The Chinese Navy will now shift to lithium technology to replace the lead-acid batteries to be used in its fleet of conventional submarines.
It will not take long for the lithium-ion batteries to power China’s huge fleet of conventional submarines due to advancements in the nation’s globally dominant electric car industry, according to a study by China’s Navy, reported on Saturday by South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Lithium batteries had a higher risk of catching fire or exploding. So, naturally, the navy was apprehensive to replace the submarine fleet’s current batteries with them. But “after solving these problems, the replacement of lead-acid batteries with lithium batteries in conventional submarines is just around the corner,” said Wang Feng, study lead and a submarine designer.
The modifications could considerably improve a submarine’s capacity for survival and battle, according to research released on October 15 in the peer-reviewed Chinese journal Marine Electric and Electronic Engineering.
The lead-acid batteries that are being used in these submarines have multiple issues like poor energy storage capacity, delayed charging, limited power output, short lifespan, and harmful gas leaks, according to the paper.
Nickel and cobalt were added to batteries to enhance performance, but they were the reasons for mishaps. Some companies were using iron and phosphate for this. The two elements are easily accessible and inexpensive and can create highly stable structures that increase the safety of lithium batteries while barely affecting their performance.
According to Wang’s team, lithium-battery-powered submarines would most likely adopt the iron phosphate strategy as China relies on outside nations for the supply of nickel and cobalt.
The Japanese navy was the first to use these new batteries in 2018. It added metal manganese to the lithium battery of the submarine.
South Korea launched its first lithium-powered submarine using nickel and cobalt in 2021.
Prototype lithium batteries for submarine usage have also been developed by Germany and France, with aim to be launched in military service soon.