Chakraborty hinted that the company may look at forming a joint venture for the same, while saying that finer details will be worked out later
As the need for EV infrastructure in the country become more and more clear, battery company Exide Industries has now disclosed its desire to venture into manufacturing lithium-ion batteries.
Exide, which is the country’s largest lead-acid battery maker, said during the company’s AGM that it is still awaiting the guidelines of the Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for ACC batteries to be notified.
“We are evaluating installing Advance Cell Chemistry Project. We are waiting for the PLI details as it will act as a sweetener…. It entails huge capex. However, the project viability will depend on future demand for lithium-based batteries,” Exide MD & CEO Subir Chakraborty said on the sidelines of the company’s AGM.
The PLI scheme, which was recently approved by the Centre with an outlay of Rs 18,100 crore, is intended to establish 50 GWh of advanced cell chemistry and 5 GWh of niche advanced cell chemistry.
Chakraborty hinted that the company may look at forming a joint venture for the same, while saying that finer details will be worked out later.
“As a thumb rule for each gigawatt-hour capacity cell, the plant will cost about Rs 700 crore and one gigawatt plant is very small and will be uneconomical,” he said when asked about the plant capacity if the company decides to foray into the backward integration for lithium ion batteries.
The company has set up Exide Leclanche Energy, a JV with Swiss firm Lechlance, to manufacture lithium-ion batteries in India. However, the existing facility does not manufacture lithium-ion cells and it is more of an assembly unit. The company has so far invested Rs 232 crore in the Gujarat project.
The plant will be fully operative by end of the fiscal. However, it will make only modules and the final battery pack but not the cell.
Chakraborty said the company seeks to make a balance between existing lead acid batteries and products of the future.
“By end of this fiscal, we shall take a call on the lithium-ion cell unit,” Chakraborty said. He has also not ruled out the possibility of forming a JV with a foreign partner, which has technical know-how. He also indicated that huge investment is required for such projects.
“The ballpark figure for such a project is $100 million per gigawatt hour. We can say 1 GwH is not a viable project so one can understand the investment,” he added.
Exide is targeting to build battery energy storage system for renewable power plants and it is carrying out two trials – one at CESC with lead acid battery and the other at Tata Power with lithium battery technology.
“Battery energy storage will be big market with renewable energy boom,” Chakraborty said.
The city-based battery maker is also focusing on exports in a big way to de-risk business of lead-acid battery.
“Exports is now seven per cent and we aim for strong growth in this segment,” Chakraborty said.