Desi firms enter race to make Li-ion batteries

Kinetic has a modest presence in India’s auto market

Sharda Motor Industries, a New Delhi-based manufacturer of auto parts such as suspensions and catalytic converters, and the Kinetic group of Pune have become two of the rare Indian firms to dare to enter the cut-throat world of lithium-ion battery manufacturing.

The supply of Li-ion batteries is currently almost completely controlled by Chinese companies, which has been a source of rising concern among policy-makers in places like the US, Europe, and of late, in India. Many fear that too much reliance on China for such a crucial component of future electric mobility solutions can have strategic and security implications for the future.

It is in this context that Sharda Motor has announced a tie-up with the Pune-based Kinetic Group to “design, develop & assemble” Li-ion batteries in India.

Kinetic Group, which will remain the junior partner in the venture, is a manufacturer of automobiles in India, and was the first to introduce gearless scooters to the country.

The two companies will use technology developed by IIT Madras to create a desi Li-ion battery solution.

“Under the technical collaboration agreement, Centre for Battery Engineering and Electric Vehicle (CBEEV), the research and development centre of IIT Madras, will provide technology for Li‐ ion battery energy storage for electric 2 wheelers, 3 wheelers and other small electric vehicles to the JV,” said an official statement.

“The technology developed at IIT Madras includes advanced thermal design to overcome adverse temperatures in India, mechanical designs to overcome vibrations due to varying road conditions, as well as Battery Management System designed by CBEEV IITM keeping in mind Indian road conditions,” it added.

The joint venture will set up a state‐of‐the‐art manufacturing facility in Pune and is expected to be operational by the end of 2021.

Most of the current demand for lithium ion batteries are met via imports from China, even as Japanese companies such as Suzuki, Denso and Toshiba have announced their intent to start manufacturing such batteries in India.

“The focus of the [joint venture] company will be to develop battery packs for the rapidly growing electric vehicle market in India & other segments of energy storage applications,” Sharda Motor said, adding that this is its “first major step” into EV component manufacturing.

CEO Aashim Relan said the batteries would target both electric two-wheeler and three-wheeler manufacturers.

“The JV will mark our entry into EV components which highlights our focus on clean mobility, new product development, innovation and technology supported by research and development.”

Sulajja Firodia Motwani, Vice Chairperson of Kinetic Eng. and Founder and CEO of Kinetic Green said the joint venture is progression of the group’s efforts in the area of EV technology. The group already has some experience in manufacturing electric vehicles and developed some core technology and components in this area.

She pointed out that battery and battery management systems are at the heart of EV technology.