AI and IoT technologies will revolutionise the future of electric vehicles. Selecting the right type of battery is equally essential
Representative image. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Due to their functionality based on batteries rather than on petroleum-based fuel, electric vehicles (EVs) are often referred to as battery wali gaadi (battery car) in Hindi. Modern vehicles have indeed come a long way from being petrol/diesel operated to battery-operated ones.
Earlier, mobile phones were used strictly for calling purposes. Nowadays, mobile phones have transformed into smartphones that come with several digital functionalities and serve many purposes apart from calling. Just as they have become an integral part of our present, similarly, EVs in the future will become quite common. With so many developments taking place on the EV front, not only will you be able to monitor and control their operations, but you will also experience a lot of functionalities that new-age smartphones provide. All digital functionalities will be very well built inside the EV itself.
When we speak of batteries, there are multiple options. Current battery technologies include:
Lead-acid: This type of battery technology is the most common one, mainly used in internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and inverters to provide uninterrupted power to homes in the event of a power failure. Lead-acid battery comes in gel and non-gel options.
Graphene battery: This type of battery technology has better life and performance as compared to a lead-acid battery. It is also available in gel & non-gel versions.
Lithium battery: It is quite popular and considered to be the future of battery technology. Lithium batteries come in two variants: Lithium-Ion (Li-ion), which generally has a lifespan of about 1000 – 1200 or at max 1500 lifecycles, and Lithium Ferro Phosphate (LiFePO4), which has more life and is less vulnerable as compared to lithium-ion batteries.

The lifecycle of a battery means the number of times a battery can be charged before it becomes useless. Life of lithium batteries is generally measured on two parameters: natural life and chargeable life.

 
Another type of rechargeable battery that can be used in place of Lithium-Ion is Lithium Titanate Oxide (LTO). It has a 25 C current delivery, which means it can deliver 25x an existing vehicle cell, and produce a charge for 100 sq per gram surface area, which is much higher compared to 3 sq per gram of Li Ion. LTO also has a lifecycle of 3000 – 7000 charge cycles.
It is expected that within the next two years, LTO will take over Li-Ion with a much better range and charging cycle. LTO is easily adaptable and can be a promising technology in the near future.

Glimpses Of The EV-bound Future

There are no second thoughts on the claims of EVs revolutionising the future. These vehicles would be based on different speed modes, allowing any family member to control such a vehicle.
Suppose, a student is going to a college or an office goer going to their workplace in an e-bike. With the help of this feature, the vehicle will only go to the intended destination and cease to move beyond that, thus preventing unnecessary battery depletion.
Instead of keys, it will be fingerprint sensing technology that will enable a person to lock/unlock their vehicle in a parking lot.
While travelling, if you tend to cross the speed limit as specified on a particular stretch of road/highway, then the Bluetooth device present in the helmet will connect to our mobile device and send an SMS alert to slow down.
E-bikes with touchscreen speedometers and wide GPS functions will become the norm in future. From controllers to motors, and any faults concerning battery temperature and charging will be rectified through a dedicated mobile app.
Since it is expected that all mobile functionalities will be in-built in an e-bike, developments in communications technology will render your smartphone useless; there will be no need for you to carry your mobile phone in the future. This will save you from talking while driving and significantly bring down the number of road accidents.

Basic Electrochemistry

The two electrodes, cathode and anode are responsible for transferring ions present in an electrolyte to produce an electric charge in an electric battery. Charging takes place from anode to cathode while discharging takes place from cathode to anode.
In lithium batteries, lithium salt is used as an electrolyte. Electrochemical roles get reversed between anode and cathode depending upon the direction of current flow through the cells. So in this way, we obtain small cells having voltages of 2.4 – 3.6 V that combine to deliver energy to the vehicle. Depending upon constant current or voltage, charging of the battery occurs.
Based on this, research activities are going on for using hydrogen that can produce H2O as residue. Not only will the end result help in reducing emissions to a great extent, but will also allow batteries to store more energy that will increase an EV’s range, thereby eliminating the fear of going on long rides.

Challenges

The limited range or mileage of an EV is a bottleneck. To solve it, the power of the motor should be increased.
High cost is another deterrent for the wide adoption of EVs. This is because most EVs having a good range are quite expensive.  This brings us to the previous point which states that increasing the motor power will minimise the problem of range. More R&D is required to provide ideal motor power in EVs.
LTO has benefits over Li-Ion. But its size is a constraint. In cars, it is easy to install. But for two-wheelers, there is a space limitation. So more research is needed.

Can solar panels be placed on an e-bike for battery charging?

No. The reason is that charging EVs through solar energy is a very slow process, barely reaching 50%-80% charge in an hour. While on the go, regenerative braking controllers instead effectively charge batteries.
There is also the issue of utility that crops up when considering solar panels for e-bike battery charging. You may install them for charging your smartphone or LED lights but it won’t be able to fully charge the battery. For 1 KW, you approximately require a space of 5-8 sq metres. Now since these vehicles require 2KW power, you will require 16 sq metres of area that should be directly exposed to the sun. So, that’s why it will be difficult.

Role of IoT in Battery Management

IoT is nothing but an aggregation of huge data incoming from various social media and internet platforms, and analysing them afterwards to generate useful reports and analytics. As of now, smartphones are assisting different electronic devices to spread the growth of IoT. At a later stage, EVs would replace smartphones and perform the same analytics, especially regarding regulation of vehicle functionalities including battery management.
Going forward, all EVs are expected to be CAN compliant, thus allowing all electronic devices of an EV to function under a single protocol and communicate with each other, which will further allow vehicles to communicate via the internet.

Summing It All Up…

While AI and IoT will bring about a massive transformation in transportation services, they will eventually fail if batteries driving the mode of transportation are not optimised and monitored at regular intervals. Here’s hoping the ongoing research in battery technologies will help us realise a future where EVs/e-bikes will become a common sight.

Vikas Gupta is the founder & CEO, e-Ashwa Automotive Pvt. Ltd. Amit Singh is the co-founder & director of operations, e-Ashwa Automotive Pvt. Ltd. The article is based on a session called “Advancements in Battery Tech” held at the e-bikes show – Tech World Congress, and compiled by Vinay Prabhakar Minj, Technology Journalist at EFY.