Need to step up battery manufacturing in India

08 August 2018 |

In an encouraging move for prospects of domestic battery manufacturing, two government run institutions — Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CECRI) — have announced plans to transfer their cell manufacturing technology to private companies. Various private players including Exide, Suzuki (with Toshiba and Denso) and Cummins have also announced plans to set up integrated battery manufacturing facilities in India.

CECRI has already signed an agreement with RAASI Solar Energy, a solar EPC company, to transfer its indigenously developed cell manufacturing technology and jointly develop battery packs for solar projects as well as electric vehicles (EVs) for three years. During this time, RAASI is expected to set up a 1 GW manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu. ISRO also plans to transfer its cell manufacturing know-how for commercialization to private sector players on a non-exclusive basis. Despite uncertainty around possibility of commercialization of technology and ISRO’s strict eligibility criteria, its recently concluded pre-qualification conference received high market interest with more than 130 companies participating in it.

Learning lessons from the problems faced in solar module manufacturing, the Government of India has made a good start, albeit a little late in our view. China has already taken the lead and is expected to gain a 70% market share in global battery manufacturing by 2021. At present, China, Japan, USA and South Korea together account for 92% of total international battery manufacturing capacity.

So far, India has no notable capacity and a number of steps need to be taken to ensure that India doesn’t miss the manufacturing bus again. First, as scale of operations plays a critical role in battery manufacturing, the government should incentivise creation of domestic demand in both grid storage and consumer applications such as EVs. The inconsistent policy stance on EVs and changing targets of the government is not a good start. As per International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates, India had only 6,800 EVs at the end of 2017, 0.35% of the global fleet. On the other hand, China, which is promoting EVs through a combination of restrictions on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and with its new energy vehicle credit system, has 50% share in the global EV fleet. On stationary energy storage front also, the government is yet to launch the much talked about National Energy Storage Mission, which is expected to give a boost to energy storage and battery manufacturing in India.

Second, continued investment in R&D is a must. The sector is bound to see rapid technological developments, which may render some of the existing technologies obsolete very soon. Third, investment in setting up testing facilities should be scaled up. Although there are various small-sized private companies operating in this space, there is a need to ramp up capacities of testing labs and putting in place a one roof solution for all testing requirements. The need to send cell and/or battery samples for testing to different places for different tests is a time consuming and a costly affair for manufacturers.

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