India-based Log9 Materials, believes that the key to better EVs is to focus on energy-generation, instead of energy storage. Log9 Materials says that a car powered by aluminium fuel cells can have a range of 1000 km post which the aluminium plates can be replaced within minutes.
According to Log9, aluminium fuel cells would primarily use three components – aluminium, water, and carbon in the form of graphene. In simple words, there’s water between layers of graphene, and when aluminium comes in contact with water, it corrodes – releasing energy. Log9 explains that procuring raw materials for aluminium fuel cells is much simpler than those for lithium-ion batteries which use lithium and cobalt, so manufacturing cost can be considerably lower for aluminium fuel cells than lithium-ion battery packs.
Another benefit of this technology is that the aluminium plates are exhaustive in nature and at the end of their useful life, they turn into an oxidized powder than can be sweltered into aluminium plates again. Hence, that actually makes the spent fuel recyclable.
“The path to 100% clean energy mobility can be much simpler and more economical with aluminium fuel cells than it is with any other technology like lithium-ion,” says Akshay Singhal, Founder, Log 9 Materials.
Singhal explains that the application of EVs in public transport can be improved with aluminium fuel cells. For example, he says, if a bus that weighs 10 tonnes is electrified through lithium-ion tech, it’ll need battery packs that further add 2-2.5 tonnes of weight and even so it would have a range of about 100 km. On the other hand, since energy per kg in aluminium fuel cells is about 7-8 times more – in the same 1.5-2 tonnes, aluminium fuel cells can promise a range of about 500-600 km. Furthermore, aluminium plate replacement would take minutes compared to hours of charging time for lithium-ion batteries.
Speaking of aluminium plate replacement, Singhal states that there would have to be replacement centers set up and that the cost of setting these up would be far lower than traditional fuel filling stations and electric charging stations since there is no specific infrastructure required like it is in the case of fossil fuels or electric charging. While an electric car currently needs some 6-7 hours to charge or 2-3 hours on fast charging, aluminium plates would take minutes to replace.
Singhal explains that aluminium fuel cell technology can be further cost-effective since a drive system based on this tech does not require a separate cooling system. One of the main components of these fuel cells is water which constantly flows through the system keeping the temperatures in check.
A team of 45 people at Log9 Materials is working towards getting the aluminium fuel cell tech on the road and is expected to roll it out in the market by the end of this year. Singhal says that the start-up is already in talks with OEMs which have expressed interest in the technology and are likely to begin trials in the first quarter of the coming financial year.