ISRO Helps India Have Cleaner Air

ISRO Helps India Have Cleaner Air

Just a few days ago, we’d written about how India was very, very far behind in developing and promoting the use of Electric Vehicles. We’d spoken about costs, poor supporting infrastructure and insufficient governmental focus on this sector as some of the debilitating elements.

Well, one of them, Governmental focus has a new, good story to tell!

Here’s another moment of pride for Indians, thanks to the stupendous people at ISRO.

The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) under Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully developed path-breaking lithium-ion batteries that are high-density units, which despite higher charge storage capacity, are actually smaller, lighter and more compact than regular batteries. 

ISRO had developed their innovative lithium ion battery technology and used it for their space applications – to power satellites and other space missions. Seeing that done successfully, ISRO and ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) began working jointly a while ago, to adapt and develop this indigenous lithium ion technology for automotive use.

One of the first things they realised was that the batteries for automotive use would need lower specifications, have different energy densities (compared to the batteries used in space), as well as be made suitable for higher ‘duty cycles’ – the number of the recharge instances and the very life of the battery, would need to be enhanced since automobiles would see more rigorous use across their lifetime.

ISRO’s capability to craft the right chemistry and to translate the technology helped them create compact lithium ion battery systems that could meet the grade set by the ARAI.

Interestingly, during the ‘develop’ phase itself, ISRO was approached by over a dozen automobile manufacturers to partner and launch electric vehicles based on their battery technology. But the government realised the potential for a larger mission and requested ISRO to make the technology available to multiple players instead of looking at a technology partnership.

Thus, ISRO will share this technology with domestic automobile manufacturers and will enable them for mass production. The information will be accessible even to private players in a true innovation-for-mankind move. The sharing of manufacturing technology will aid mass-production of batteries, thus increasing competition and help bring down prices further. That, is the government’s first priority.

So far, manufacturers have had to import lithium-ion batteries, making the final product expensive and accessible only to a few. With the technology available locally, manufacturers will be able to roll out cheaper and more efficient batteries. This will boost production to a scale that may soon enable cheaper and more reliable electric vehicles. Estimates yield that bulk production could lower prices by up to 80%, making batteries feasible for the budget-conscious Indian.

The indigenously manufactured and customised batteries have successfully cleared multiple rounds of tests. And not just lab-tests – earlier in 2017, an electric two-wheeler prototype was rolled out, powered by the indigenous lithium-ion battery.

As per reports, Mahindra Renault, Hyundai, Nissan, Tata Motors, High Energy Batteries, BHEL and Indian Oil are interested in indigenous production and are expected to incorporate the technology into upcoming products and vehicles in the coming years.

Clearly, the government is looking to boost the sale of electric vehicles to solve the problem of air pollution that Indian cities are currently besieged with. Delhi has long been listed among the top 10 most polluted cities worldwide. And while the Indian government has tried various measures to bring down pollution, there’s not been any significant effect.

With the situation not improving, there’s been a rise in sales of air purifiers, with even bottled pure air entering the market!

The government is now relying on the value-for-money appeal of budget-friendly electric vehicles to help tackle the problem of pollution in the country. Here’s a toast to them!

While ISRO had developed and delivered the prototypes to the ARAI for testing at their Pune facility, and the ARAI was expected to clear the batteries by end of 2016, the clearance is running a little behind. Get with it, guys!


Also published on Medium.