BUSINESS

Aluminium and water are fuel for this electric vehicle

Firm develops metal-air battery to deliver higher mileage

If you ever get stuck at a traffic signal near the verdant campus of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru and see a fellow commuter driving a white Mahindra e2o Plus electric vehicle covered with stickers, don’t mistake him for just another techie.

Chances are that he is Akshay Singhal, the 25-year-old co-founder and CEO of nanotechnology start-up Log 9 Materials, conducting trials for his car to run on water. This is made possible by the metal-air battery, developed by Log 9, fitted in the vehicle.

Log 9, an IIT Roorkee spin-off, says it is using the wonder material ‘graphene’ to make the metal-air batteries commercially viable and affordable for e-vehicles and stationary applications like power backup products.

Mr. Singhal said that traditional lithium-ion batteries stored energy rather than generating it. For instance, an e-vehicle has a mileage range of 100 km to 150 km, after which it has to be charged. This on an average takes about five hours, he said. “If you are driving from Koramangala to the airport [in Bengaluru], you can’t come back with one single charge,” Mr. Singhal said in an interview. The company aims to replace the requirement to charge e-vehicles and “instead refuel them just like gasoline, but with water,” said Mr. Singhal, who founded the company along with his IIT-Roorkee college mate Kartik Hajela in 2015. Log 9 said the initial cost of its battery was almost half of that of the lithium-ion battery. A single ‘refuelling’ of the battery which uses aluminium, besides water as fuel, would give a range of 1,000 km.

Wonder material

Log 9’s secret sauce is its experience and expertise in ‘graphene’ which is one million times thinner than paper and forms graphite or pencil lead when stacked together. Log 9 said its battery enables the car to run on a simple fuel cell technology that uses electrochemical reaction to produce electricity. But there is a ‘graphene rod’ along the metal plate that generates electricity with water as its base for the chemical reaction. The electricity thus generated is sent to an electric motor that drives the car.

Experts like Ashok Misra, an honorary energy professor at IISc, said the growth of e-vehicles requires an innovative battery solution to make it a convenient proposition for end-use customers. “Log 9 Materials has demonstrated the capability to tackle this energy-generation bottleneck... with a commercially viable solution,” said Prof. Misra, who is also on the boards of Kirloskar Electric Company and Reliance Industries.

Investors are taking note of the potential of Log 9’s innovation and have so far invested $1 million in the firm.

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