Battery designs & technology are constantly evolving

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Driven by innovations and demand for cleaner energy, the battery business in India is expected to grow at a rate of over 20 per cent and is poised to double by 2011, say industry experts. In the last few years, the Indian battery market has witnessed entry of new players, new products, technological innovations and emergence of domestic competition that have altered its landscape significantly.

By Srabani Sen

Saturday, April 17, 2009: The lead acid battery market can be divided into two broad sectors—industrial and automotive batteries. Here we will take up industrial batteries, the market for which is growing faster compared to the automotive batteries market. This is significantly powered by its usage in telecom, railways, power and other industrial applications.

Batteries in industries are usually used as a rugged high drain standby source of power. These can be used for moving power and stationary applications. Moving power application batteries are used in trains, forklifts, submarines, etc. The demand for stationary batteries is substantially higher and these are used in applications such as UPS systems, telecommunication networks, power plants, etc.

With the emergence of India as an IT superpower and the liberalisation of the telecom sector, there has been a rise in deployment of computer and communication networks at infrastructural and organisational levels. This has augmented the demand for industrial batteries, and this trend is only bound to increase as India continues to develop the service sector that includes call centres, data centres, banking networks, etc.

What majors offer

Industrial batteries are of three types—conventional lead acid batteries, valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries and nickel cadmium batteries. VRLA batteries have, within a very short period of time, gained leadership as the highest selling industrial batteries, replacing conventional batteries. The VRLA battery works on the principle of valve venting, by which gas discharge produced in chemical reactions inside the battery is safely released, thereby averting potential explosions.

Amara Raja Batteries Ltd, one of the largest manufacturer of standby VRLA batteries, has a fully integrated manufacturing unit at Tirupati. It offers VRLA batteries—Powerstack & Amaron Quanta, which have high integrity, long life and designed to support critical standby applications. Amptek has a wide range of batteries suitable for almost all applications of rechargeable SMF industrial batteries in 4V, 6V and 12V with capacity from 0.5AH to 200Ah.

Base Corporation Ltd is one of the first trading companies to introduce VRLA technology in India. “Today, India has emerged as one of the top 10 VRLA battery markets in the world,” states Aditya Arora, marketing and media head, Base Corporation. Base has solar batteries, industrial tubular batteries and VRLA batteries. While Artheon Electronics Ltd and Computech Systems has VRLA batteries, HBL Power Systems Ltd has a wide range of electrochemistry under one roof, and manufactures lead acid, nickel cadmium and lithium ion batteries for the industries. Its range of rugged industrial batteries include nickel cadmium pocket plate batteries, nickel cadmium fiber plate batteries, nickel cadmium sinter plate batteries and nickel cadmium sinter/plastic bonded plate batteries.

Prime Products offer various types of rechargeable batteries, sealed lead acid, NiCd, NiMH, lithium and LiFePO4 batteries. It also assembles to meet customer specifications for NiCd, NiMH and lithium under the brand name Surya Powerpacks.

GreenVision Technologies has two types of industrial batteries—VRLA sealed maintenance free (SMF) batteries and tubular flooded batteries. VRLA SMF batteries are available in 2V and 12V, and tubular batteries are available from 12V, 20AH upto 12V 210AH. Okaya, on the other hand, manufactures SMF VRLA batteries and VRLA 2V cells for telecom, solar and other industries. Its products range from 12V/7.2Ah to 12V/200Ah, and for 2V cell they manufacture 200Ah to 3000Ah.

What’s new

Indian battery market, of late, has been flooded with new and innovative types. Amara Raja has recently launched FTA batteries specifically designed for telecom applications with a special feature of augmenting capacity. GreenVision Technologies is also introducing the new FT range of products with front terminal access. “There’s a demand for VRLA batteries with compact construction and big capacity with front terminal access. This category of products includes two series, FTA for 23 feet standard power supply cabinets and FTB for 19 feet power supply cabinets,” points out Biju Bruno, CMD, GreenVision Technologies.

According to Rajesh Gupta, director, Okaya Power Ltd, 2V SMF VRLA batteries and solar batteries are the new ones available for different application. Says Kapil Sood, managing director, Amptek, “The improved version of SMF battery technology is being popularly used, and Amptek already employs this technology in its battery range.” Adds Aditya Arora, “Electric vehicle (EV) batteries are now picking up, which we plan to launch in June 2010.”

According to Tarun Desai, CEO, Prime Products, industrial battery types are classified based on the chemistry—lead acid, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride and lithium ion. Sealed acid can be further divide into two major categories—flooded and sealed. Flooded consists of batteries categorised as automobile battery, tubular battery, traction battery, etc. Sealed batteries are sub-classified as AGM, AGM gel and gel based on the carrier to store the acid. SLA are also classified as deep discharge, high rate discharge, EV based on the intended use for which the battery material and design is fine tuned. Avnish Arora, vice president, sales, HBL Power Systems, believes that the most popular ones available in the market are nickel cadmium batteries, silver zinc, lithium ion, pure lead tin batteries.

Computech Systems and Artheon Electronics offer SMF VRLA batteries, which is maintenance and fume free.

Innovation is the trend

Manufacturers are spending on battery technology and that’s extremely encouraging news. But what is really inspiring is the wide range of advanced battery innovation that is taking place. Battery designs and technological innovations are constantly evolving based on market demand, which is tilted towards highly cyclic, quick recharge batteries and batteries that sustain higher temperature to cater to ever changing customer needs. Efforts are also being made to develop green energy solutions.

“Design changes are made to increase energy density of batteries (more energy in same weight/size). Also, there is constant development for making batteries more economical. Some special ranges are developed for long life and fire retardant applications,” says Desai.

According to Aditya Arora, new technologies based on various alloys and chemical mixtures are emerging, which enhance the performance of the batteries. “Products with these new technologies come at a high cost. Customers, therefore, demand lead acid batteries as they are cost effective and ideal for critical applications,” he says.

Some other innovations in batteries, according to Avnish Arora, are nickel metal hydride, nickel-hydrogen, thermal batteries, super capacitor carbon, thin film lithium batteries and nickel zinc batteries.

Tests and trials are in process to increase power density of the battery by offering more power with lesser weight. “There is need to further increase the service life of the battery for which new alloys and additives are being tried. Water loss due to high temperature is the biggest problem in SMF battery technology which is also being taken care of,” explains Sood.

User friendly features

These batteries are immensely user friendly as they are maintenance free and do not require any checking for water and water topping up. Since these batteries are spill proof, they can be used in any position and provides flexibility in its usage. Low self discharge allows the batteries to be stored for three months without any charge.

“VRLA technology is very user friendly compared to conventional batteries. The hybrid alloy used by us can withstand deep discharge as well as float application, hence it has better service life. Lead calcium alloy for negative plate eliminates hydrogen gas evolution with oxygen recombination reaction. There is also no spillage issues as acid is in absorbed condition in microporous glass matrix separator. Its polypropylene co-polymer robust with neat finish, leak proof and low permeability makes it easily usable. It is approximately 30 per cent less weight than conventional batteries and takes about 40 per cent less space than conventional batteries. Also, these batteries do not require separate battery room with special flooring, ventilation or exhaust,” states MM Venkata Krishna, general manager, direct business, industrial batteries, Amara Raja.

Cites Avnish Arora, “Our batteries are user friendly as they require low maintenance, can be easily installed and commissioned, and environmental friendly.” Adds Vikas Aggarwal, CEO, Computech Systems, “the batteries we offer are easily available, totally trouble free and can be installed in any position.”

Cost of installation & maintenance

Cost of installing of these batteries is minimal as they simply need to be connected with the equipment with wires. “The user just needs to connect the already provided cable with the battery terminal,” says Sood. However, installation cost of these batteries varies from battery to battery. “In case of 12V batteries, it will be less as they are easy to install. But in case of 2V, it is quoted based on the scope of work and complexity of the installation,” explains Krishna, Amara Raja.

Sood points out that for bigger installation in banks or for big UPS for railways and telecom instruments, metal frames are required to hold the batteries, yet the cost is very less. Aditya Arora also stresses that installation of these batteries are very cost effective. However, Desai says, “Cost of battery could be as low as Rs 20 (small NiCd cell) but a battery bank for large UPS could run into lakhs of rupees.” Adds Gupta, “The cost depends on the capacity and number of batteries to be installed.”

Most of these batteries are maintenance free, therefore, there is hardly any maintenance cost, only periodic monitoring of the charging parameters is required. Bruno points out that for flooded batteries, the cost may be a nominal amount of Rs 50-100 per battery. Companies like Base also offer annual maintenance schemes which are also very cost effective.

Says Avnish Arora, “These low maintenance batteries can withstand field abuses without much impact on life or performance owing to their rugged construction and design. Hence, maintenance cost is bare minimum. The O&M teams of our customers are adequately trained by us to handle such activities on their own.”

Almost maintenance free

Unlike conventional batteries where we need to top up the electrolyte and grease the battery terminals to avoid corrosion, today’s batteries are almost maintenance free as long as proper charging parameters are ensured. Says Anil Joshi, general manager, projects, Artheon Electronics, “VRLA batteries don’t need any maintenance except basic dusting and proper storage conditions.”

Also, there is no need for equipment like hydrometer and gloves which were required to maintain conventional batteries. “We only need to provide a clean environment and ventilated area for long life of these battery. Users are just required to check for any loose connection, tightness of terminals and clean the batteries from time to time,” says Sood.

Desai, however, says periodic backup tests ensure good performance of the battery. “Monitoring of battery condition (OCV, physical condition, load voltage) is useful to plan the life of the battery and sense its failure. Special instruments are now being marketed to monitor the condition of the battery,” he adds.

Buyers’ requirements

Today buyers are educated and know what they want. They also do market research before taking a purchase decision. “Buyers require trouble free and economical product,” says Aggarwal. “They look for longer battery life as well as lower cost,” says Joshi. Agrees Sood, “Buyers require small size with more power density, reasonable price, good and efficient after sales service, wide variety of models so that he can select the suitable size, power rating and good quality.”

“Customers not only require longer service life, low maintenance and reliability, they also require wide operating temperature, prompt after sales service and replacement with a buy back option,” says, Avnish Arora. “While electric vehicles need sturdy battery with long cyclic life, solar segment needs batteries with long cyclic life,” puts Desai.

Customisation, need of the hour

Indian manufacturers are very good at customising products. Based on customer requirements they make necessary changes to the products or product development. Amara Raja does improvisation in design from time to time, which addresses customisation of majority. “As per customisation, we give battery monitoring system, which optimise battery life and backup.” informs Rajesh Jindal, general manager, channel business, industrial batteries, Amara Raja. HBL can customise batteries into a wide range of ampere hour capacity ratings from 12Ah to 1540Ah to suit customer requirements. These can be placed on multi-tier making it user friendly and easy to assemble at the site. “We offer custom made batteries for extremely high rate, high rate, medium rate and low rate discharge profiles, designated as X, H, M, L range of products,” states Avnish Arora.

Amptek can design new battery size and model depending on the requirement of the customer. Recently, Amptek has customised 4V batteries in different models with LED based torchlights which are very small in size.

Computech Systems boasts of its high class R&D which is capable of developing a product best suitable to Indian environment and application. All its products go under rigorous testing before dispatch. Okaya uses inter-cell weld of inner cell which provides a very low resistance current path and fast recharge capability. It also uses extra thick special alloy to give the battery long life and prevent from water loss.

“We first interact with the customer to understand their requirements in terms of electric power demand, charging time available, charging conditions, required life, cost constraints, etc. We support our customers in selection of the most suitable product for their requirement. In the area of battery packs, we develop customised solutions considering the electric requirement, charging time, space constraints and connector requirement. Once a pack is approved, we have to provide the same pack consistently,” explains Desai.

Bruno, however, feels that it is difficult to customise a battery as it is produced on a mass scale. “But the overall power backup or energy storage solution can be customised based on user requirements,” he adds.

After sales support

While customers look for good after sales services, manufacturers also bank on it as an added feature to sell their products. Amara Raja has pan India after sales support all through the year. Amptek has nationwide distributor network which also acts like collection centres for used battery. As an environment conscious company, Amptek collects used battery and recycles the same through government approved battery recyclers. “We also provide replacement batteries for any defective battery being received during warranty period. We can fully satisfy the customers with our service centres at each distributor premises and the state-of-the-art battery testing facility at New Delhi,” says Sood.

Base Corporation also provides full time customer support at their door step through its call centres. Artheon Electronics has a powerful team of technicians which is imparted with good training sessions to handle customer problems. Says Avnish Arora, “Our service policy is—we never forget our batteries after customers pay us,” he says. HBL has a national service network of 276 service centres across the length and breadth of the country which are capable of providing timely support to the customers. “In addition, we offer service on wheels option at key locations all over India,” he adds. Computech provides onsite warranty including standy facility.

Many manufacturers like Prime Products claim that their products do not require any after sales support. “Our after sales is generally related to warranty support and problem analysis in case of battery problems. We have dedicated team for this purpose,” says Desai. GreenVision Technologies has 47 service centres across the country with 98 technicians on the field. “All our products are supported by warranties ranging from 13 months to three years,” says Bruno. Okaya has service centers all over India. “We provide on-site services to the end users for big batteries,” concludes Gupta.

Technological changes in industries driving changes in battery technology

The fast pace of technological changes in different industries is driving the need for competitive changes in power backup devices, and batteries are increasingly coming under scrutiny. “The pace of technological changes is different for different industries. Battery technology is also changing to broadly meet the requirements of each industrial application. Over the years, battery technology has undergone sea change and various electrochemistry are available today to get adapted to different technological changes,” says Avnish Arora, vice president, sales, HBL Power Systems Ltd.

Demand for low power devices, reduction in carbon emission, less dependency on fossil fuel, limitation in space, etc, are all kept in mind while developing a battery technology, points out S Vijayanand, SBU head, industrial batteries, Amara Raja.

States Kapil Sood, managing director, Amptek, “New technology is shrinking size of any electronic equipment to give better look and ease for use. This requires small size of batteries. New technology offers small size of battery yet with more power.” Adds Joshi, “Each application needs different solutions, hence, giving a standard solution is not possible. We have dedicated team working continuously with the customers to provide the right energy solution for their changed technology.”

Biju Bruno, CMD, GreenVision Technologies, makes an interesting point. “Lead acid battery technology has remained more or less the same for many years but recently, there have been some developments. It was announced at the opening of UK’s first advanced bi-polar battery development research facility that a collaboration is on to produce the world’s first commercially viable bi-polar lead acid battery,” he says.

Bi-polar batteries are widely regarded as having the best potential to replace the traditional lead acid battery. Bi-polar offers distinct advantages like more power with higher specific energy—the watt-hours per mass or weight and higher energy density, which is watt-hours per volume. So batteries are becoming smaller, some 40 per cent less in volume or 60 per cent of the size of a regular lead acid battery. They weigh less too, about 30 per cent less than conventional batteries or 70 per cent the mass of regular lead acid batteries.

Battery excellence centre

Amara Raja has developed a battery excellence centre—the first of its kind in Asia. This research and engineering centre has been conceived as a completely self sufficient facility with a full range of testing equipment. The centre incorporates all the latest gadgetry for battery performance evaluation, design and life testing, and also has capabilities for application engineering, vehicle systems study, simulations and computer aided design including a full calibration laboratory onsite.

As a result, Amara Raja is uniquely placed to offer substantial benefits on sizing of batteries and electrical systems to its industrial and OEM customers and will be able to effect valuable improvements in product performance and manufacturing techniques. Furthermore, this centre will not only serve the needs of the domestic market but also be a resource for alliance research and development projects.

Products and their features:

Manufacture

Products

Features*

USP*

Price range

Amara Raja Batteries Ltd

Valve regulated lead acid

battery—Powerstack & Amaron Quanta

High integrity, long life battery designed to support critical standby applications, rugged construction, light & easy to carry, safe and explosion proof, factory charged and ready to use

Unique heavy duty corrosion resistant alloy for positive grid, radgrid profile provides lower internal residence and superior high discharge performance, low self discharge rates of these batteries allow user to store these batteries for longer periods, batteries conform international standards

 

Amptek

Ph: 26782717, 26782718,
Mob: 9810190011, Email: kapil@amptekindia.com

Rechargeable SMF Industrial battery, rechargeable SMF battery for E-bikes and motorcycles

Maintenance free, high power-to-weight ratio, non-memory effect, low self discharge, long service life, high discharge rate, wide operating temperature range

SMF batteries utilise latest advanced design oxygen recombination technology to effectively control the generation of gas during its use, resulting in longer life and enhanced performance. Special grid design is also used which withstands vibration, shock and assures maximum conductivity. Special separators provide virtually maintenance free operation and makes the battery spill proof

Rs 100-13,000

Artheon Electronics Ltd

Ph: +91-22-40963300

Fax: +91-22-24950415

Email: anil@artheonventures.com

smf@artheonelec.com

VRLA battery for solar energy, UPS, emergency light

– E-bike

– Weighing machine

– Telecom

– Wind energy

– etc

Leak resistance, can be used in any position, sealed and maintenance-free, high quality and high reliability, can withstand overcharge, over discharge, vibration and shock exceptional deep discharge recovery, low self discharge, longer service life

Sealed and maintenance free high quality virgin lead, hence can be used conveniently in remote areas in both horizontal as well as vertical position with reliable power

Rs 10.5 per AH + excise duty + VAT

(Solar and electrical vehicle has different pricing)

Base Corporation Ltd

Ph: 080 – 41635909 / 16, Email: support@basecorporation.com,

www.baseterminal.com

Solar battery, industrial tubular battery, VRLA battery

High quality, supported by very efficient after sales service network

Extreme quality at most competitive prices

 

Computech Systems

Ph: 011-25920254,55,56,

09811058913

info@computechsystems.in

ipower SMF VRLA batteries

Maintenance and fume free

No fumes, maintenance free

Rs 400-500 (7AH)

GreenVision Technologies

Mob: 91-9880155596
Ph: 91-80-42 459 459
Fax: 91-80-42 459 460

Email: info@relicellbattery.com

VRLA SMF batteries & tubular flooded batteries.

VRLA SMF: Life of 5-15 years, high specific energy, excellent cyclic performance and recovery from over discharging, high purity material ensuring low self discharge, valve regulated construction to ensure safe operation in any position, maintenance free.

Tubular: Positive plates from highly corrosion resistant lead alloy, strong and rugged translucent PP container with heat sealed cover and handles for easy lifting, deep cycle design with low maintenance

Life of 12 years at 25°, narrow container width, positive & negative terminals located in the front of the container for convenient installation & maintenance, plug in isolation protection plastic cover with hole on top for easy measurement, exhaust gas collection & ventilation system for safety operation, excellent cyclic performance. For SMF: 10 year design float life on ratings of 12V, 26AH to 245AH

12V SMF VRLA batteries ranges from Rs 650-
Rs 15,000.

HBL Power Systems Ltd

Ph: +91 124- 4783 333,

Fax: +91 124- 4783 300,

Email: delhi@hbl.in

Nickel cadmium pocket plate batteries, nickel cadmium fiber plate batteries, nickel cadmium sinter plate batteries, nickel cadmium sinter/ plastic bonded plate batteries

High reliability, good resistance to electrical and mechanical abuse,

long service life, high energy density, long storage life, minimal maintenance, quick charging, better charge retention, stable operation over a wide temperature range

Lower lifecycle cost, high energy density, hence less space requirement, ultra low maintenance, long service life

Solar Battery:
40 ah: Rs 4400
75ah: Rs 6750

Industrial battery:
40ah: Rs 4328
BTI 100ah: Rs 9264

VRLA battery:
BT 1.3AH-12V: Rs 283

BT 100AH-12V: Rs 9849

Okaya

Email: vrla@okayapower.com,

Fax: 0120-4640827

SMF VRLA maintenance free batteries  

Low permeability, low resistance current path and fast recharge capability

No need for topping up, fast

recharge capability, environment friendly and can be installed at any place and in any direction

The price range of SMF VRLA 12V batteries is from Rs 650-15,000

Prime Products

primep@vsnl.net

Sealed lead acid, NiCd, NiMH, lithium, and LiFePO4 batteries

Rechargeable batteries, store and release energy on demand

Good technical and warranty support, systems for inward material check and proper storage with recharging as required

Rs 20-20,000 per battery/cell

*Please note, the features and USPs are claimed by the company.

Note: Battery prices are dependent on lead price based on London Metal Exchange(LME),
hence the above prices may change based on LME

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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