Natural Battery Technologies: Shaking up India’s Battery Manufacturing Space | Auto Futures

2022-07-14 07:09:03 By : Ms. Kitty Ji

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Jaipur-based startup, Natural Battery Technologies, has been making quite a splash.

The company has managed to carve out a niche for itself in the electric vehicle (EV) space with its range of lithium-ion batteries. With the Government of Rajasthan joining the electric revolution and encouraging the adoption of EVs, Natural Battery Technologies is leveraging its R&D to go from strength to strength.

After returning from a stint in Dubai, Puneet Jain, couldn’t miss the growing EV market in India but spotted a gap in the market for quality batteries. As a result, he founded Natural Battery Technologies (NBT) in 2019.

“The most crucial part for EV is the battery,” Jain explains.

“However, multiple factors about this quality, longevity, and, re-usability are often challenging. Most batteries in the market use different core metals that are relatively unstable and have a poor life. NBT solves this problem through its line of lithium-ion batteries that are both safe and efficiently powerful.”

“At NBT, we have developed a range of lithium-ion-based battery products such as lithium-ion batteries, lithium-ion cells, LiFePO4 cells, battery management systems, solar home lighting systems, battery packs for solar street light, solar home lighting systems, energy storage systems (UPS & Inverter), and other portable devices, thus customising the technology for various uses.

“Every single NBT product is manufactured to deliver maximum safety, high efficiency, and longer life cycles. The batteries can be used for outdoor applications because they discharge reliably at temperatures up to 60°C and can be recharged at temperatures up to 50°C.”

NBT’s li-ion batteries surpass lead-acid batteries with higher power density, deep cycling capabilities, and much longer service lives. According to the company, its li-ion cells are also 50% more energy efficient, are 45% cheaper, have 40% longer run times, and have half the carbon footprint of a lead-acid battery.  

What’s more, the batteries can be modified and adapted to suit customer needs and are effectively plug-and-play thanks to their design.

As the adoption of EVs skyrockets in India, especially in the two-wheeler space, so do the opportunities for NBT.

“Natural Battery Technologies, at its core, has always been about innovation with efficiency; we are developing high-performance batteries with increased safety parameters. These batteries and battery packs will be swappable within e-bikes and e-scooters to boost the charging infrastructure. They can deliver a range of more than 250 km compared to average e-scooter batteries, which are around 75-150 km. Another primary consideration is making the new batteries with a shockproof material to withstand substantial impacts at high speeds.”

Being a startup in the emerging Indian electric mobility sector, it’s fair to assume that NBT will have some challenges to overcome.

“One significant challenge for us has been sourcing high-quality raw materials,” explains Jain.

“The supply of the raw materials required to manufacture li-ion batteries is pretty limited and hence it can be a bottleneck for us. However, we are striving to tackle this situation responsibly by developing batteries and infrastructure that allows more recycling and reusing capabilities and incorporating solar energy.”

The government support for electrification has been phenomenal in India, both at the federal and state levels. Policies such as FAME II have propelled India on its electrification journey.

But, while the Rajasthan state government has been active in driving forward its electrification agenda, Jain says that NBT has not directly benefited from these policies. However, he is quick to add that consumers have benefited greatly from the subsidies they receive when purchasing an EV and that the push from the government has undoubtedly helped drive adoption — consequently causing a spike in demand for batteries.

Recently, there have been a number of high-profile battery fires in India.

“The unfortunate cases of recent EV-related accidents have raised concerns over the safety of batteries,” says Jain.

“NBT, since its inception, has been dedicated to working on the safety aspects of batteries. Our technologically empowered infrastructure and innovation allow us to monitor the health of a battery by considering various parameters. There is a set standard for every battery’s health stats and, if any product is found lacking behind those standards, the consumer is notified to get the required fixations done to avoid accidents.”

Manufacturing and producing batteries is far from easy, especially in a country like India. The challenges are many. For starters, there is a problem of maintaining a steady supply chain. And then there is the issue that Jain previously touched upon – not all components being readily available in India, forcing companies to import.

“Most components of any battery comprise the cells that are welded together to make the battery pack; this takes up to 60-70% of the cost of the battery pack. Since India doesn’t have any facility for making lithium-ion cells, and the resources are pretty scarce, the country faces a dependency on international manufacturers,” explains Jain.

“At NBT, we have strived to maintain good relationships with our suppliers and have given them regular business. We sign procurement agreements with them so that they are secure about their capacity production, and we are also secure in getting the material at the right time.

“We have started getting the peripherals of the battery sub-components manufactured here, such as plastics, containers, welding connectors, insulation papers, and other materials. We aim to source most of our components from India, including our battery management system, which we are actively working on designing to Indian standards for the cells we believe that India will soon have the capacity to produce. Meanwhile, we aim to indigenise all the other battery components.”

For now, NBT is working directly with EV and energy storage system manufacturers. As for dealers and distributors, the company is strategically working with dealers who have previously dealt with lead-acid batteries and offer a vast distribution network across the whole of India.

“As for the expansion plan, we frequently introduce new products, such as inverters, automotive and medical equipment, and grid storage batteries,” said Jain.

“We are also trying to move into the government sector through infrastructure equipment such as telecommunication tower batteries.”

Speaking about the company’s plans for the future, he added:

“Natural Battery Technologies is exploring the cell-level chemistries of cathodes and anodes. The company aspires to participate actively in the indigenisation of lithium-ion cells and the current prevalent chemistry. The company has researched new chemistries that are competitive with lithium-ion cells, which have higher safety and longer cycle life. We wish to develop proprietary chemistry shortly so we can mass produce it and deal in contract manufacturing.”

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