India is on the track to Building up a Robust Super capacitor Manufacturing Base

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The Indian super capacitor market has huge potential, but due to lack of general awareness about this capacitor and its benefits, this opportunity is yet to be tapped. Vilas Rabde, ex-advisor to the India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA), shares his insights on the present and future market potential for indigenous manufacturing of super capacitors

India has developed supercapacitors for the defence and space sectors using indigenous materials. This serves as an import substitute and will assist in overcoming energy deficiencies in critical equipment. C-MET (Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology), under the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), has developed supercapacitors under a pilot project at its Thrissur laboratory in Kerala. These capacitors have been sent for trials to state-run defence and space agencies in India as a power source for diverse applications.

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Vilas Rabde, ex-advisor to the India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA)

Market potential
The global supercapacitor market is estimated to register a CAGR of around 35.4 per cent for the period 2015-2020 and is projected to reach around US$ 4.2 billion by 2020. Consumer electronics and automotive will be the highest revenue generating segments during this period. The USA was the leader for supercapacitors in 2014, earning 43 per cent of the overall market revenue, followed by Europe with 26 per cent. Presently, India has under a 3 per cent share in the global supercapacitor market. This is due to lack of local manufacturers, plus lack of application support on the technological front, apart from the cost factor. India is poised to make inroads into the US market share with its entry into the supercapacitor manufacturing domain.
The supercapacitor (also known as the ultra capacitor) market in India has witnessed a steady increase in demand. The value of India’s supercapacitor shipments reached US$ 10.70 million in FY 2013, with a steady 20 per cent growth in shipments, with major demand for the 1.0 Farad to 50 Farad range of supercapacitors The demand for 1.0 Farad supercapacitors has been over 76 per cent followed by the demand for 25 Farad and 50 Farad variants. The high demand for 1.0 Farad capacitors has come from automation related control applications like computer boards, PLCs, etc.

Market drivers
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. Amid growing concerns on environmental issues, global warming, air pollution, green energy as well as the government’s Initiatives to make India a manufacturing hub, the Indian market is poised for an ‘explosive’ demand for supercapacitors in various sectors due to their diverse applications.

Automobile sector
India has the world’s largest market for two-wheelers, the second largest for tractors and is ranked tenth for passenger cars. Owing to global green energy awareness, there is a major push for electric vehicles worldwide. India also shares this dream, and has launched the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP); supercapacitors are included in that draft plan. NEMMP-2020 envisages the penetration of 5 to 7 million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2020.

Indian Railways
The Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest rail networks, with the metro trains also rapidly increasing in urban centres. With a major thrust on safety, efficiency, energy conservation, power quality and freight wagon tracking, supercapacitors are poised to play a key role in the Indian Railways. Power recuperation and dynamic brake energy storage could be major applications, and it is estimated that demand would reach around 10 million units of various supercapacitor modules in the next three years.

Renewable energy
Wind energy sector: It is estimated that the wind power potential of India is to the tune of 1GW to 5GW. In wind turbines supercapacitor based electrical pitch control can provide the best solution. Globally, more than 14,000 installed turbines are already using supercapacitors. It is anticipated that by 2020, supercapacitor penetration will increase by 30 per cent, for which an estimated 0.17 million units of supercapacitors will be required.
Solar energy sector: With the launch of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) in 2010, India is poised for the solar energy sector to take off. In general, solar panels are used in both modes, online as well as offline, for which supercapacitors are strong options. With a conservative forecast of 40 per cent penetration of supercapacitors by 2020, demand in this sector is estimated to touch around 416,000 units. Various government-supported programmes like SHS, MNRE’s solar lanterns, etc, are estimated to create additional demand for supercapacitors, amounting to another 10 million units.

Consumer electronics
The consumer electronics market in India is growing at an incredible pace. There are a lot of opportunities in this sector for supercapacitors, ranging from memory backup, power backup, LED flash lights, to critical applications. With an optimistic prediction of 20 per cent penetration by 2020, estimated demand in this sector will add up to over 37 million units of supercapacitors of various capacities.

Defence sector
India is the world’s largest importer of defence equipment. Looking at previous data, the trend indicates that 40 per cent of the country’s defence budget is spent on weapon systems and security equipment, and in these purchases, nearly 40 per cent is for electronics/electrical related devices. Assuming a conservative 0.5 per cent requirement for supercapacitor energy storage in some of these systems and equipment, the estimated opportunity in this sector is more than ₹ 2 billion.

Power sector
The world’s population is expected to grow by two billion people by 2050 and global energy demand is expected to roughly double during the same period.  Concurrently, the power sector is on the brink of a major transformation, like the adoption and grid integration of solar and wind energy. Unlike in the past, the grid has to accommodate producers and consumers with disparate usage patterns. The stability of the power grid depends on various actors working in concert to maintain a balance between electricity supply and demand. Traditionally, electricity assets are categorised based on their function, i.e., generation, transmission or distribution.
The smart grid concept has made inroads owing to the above referred-to situation. There is demand for smart supercapacitor based storage systems, which have the ability to balance supply and demand across the segments that comprise the value chain. The new control points offered by supercapacitor based storage systems enable operators to selectively and instantly respond to fluctuations in grid inputs and outputs.
Such functionality is an essential requirement of the ‘Smart cities’ concept, wherein producers and consumers are equally informed and equipped to respond to market dynamics in real-time. The Indian government has released its first list of smart cities. In the coming years, supercapacitors will be in high demand in this sector for smart grid applications, smart utility energy meter applications, etc.

Medical applications
Supercapacitors have penetrated rather silently into the field of medical applications. They are used in non-life-support applications as well as in critical medical equipment. Supercapacitors are widely used in pumps or solenoid activation for drug delivery, and also used for heating wire to vapourise a drug for inhalation.

Manufacturing obstacles
The Indian supercapacitor market has huge potential, but due to lack of general awareness about this capacitor and its benefits, this opportunity is yet to be tapped. Potential manufacturers need support to make supercapacitors, right from ensuring the successful adoption of technology. A wider indigenous manufacturing base for supercapacitors would have helped to improve the scenario for new entrants.
A major hurdle on the manufacturing front is that supercapacitor technology is in evolution mode, with a lot of improvements lined up. Till the technology matures, it can be considered a technocrat’s wonder child, which will require special nourishment and attention. The second biggest hurdle is the unavailability of indigenous raw materials, with almost everything being imported including aluminium foil, separators, carbon and electrolytes. A lot of attention also has to be paid to standardisation of machinery and equipment.

Benefits of indigenous manufacturing
Savings for the national exchequer
A recent report on ‘Supercapacitor Market Landscape Study’ prepared by ELCINA on behalf of the Department of Electronics & Information Technology (DeitY), government of India, states, “SPEL in Pune is the only private entity that has come out with in-house development of supercapacitors in India, and has successfully conducted and demonstrated various applications for it. SPEL Pune is apparently the first manufacturer of supercapacitors in India, and it is in the process of making it commercially available for the Indian market.”
The manufacture of supercapacitors in India directly falls under the ‘import substitute category’. Creating our very own indigenous supercapacitor manufacturing facilities would directly result in savings on import bills, and looking at the widespread global adoption of supercapacitors, we have good opportunities for export also. Venturing into indigenous manufacturing of supercapacitors will certainly improve India’s balance of payments and also help in adding foreign exchange reserves.
Indigenous manufacturing of supercapacitors would also create jobs for skilled manpower. This will augment the purchasing power of the common Indian, mitigate poverty and expand the consumer base for companies. Besides, it will help in reducing brain drain.

Impact on the Indian economy
It is a well known fact that the world economy rides on the automobile sector, and the Indian scenario is no different. Worldwide, the automobile sector is being geared for changing over to electricity based mobility. Supercapacitors are vital to the successful implementation of electric mobility.
India has ambitious plans to make India a manufacturing hub, increasing the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the country’s GDP. It is estimated that 300 million people will join India’s workforce between 2010 and 2040, so each year, 10 million jobs are needed. The thrust on the manufacturing sector is to create about 100 million jobs by 2022. Indigenous manufacturing of supercapacitors will indirectly help in this cause.
Supercapacitors are known for being environment-friendly and efficient; for their performance, reliability, fast-charging capabilities, virtually infinite charge discharge life cycles, being maintenance-free; and for having a wide temperature range. All these properties pay in the long run, on the environment and economic fronts, besides leading to power savings, improving power quality, and also contributing towards the national fuel security policies.

Importance of supercapacitors
Farad supercapacitors are steadily making way for hybrid power storage applications such as complementing batteries, especially in two-wheeler applications. Various market reports estimate global demand for supercapacitors to grow tremendously, primarily driven by different consumer electronics and automotive applications—in order to provide backup power. Supercapacitors provide the necessary power backup required for smooth functioning of various applications such as video calling, cameras, wireless communications and GPS navigation.
Other industrial handheld devices, such as GSM/GPRS and RFID (radio-frequency identification) communication tools, LED flashlights, thermal printers, barcode scanners and GPS (global positioning system) chips, among others, can also be operated more conveniently with the help of supercapacitors to provide the required power boost. Using supercapacitors in line with batteries in these electronic devices increases the life cycle of conventional batteries by reducing the load of voltage drops. Thus, battery runtime and operational life is improved extensively by using supercapacitors.
The current practice, across the globe, of upgrading to power generation from renewable resources in order to reduce rapid depletion of natural resources is also expected to drive the market for supercapacitors in the coming years.
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