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The technology towards zero Carbon emissions from transportation has gained importance due to increasing air pollution from automobiles. It is not just the Carbon emission but oxides of Nitrogen and Sulphur, but also water vapour (more potent Greenhouse gas) to gather with particulate matters that compounds the emission problems.

Current automobiles based on Internal combustion is not only energy inefficient but generates noise and air pollution. Therefore, battery cars and Hydrogen cars are increasing in popularity and competing with each other. We can examine the merits and demerits of these two technology for a better understanding.

Transportation uses mechanical energy derived from thermal energy generated by combustion of fossil fuels but battery cars as well as hydrogen cars convert an electrochemical energy into mechanical energy. As we know energy can neither be created not destroyed but can be converted from one form to another form. The word “energy storage” is a misnomer because electrical energy is generated at the point of usage from stored chemicals by way of redox reactions. In both cases, we generate electrical energy from batteries or from Hydrogen through Fuel cell and then convert it into mechanical energy. Both battery as well as Fuel cell convert chemical energy into electrical energy by electrochemical reaction namely redox reactions. For a redox reaction, we need both reduction (reductant) and oxidation (oxidant) reactions to take place simultaneously to effect flow of electrons from corresponding ions which we call electricity. It is clear from the above we need two reactants namely reductant and oxidant. In batteries both the reactant and oxidant are stored in solid form or in a liquid form in ‘flow batteries’. The chemistry of the redox reaction will determine the speed, size and the life of the battery. This creates a constraint on the size, weight and life of the battery to achieve a specific mileage. It means battery has a limitation when comes to size, life and mileage to be achieved. Tesla is currently leading the way in batteries both for stationery as well as transport applications. For stationery applications the space, weight and life may not be a big constraint but the life is a constraint and therefore the cost.

But in transport applications all the above three parameters are critical and therefore battery may not be a long-term solution. In Hydrogen Cars Hydrogen gas is stored in a compressed form at high pressure in a cylinder. There is no Oxygen storage but only air is used as the Oxidant. Fuel cell uses both Hydrogen and Oxygen to generate electrical energy at the point of usage to run the motor. Electricity is not stored. The main difference between battery and fuel cell is, battery carries both Oxidant as well as reductant on board in solid form which weighs and occupies space; Fuel cell carries only Hydrogen as the reductant in gaseous form and not Oxidant. Hydrogen is a light weight and only the storage tank in the form of composite material is the actual weight. Moreover, there is more room to store Hydrogen like a Hydrogen bus which carries cylinders at the roof top. If we use renewable energy source such as solar and wind then Hydrogen generation and dispensing will not be a serious constraint for Hydrogen generation and distribution in the future. The biggest disadvantage with Fuel cell is the cost due to expensive catalyst such as Platinum.

Each technology has its own advantages and disadvantages but the fundamental facts of these technologies will give us a glimpse of the future potential. In battery technology storing the reactants in solid form is an issue. Air metal battery has a good potential yet a long way to go. Similarly, if Hydrogen can be generated at the point of usage without storing Hydrogen on board that will open a greater potential. There may a hybrid solution in the future that can integrates both battery and Hydrogen- Fuel cell technologies will be the way forward. Research is being carried out to design a rechargeable Fuel cell battery with enhanced performance and cyclability. Such technologies will also guarantee a clean renewable energy storage technologies for stationery applications in the future. Hydrogen can be derived from many abundant natural sources such as seawater as I have explained in my previous article “CAPZ desalination technology uses only sun, sea and wind”.Toyota mirai power supplyToyota mirai layout

Many people argue that Hydrogen is not an energy source but an energy carrier. Hydrogen is certainly an energy source by itself but is to be derived from other primary sources such as water or natural gas because Hydrogen is not available in a free form. Generation of Hydrogen from its sources require an additional energy but when such an energy is provided by renewable sources such as sun, wind and sea then the cost becomes secondary in the long run. Therefore, battery may not be able to compete with hydrogen in the long run though it provides a temporary solution to pressing power problems in short term. Moreover, batteries rely on materials like Lithium whose availability is limited even though they are recyclable.

Battery 8hrs and Hydrogen 2 months autonomy24hrs batery storage modelBattery 10hrs and Hydrogen 17hrs autonomyBattery 8hrs and Hydrogen 2 months autonomy172 hrs (one week) battery autonomyAfrica- Australia conference

Most of the renewable energy projects that are now set up around the world are grid connected with feed-in power tariff arrangement. People can generate their own electricity by solar/wind to meet their demand and supply the surplus power to the grid at an agreed power rates. They can also draw power from the grid if there is any short fall in their production of renewable energy. It is two-way traffic. There is an opportunity for people to generate revenue by sale of surplus power. It is an incentive for people to invest on renewable energy and that is why the investment on renewable energy has steadily increased over a time. But this is not the case with many developing and under developed countries. The situation is still worse in many islands where there is no centralized power generation at all or power distribution through grids. They depend on diesel generators. Even to transport diesel from mainland they have to use diesel operated boats. They have no drinking water even though they are surrounded by sea. I happened to visit a remote island in PNG few years ago and saw the plight of those people first hand. They live in absolute poverty and nobody cares to offer them a solution. Their voices are never heard and permanently drowned in the deafening roar of the sea.

The problems of supplying clean power and water to these remote islands are not only political but also technical and commercial in nature. One has to use only commercially available systems and components which are meant for a single or three-phase grid connected power supplies. Even though renewable energy sources basically generate only direct current (DC), one has to convert them into alternate current (AC) for easy distribution and to use appliances which are designed for AC operations. Isolated communities like islands can use direct current and also use DC operated appliances because they are commercially available and they are more efficient. Anyhow most of the house appliances need DC supply and AC/DC converters are commonly used for this purpose thus sacrificing efficiency in the process. They also need better storage solutions because they are not connected to the grid and they have to necessarily store power for several days. Some of these islands are connected with inefficient wind turbines backed by diesel generators. It is an absolute necessity to incorporate a long-term storage capabilities in the system if one has to offer a continuous power and clean water. If the wind velocity is not enough (during off seasons) or if there is no sun (cloudy) for days together and if there is not enough storage capacity, then all the investment made on the project will be of no use. Any half-baked solutions will not serve the real purpose.

There are also commercial problems because a well designed system will cost more, which will eventually increase the power tariff. Unless the Government subsidizes the power   sufficiently, people cannot afford to pay for their electricity or water. It requires a careful planning and community consultations to set up a ‘stand alone renewable energy projects in islands’. Governments in the pacific islands should act with great urgency because there is also a risk of inundation by sea level rising due to global warming.

We are in the process of designing a solution to provide such islands with clean power, clean drinking water and even wireless connectivity for schools so that children can get education. It may sound ambitious but it is the first step one has to take into long journey of sustainability and self-reliance by these isolated communities. There is a good possibility that such island may one day become completely independent and self-sufficient with clean power and water.

The same solution can be implemented in other countries too. Many countries have necessary infrastructure to generate and distribute power yet they suffer regular power cuts and black outs due to inefficiencies in their system.

Our proposed solution can provide uninterrupted clean power and water because the system will have long duration centralized energy storage. We have made a detailed analysis of various alternatives available for the above purpose using Homer hybrid solution software. The solution proposes a PV solar with storage solutions using battery bank as well as Fuel cell back up. The solution also proposes a long duration of storage ranging from few hours up to a fortnight .It is a standalone system with complete energy management and suitable for remote operations. The solution can also incorporate wind turbine in addition to PV solar depending upon the site and wind velocity profile.

The model is to supply clean power and drinking water for 600 families with an average 3 people in a family. The system will supply power at the rate of 1.50kwhrs/day/person (1800 x1.5 = 2700kwhrs/day) and drinking water at the rate of 200 lits/day/person (1800 x 200 lit/person= 360,000 lits/day).The power for a desalination plant will be 1980 kwhrs/day. The system is designed for a total power generation capacity of 4680Khwhrs/day.

The model is based on battery storage as well as based on Hydrogen storage with varying durations. Comparative analysis is shown in the figures.

The first window is based on PV solar with  2 months Hydrogen autonomy.

The third window is based on PV solar with battery storage 5 days and Hydrogen 17hrs autonomy.

The fourth and fifth window is based on PV solar with battery 12hrs and Hydrogen 17hrs storage autonomy with varying panel costs

The sixth window is based on PV solar with 172 hrs (one week) battery autonomy.

The resulting analysis indicates that a centralized Hydrogen storage with Fuel cell back up offers the most economical solution even though the power tariff is higher than a system with battery storage. The investment for long duration battery storage is almost double that of Hydrogen based solution. The cost can further be reduced if and when the Electrolyzers as well as Fuel cells are manufactured on mass scale. The added advantage with this system is it can also provide Hydrogen fuel for Fuel cell cars and boats substituting diesel. One day it may become a reality that these isolated islands can become completely self sufficient in terms of water, fuel and power with no greenhouse gas emissions. This solution can be replicated to all the islands all over the world.


The above system can also be installed in many developing countries in Africa which is an emerging market. An Africa-Australia Infrastructure Conference  will be held in Melbourne, Australia on 2-3 September  2013 and it will offer a platform for Australian companies to invest in Africa on infrastructural projects.

All forms of renewable energy sources are intermittent by nature and therefore storage becomes essential. Energy is used mainly for power generation and transportation and the growth of these two industries are closely linked with development of energy storage technologies and devices. Electrical energy is conventionally stored using storage batteries. Batteries are electrochemical devices in which electrical energy is stored in the form of chemical energy, which is then converted into electrical energy at the time of usage.

Batteries are key components in cars such as Hybrid electric vehicles, Plug-in Hybrid electrical vehicles and Electrical vehicles – all store energy for vehicle propulsion. Hybrid vehicle rely on internal combustion engine as the primary source of energy and use a battery to store excess energy generated during vehicle braking or produced by engine. The stored energy provides power to an electric motor that provides acceleration or provides limited power to the propulsion. Plug-in hybrid incorporates higher capacity battery than Hybrid eclectic vehicles, which are charged externally and used as a primary source of power for longer duration and at higher speed than it is required for Hybrid electric vehicles. In Electric cars, battery is the sole power source.

All electric vehicles need rechargeable batteries with capacity to quickly store and discharge electric energy over multiple cycles. There are a wide range of batteries and chemistries available in the market. The most common NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) used Cathode materials called AB5; A is typically a rare earth material containing lanthanum, cerium, neodymium and praseodymium; while B is a combination of nickel, cobalt, manganese and/or aluminum. Current generation Hybrid vehicles use several Kg of rare earth materials.

Lithium ion battery offers better energy density, cold weather performance, abuse tolerance and discharge rates compared to NiMH batteries. With increasing usage of electrical vehicles the demand for lithium-ion batteries and Lithium is likely to g up substantially in the coming years. It is estimated that a battery capable of providing 100miles range will contain 3.4 to 12.7 Kegs of Lithium depending upon the lithium-ion chemistry and the battery range. Lithium -ion batteries are also used in renewable energy industries such as solar and wind but Lead-acid batteries are used widely due to lower cost.

The lithium for Cathode and electrolyte is produced from Lithium Carbonate which is now produced using naturally occurring brines by solar evaporation with subsequent chemical precipitation. The naturally occurring brine such as in Atacama in Chile is now the main source of commercial Lithium. The brine is a mixture of various chlorides including Lithium chloride, which is allowed to evaporate by solar heat over a period of 18-20 months. The concentrated lithium chloride is then transferred to a production unit where it is chemically reacted with Sodium carbonate to precipitate Lithium Carbonate. Chile is the largest producers of Lithium carbonate.

Though Lithium ion batteries are likely to dominate electric vehicle markets in the future, the supply of Lithium remains limited. Alternative sources of Lithium are natural ores such as Spodumene.Many companies around the world, including couple of companies in Australia are in the process of extracting Lithium from such ores.

Manufacturers produce battery cells from anode, cathode and electrolyte materials. All lithium-ion batteries use some form of lithium in the cathode and electrolyte materials, while anodes are generally graphite based and contain no lithium.   These cells are connected in series inside a battery housing to form a complete battery pack. Despite lithium’s importance for batteries, it represents a relatively small fraction of the cost of both the battery cell and the final battery cost.

“Various programs seek to recover and recycle lithium-ion batteries. These include prominently placed recycling drop-off locations in retail establishments for consumer electronics batteries, as well as recent efforts to promote recycling of EV and PHEV batteries as these vehicles enter the market in larger numbers (Hamilton 2009). Current recycling programs focus more on preventing improper disposal of hazardous battery materials and recovering battery materials that are more valuable than lithium. However, if lithium recovery becomes more cost-effective, recycling programs and design features provide a mechanism to enable larger scale lithium recycling. Another potential application for lithium batteries that have reached the end of their useful life for vehicle applications is in stationery applications such as grid storage.

The supply chain for many types of batteries involves multiple, geographically distributed steps and it overlaps with the production supply chains of other potential critical materials, such as cobalt, which are also used in battery production. Lithium titanate batteries use a lithium titanium oxide anode and have been mentioned as a potential candidate for automotive use (Gains 2010), despite being limited by a low cell voltage compared to other lithium-ion battery chemistries.” (Ref: Centre for Transportation, Argonne National Laboratory)

Usage of power for extraction of Lithium from naturally occurring brines is lower compared to extraction from mineral sources because bulk of the heat for evaporation of brine is supplied by solar heat. However Lithium ion batteries can serve only as a storage medium and the real power has to be generated either by burning fossil fuel or from using renewable energy sources. Governments around the world should make usage of renewable power mandatory for users of Electrical vehicles. Otherwise introduction of Lithium ion battery without such regulation will only enhance carbon emission from fossil fuels.


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