Indian Oil, the state-owned oil company of India, has peered into the future, determined that the future of transportation is electric, and wants in on the transition, but in a way that is compatible with the needs of the country. India has no lithium deposits that could be used to manufacture conventional lithium-ion battery cells.
Indian Oil CEO Sanjiv Singh told the press at the company’s annual meeting recently, “We don’t [have] lithium in India so, if you are looking at EVs in a big way, we have to look for something which is indigenously available. We have already tied-up with one company and we are working on a solution which can be manufactured 100% indigenously.”
Singh was tight lipped about who the other company might be, but according to CTech, two people it spoke with say the partner is Israeli battery start-up Phinergy, Ltd. Founded in 2008, Phinergy has developed aluminum-air and zinc-air batteries intended for use in electric vehicles. The company has raised $288 million to date and employs a team of 40 people in central Israel, according to Pitchbook data. Indian Oil signed a joint cooperation agreement with Phinergy in 2018.
Singh says the the two companies will construct a factory in India to manufacture lithium-free EV batteries. He said the factory would have an initial capacity of 1 GWh but declined to say where the factory would be located or when production might begin.
Ram Kumar, director of research and development for Indian Oil, says the batteries will use “chemistries which are India-centric, whose raw material is easily available in this country and whose recycling industry is well established in this country.” The company also intends to install more EV chargers and add battery swapping stations at its filling stations. It expects to rename its stations, which it will call Fuel Solution Centers in the future.
India has been slow to adopt electric cars, but when the state-owned oil company announces it is building a battery factory and introducing battery swapping to its service stations, it can rightly be said the EV revolution is coming to India soon. No one knows how aluminum-air and zinc-air batteries perform in the real world. Perhaps the battery swapping part of the scheme is a clue?
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