the future but there are certain issues that still ail the industry and are yet to be overcome. Amongst these issues is the problem of prolonged charging times and that of limited range, concerns that hinder the adoption of these vehicles on a greater scale. Extensive research to address these matters over the past several years, however, has finally yielded a solution that could potentially put an end to these crises—aluminium-ion batteries.LBB
The lithium-ion battery, which is the type of battery pack most commonly used in electric two-wheelers and four-wheelers today, has single-handedly brought the EV industry to where it is today. It is highly energy-efficient, has a great power-to-weight ratio, performs well in high-temperature conditions, and has significantly low self-discharge. Additionally, most components of the lithium-ion battery pack can be recycled. This type of battery, however, does come with its fair share of downsides that have pushed battery researchers to look for better alternatives.
The primary drawback of lithium-ion batteries is their need to be protected with regulating circuitry that would prevent them from overcharging and discharging beyond the safe limit. Ageing is also a persistent problem with these batteries and reduces their capacity over time. The cost of development of this type of battery is also exponentially higher than that of ICE vehicle batteries. Overall, though the lithium-ion battery performs extremely well, a more effective solution could certainly be a step forward in EV technology and enable the industry to reach greater heights in a shorter time span. This is where the aluminium-ion battery comes in.
The Dawn of Aluminium-ion Batteries
Graphene Manufacturing Group (GMG), a decade-old clean technology company in Australia collaborated with the University of Queensland to invent the most recent breakthrough in electric vehicles battery technology. The startup made public its research agreement with UQ in April of 2021 and also revealed the details of their preliminary experiments conducted at the Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.
The graphene aluminium-ion battery, as the company promises, is set to trump its lithium-ion predecessor in terms of energy efficiency, charging time, range, and nearly all other aspects. While research and trials are still underway, GMG and UQ have already collectively signed the license agreement, with mass production scheduled for later this year or in early 2022. While these batteries are shaped similarly to lithium-ion battery packs, what distinguishes them from the latter is the fact that they are hybrid battery superconductors. Consequently, they are capable of charging roughly 70 times faster and retaining thrice the amount of energy.
Aluminium-ion batteries thus show immense promise and have the potential to be a game-changer in the realm of green mobility. More importantly, these batteries have the power to replace the lithium-ion batteries that are used in most electric four-wheelers and two-wheelers currently in the market.
The Advantages of the Aluminium-ion Battery
The primary point of distinction between a lithium-ion battery and an aluminium-ion battery is, in simple words, the fact that the former consists of a lithium anode whilst the latter have an aluminium anode. This makes a world of difference in terms of performance, something that can be immensely beneficial to the overall functionality of the vehicle. Let us take a look at exactly what advantages this type of battery brings to the table over its lithium-ion counterpart.
- While aluminium-ion batteries have a theoretical voltage of 2.65 V that is significantly less than the 4 V voltage that lithium-ion batteries have to offer, the former has a power density of a whopping 7000 watts/kg, bestowing upon them an impressively high charge rate. This means that an aluminium-ion battery can charge anywhere between 22 to 60 times quicker in comparison to lithium-ion batteries.
- The graphene aluminium-ion batteries are also shown to have considerably longer battery life. GMG has carried out approximately 2000 cycles of charging/discharging and the batteries have exhibited no decay or deterioration in terms of performance.
- Standard lithium-ion batteries have a tendency of developing splinter-like dendrites which can very easily short circuit the battery, resulting in a fire. The energy transmission within an aluminium-ion battery, on the contrary, is more efficient, making it a much safer option with significantly low fire potential.
- The chief contributor to the hefty price tags on electric vehicles is the lithium-ion battery pack. This is because lithium is not too abundant and, as a result, quite expensive. The use of metals such as cobalt, nickel, and manganese in these battery packs also hike up the price. One of the major benefits of aluminium-ion batteries is that aluminium is considerably more abundant compared to lithium and also relatively inexpensive. Moreover, the production of aluminium-ion batteries does not require such metals as cobalt, nickel, or copper. Material costs thus lowered, the overall production expenses are also reduced.
- Aluminium is very easily recyclable, thereby minimizing environmental impact.
On its path to becoming the next big thing in the electric vehicle industry and replacing lithium-ion battery packs, one of the greatest hindrances that the aluminium-ion battery faces is its short shelf life. Additionally, the use of these batteries are currently restricted to laboratories and it could be quite some time until they are fit to be rolled out as complete battery packs ready for commercial use. However, as mentioned earlier in this article, the graphene aluminium-ion battery is undoubtedly brimming with potential and, if successfully turned into a reality, can work wonders in lowering the high prices of electric vehicles and encouraging their adoption.