During an insightful conversation with Nitisha from EFY, Kunwer Sachdev, Founder of Su-vastika Systems, shares his thoughts on lithium batteries, challenges for the industry, and the growth prospects in the upcoming year for the lithium battery sector. He believes that India can achieve excellence in lithium battery production with competitive pricing and self-reliance. However, this transformation may take five to seven years due to China’s lead in the industry.
Q. Can you talk about lithium batteries and your expertise in this sector?
A. So far, I wouldn’t claim that we have reached the level of expertise, but we have embarked on a journey of incorporating these batteries into solar systems. We are learning and adapting because China has pioneered these batteries and developed sophisticated Battery Management Systems (BMS) tailored to their markets. For Indian conditions, we have taken a different approach by designing our BMS for solar systems, which distinguishes it from the Chinese counterparts. Our BMS incorporates custom cabinets, MCBs, and fans to ensure efficient cooling of the batteries.
Q. How do lithium batteries differ from lead-acid batteries?
A. Lithium batteries present a sleek and maintenance-free alternative. They are not only visually appealing but also incredibly compact, being only one-eighth the size of lead-acid batteries. Replacing a lead-acid battery can be a cumbersome task, especially when dealing with upper floors. In contrast, lithium batteries offer significant advantages in terms of size, weight, and technology. They also boast a five-fold increase in lifespan compared to lead-acid batteries. Once installed in an area with reliable electricity infrastructure, a lithium battery may not require replacement throughout its entire lifecycle.
Q. Are lithium-ion batteries encountering challenges in the Indian market? If so, what challenges are we facing?
A. Presently, the major challenge lies in the presence of players who lack essential battery knowledge and experience. Many simply import cells, BMS, and machinery from China and attempt to assemble solutions without a deep understanding of Indian requirements. This approach is not a sustainable solution. Indian conditions differ significantly from China, and adapting products accordingly is essential. The market is currently flooded with batteries that do not meet even the basic standards set by lead-acid batteries. Many are driven by cost reduction and quick profits. To thrive in this field, extensive validation, research and development, and product improvement are crucial for adapting to Indian conditions.
Q. Despite these challenges, how can India become self-reliant in the lithium-ion industry? Please share your thoughts.
A. To achieve self-reliance, the Indian government has introduced standard operating procedures (SOPs) to promote lithium battery production in India. It is also likely that cell manufacturing will take root in India within the next two to three years. Numerous government and private institutions are working towards enhancing Lithium availability, as new technologies emerge. The next five years are pivotal for India; we need to develop innovative cells with competitive pricing and strive for self-reliance. However, this transition may take five to seven years given China’s head start in the industry.
Q. What is your perspective on the Government of India’s policies in this regard?
A. The government has taken significant steps by formulating policies and offering subsidies to encourage local cell manufacturing. Several companies are in the process of setting up cell manufacturing facilities in India. The government has laid the groundwork, and now it’s up to entrepreneurs and the entire ecosystem to collaborate and turn these initiatives into reality.
Q. According to research, the global Lithium-Ion battery market is estimated to grow to US $180 billion from the current $50 billion. What are your thoughts on this?
A. I can guarantee that within five years, lead-acid batteries will phase out of the Indian market. The next battery most consumers will opt for is the lithium battery due to its competitive pricing. Once you experience the advantages of lithium batteries, you won’t consider using lead-acid batteries again.
Q. What’s your plan for Su-vastika Systems?
A. Our primary focus is on energy storage, especially batteries. Whether it’s for electric scooters, e-rickshaws, inverters, or UPS systems, the battery plays a crucial role. We are planning to venture into electric batteries soon.
Q. Do you have any specific timelines for these plans?
A. The timeline may span some time, but we are committed to making it happen.
Q. Could you tell us more about Su-vastika’s unique offerings and how your company differentiates itself from other solar companies? Who are your current target customers?
A. Su-vastika specialises in battery energy storage systems and lithium batteries. We offer a complete range of products with IoT capabilities, with a major focus on higher capacity solutions, ranging from 20 KW to 100 KW. Initially, we started with an export-oriented approach, but we are now aggressively targeting the domestic market. The Delhi-NCR region has already banned generators, which has created a demand for generator replacements in offices and homes. We are also targeting multi-storey buildings with installed lifts for emergency rescue devices.
Q. Have you engaged in any collaborations with colleges or institutions?
A. Unfortunately, our experience with colleges has been unsatisfactory. They generally show little interest in industry collaboration. Their primary focus is on passing exams and achieving high marks, with limited enthusiasm for industry involvement. This trend is particularly evident in engineering colleges. As a result, we often need to provide extensive training to new hires, as they lack practical experience and exposure to industry equipment. The education system in India tends to prioritise theoretical knowledge over practical skills.
Q. Are there any initiatives at Su-vastika to promote sustainability or go green?
A. We are actively working to reduce our reliance on generators in our factory. To achieve this, we have incorporated solar energy and battery storage systems. Additionally, we ensure that the power factor in our machinery is optimised, reducing energy consumption for inappropriate applications. Our aim is to conserve energy and power our operations using solar and lithium batteries, contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.