The Future of mobility is Electric (e-Mobility) for sustainable eco-system: Sodium-Ion Battery ( A Technology Beyond Lithium-Ion Battery)


Introduction to electric mobility – Battery on wheels

Electric mobility in the 20th century

Transportation and vehicular mobility have been significant aspects of modern civilization, ensuring connectivity and facilitating socio-economical development. The majority of automobiles on the road today run with conventional fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel. In an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), incomplete combustion results in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contributing to 25% of the total GHG emissions worldwide. As the global consensus grew, green and sustainable alternatives emerged towards the electrification of transportation sectors worldwide. However, electric vehicles (EVs) are historically older technologies as compared to ICE-based automobiles.1 Battery-powered cars first appeared in the early 1800s, followed by electrified locomotives in the 1830s.2 Patents were granted in England and America in 1840 and 1847 to use electrified rails.3 Almost a decade later, Gaston Plante invented rechargeable lead-acid batteries in 1859,4 making battery-operated vehicles viable. However, the limitations of a naïve technology, and the people's obsession for "powerful machines," and the lack of an appreciable range of EV vehicles with low energy density rechargeable batteries made the technology obsolete.5

Due to the limited energy/power storage and low driving range, battery-operated vehicles had never gained popularity in the 19th century and were replaced by gasoline-fueled engines in the early 1900s. ICE as the power generator dominated the automobile market till the 1970s. The petroleum embargo in the 1970s resulted in a rapid increase in fuel cost,6, 7 forcing the world into more sustainable and green solutions for mobility. The global consensus about the depletion of fossil fuel resources and global warming (0.4°C from 1970 to 1984) due to GHG emissions has fueled the revival of electric automobiles. In 1996, rechargeable Lead-acid batteries (PbA) and Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries were deployed in EVs by General Motors.8, 9, 10 Compared to ICE-based vehicles, the low-range EVs failed to spark consumer confidence, and the battery-powered EVs remained more as future prototype vehicles.

The development of rechargeable Li-ion batteries in the 1990s (LIBs) has led to a battery revolution in consumer electronics. Since then, the evolution of LIBs as sustainable solutions as EV batteries has reduced the usage of existing rechargeable PbA and NiMH batteries due to their higher energy density (~130-220 Whkg-1) and shallow self-discharge rate (~5% per month). LIBs provide the best choice in terms of energy and power densities, flexibility, and compact cell designs. R&D and mass production of LIBs has reduced the total cell cost by ~98% in the last three decades, reaching an average value of $140 (kWh)-1 in 202111. However, LIBs encounter a few challenges due to the limited abundance of lithium sources and the inadequate infrastructure for widespread EV applications. Cell safety and less service reliability of LIBs impede the growth of EVs. New-edge LIB technologies involving cheaper, safer, and sustainable materials have gathered enough attention in the EV market to eliminate these barriers. 

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