With the huge demand for mini-grid and off-grid solar projects in rural India, rechargeable batteries are also being used a lot more
By Belal Khan
According to industry players, the rechargeable batteries market in India is growing and the future prospects of this industry seem to be very bright with the advent of solar power in the country.
India is one of the biggest buyers of rechargeable batteries as consumption of electronic products has increased tremendously in the last couple of years.
With the huge demand for mini-grid and off-grid solar projects in rural India, rechargeable batteries are also being used a lot more.
“The future of rechargeable batteries in India is very bright. All off-grid solar installations need rechargeable batteries. It is an essential component in all kinds of electric vehicles like e-rickshaws, electric cars, etc,” says Praveen Kumar Jain, marketing head–global business, Su-Kam Power Systems Ltd.
Yogesh Dua, the MD of upsinverter.com, a manufacturer and supplier of online UPS systems, says that Indians are fascinated by electronic gadgets like UPS systems, inverters and solar products, and each of these devices requires rechargeable batteries. Since these devices provide consumers their alternative source of electricity, demand for them will keep on increasing.
For instance, in recent months, Su-Kam Power Systems Ltd has installed solar power systems at more than 100,000 sites. In all these projects, rechargeable batteries have been used to store solar energy during the day.
Leading players like Su-Kam have undertaken the Assam Rifles solar power project for which it commissioned and maintain an off-grid solar power plant at various locations across north east India. These solar-powered plants supply electricity to the base station during the daytime and also provide four to five hours of backup in the night, through rechargeable batteries.
Under the Uttar Pradesh government’s Lohiya Avas Yojna, initiative the company has installed independent DC solar systems in 40,000 rural households across 19 districts and 1,800 villages across the state. The system is attached to a rechargeable battery that stores solar energy during the day, and gives a backup of eight to twelve hours a day.
A few challenges
Though the rechargeable battery market is enjoying a rise in demand at present, a few challenges remain. These are:
1. Most customers are unaware of how to choose the right battery for a particular application. By selecting the wrong type of battery for their product, the performance, safety and life of their battery suffers.
2. Maintenance is a core issue when it comes to handling batteries. Typical users do not know that batteries require proper maintenance if you want them to last longer and not cause health problems.
3. For the optimum life and performance of batteries, the quality of the battery charger is of utmost importance. Many people overlook this important aspect. If the charger is not good, it will have an adverse effect on not only the life and performance of your battery but also the environment.
4. Leading players use sophisticated state-of-art technologies with the six-stage battery charger and ATC (automatic temperature compensation) feature to charge their batteries. Others in the market compromise on the life of the battery as they are unaware about such matters.
5. Users also make a mistake while choosing the size of the battery and the charger. This again compromises the life and performance of the battery.
6. There is still a large unorganised battery market comprising approximately 40-50 per cent of the overall segment. Shoddy products pose a grave danger to the environment and the performance of the battery.
7. There is tough competition from Chinese as well as local manufacturers.
8. Manufacturers need to come to terms with lower margins.
9. Customers have come to expect onsite warranties or replacements, even when they charge the battery with high current.
There are immense opportunities in this segment. A few important ones that are growing rapidly are solar off-grid systems, mini-grids, micro-grids, solar home lighting, streetlights, and e-rickshaws.
“As the government is promoting the use of electric vehicles (EV) to prevent pollution, the EV segment will offer the best opportunities for rechargeable batteries. Nowadays, only e-rickshaws and e-bikes are popular in the market but in the next few years, other electric vehicles like e-cars and e-buses will also be in the market,” says Dua.
Companies like Su-Kam have already done a lot of work in these areas like, for instance, the mini-grid project in Kannauj, UP, which electrified two villages that never had electricity. The mini-grid powers 60 LED streetlights and provides energy to 450 homes and their 2,000 residents, as well as to commercial establishments, two schools, a training centre and a healthcare facility. Besides, the solar power system is also powering 15 submersible water pumps.
“In the case of streetlights, for which rechargeable batteries are a must, since solar energy has to be stored to be utilised after sundown, Su-Kam has done a number of successful installations. Important among them is the centralised solar street lighting project in Tamil Nadu, which is also India’s first such project, which powers 12,000 streetlights in villages across the state,” says Praveen Kumar Jain.
Manufacturers of inverters, UPS systems, solar power systems, automobiles, e-rickshaws, hybrid cars and utility vehicles are the major buyers of rechargeable batteries in the country. The EV segment, power electronic components, IT companies, BPOs, telecom companies and the banking sector are also major consumers of rechargeable batteries.
The lithium-ion battery is the emerging technology in this segment. This battery has many advantages as well as disadvantages. Let us look at the advantages first:
1. Lithium-ion batteries require very less charging time, unlike conventional batteries that take up to 10 hours for complete charging.
2. Lithium-ion batteries have a lower self-discharge rate than normal batteries, hence give longer back up and save energy.
3. These batteries require almost no maintenance.
The disadvantages are:
1. These batteries are more expensive than conventional batteries.
2. Normal batteries can be recycled. However, since the cost of recycling is high in the case of lithium-ion batteries, these are not recycled. This presents potential environmental and health hazards.
According to Anil Jain, Su-Kam has started using lithium-ion batteries successfully in solar products, including all its street lighting projects and solar home lighting products.
- Amara Raja Batteries
- Exide Batteries
- HBL Power Systems
- Luminous Power Technologies
- Su-Kam Power Systems
Other prominent vendors
- Artheon Electronics
- Base Batteries
- Evolute Solutions
- Okaya Power
- Southern Batteries
- True Power International
Key market drivers
- Increased demand for UPS systems and solar power
The future of rechargeable batteries in India is very bright. All off-grid solar installations need rechargeable batteries. It is an essential component in all kinds of electric vehicles.
Praveen Kumar Jain, marketing head–global business, Su-Kam Power Systems Ltd.
Indians are fascinated by electronic gadgets like UPS systems, inverters and solar products, and each of these devices requires rechargeable batteries.
Yogesh Dua, managing director, upsINVERTER.com