The new phone sized lithium-ion batteries could be used to run everything from bicycles, rickshaws, cars while also turning as backup small solar plants.

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Lithium-ion battery packs the size of a mobile phone will offer more space & longer distances

One of the biggest hindrances for electric vehicles is the bulky lithium-ion batteries that not only occupy more space but are also extremely expensive and currently need to be sourced from overseas for the Indian market. While the battery size has reduced and the range increased over the years, there is still scope for improvement and this is where ex-IBM employee Gurinder Pal Singh has put in all his efforts to develop a mobile phone sized battery that could power a vehicle to run for hundreds of kilometres.

An MSc from Patiala and PhD from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Gurinder worked at the IBM Research Division and was part of the research team that converted the hefty refrigerator-sized data storage devices into compact devices that can store up to 4 terabytes. After retiring in 2013, he applied the same principle for vehicle batteries and has been conducting research on the same at Punjab University, moving away from his US home.

Gurinder states that the idea is to store more energy at a cheaper price in a smaller package, just like disc drives. The physical capacity of lithium-ion batteries hasn’t been reached and that leaves room to increase the storage capacity by ten folds. Another hassle with the lithium-ion batteries is the high costs that can be met with local manufacturing. At present, India imports lithium-ion batteries from overseas, but in order to make the batteries commercially viable for use, the same need to be made in India, thereby providing higher economies of scale.

Aiming to change the face of transportation in the country, Gurinder acknowledges that it is still a long way till we can make the transition. The infrastructure support for battery-powered vehicles is zilch in India and will take time to have high-power charging points at various locations that will enable faster recharge times and a longer travel distance. Currently, China is the world leader with battery-powered bicycles and India too could see that happening, but over a period of time. With smaller battery packs, a lot can be done with electric vehicles and will certainly be making way for better times.

The infrastructure needs to be developed first for electric vehicles to support the change

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