LITHIUM Australia NL’s 100%- owned subsidiary VSPC has been awarded Federal Government funding as part of a $5 million programme to develop fast-charge lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries for use in new- generation trams.

In partnership with national science organisation the CSIRO, UQ and Soluna – the $5 million CRC-P programme is investigating the potential for battery powered trams may eliminate the need for overhead power lines, which are expensive, visually polluting and potentially hazardous.

As well as expertise in the design of Li-ion batteries, CSIRO already has specific experience and intellectual property relating to fast-charge batteries for application in trams and other forms of transport (such as e-buses, ferries and military applications). VSPC will partner with battery researchers at CSIRO’s Clayton site in Victoria to design, manufacture and test fast-charge Li-ion battery prototypes.

The UQ team at the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology – led by Professor Lianzhou Wang from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology – has extensive capabilities with respect to the analysis of advanced materials. VSPC will work with the UQ team on both the characterisation and optimisation of VSPC’s battery materials.

Meanwhile, Soluna will advise on manufacturing and also lead commercialisation of the fast-charge battery products developed.

CSIRO principal research scientist, Adam Best, said CSIRO has over 35 years’ experience with batteries, and more than 15 years of working in the lithium battery field.

“We’re excited to be applying our significant capabilities and expertise to this project, in conjunction with VSPC and UQ, for the design, manufacture and testing of next-generation fast-charge batteries that incorporate VSPC’s advanced cathode materials.”

VSPC executive director Mike Vaisey said the project is a tremendous opportunity to bring together Australia’s technological capabilities – including VSPC’s advanced cathode materials, CSIRO’s battery expertise and UQ’s analytical abilities – to develop new battery systems using VSPC cathode material.

“Light rail is experiencing a resurgence worldwide as cities modernise, and fast- charge batteries are critical to avoiding the poles and wires of the past.”

Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said the aim is to deliver an Australian product that puts this country at the forefront of battery development.

“And there’s more to it than trams; successful application of what is currently at our fingertips will lead to myriad other fast-charge applications, many of them not yet thought of.”