Exide Industries, India’s largest lead acid battery manufacturer, says it will begin assembling lithium-ion batteries in India from next year, with the possibility of manufacturing them as demand grows.
Chaowei Power Holdings, or Chilwee, a China-based lead acid battery manufacturer, confirmed to BESB that it would be working with Exide to develop an assembly plant with a view to future manufacture, but did not give any further details.
An unnamed German battery manufacturer and the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai are also said to be involved, reported BloombergQuint, the Indian media company. Exide did not answer queries from either BESB or BloombergQuint about the lithium move.
India has announced it intends to produce and sell only electric vehicles by 2030 in its push to reduce the country’s dependence on oil.
Exide had already hinted about such a move this July, when chief executive Gautam Chatterjee said he saw great potential for lead batteries in the booming e-rickshaw market but that the firm would start production of lithium ion batteries when the sales of electric two-wheelers picked up.
And in June the head of the India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) Rahul Walawalkar said he expected to India add more than 1GWh of lithium-ion battery assembly capacity this year, with a host of companies getting in on the act, according to press reports.
Adding the chemistry to its portfolio does not mean that Exide is giving up on lead acid, with demand for lead batteries remaining high in the rickshaw sector.
However, rising lead prices have forced the company to increase the price of its batteries by 7.5%.
To answer the need for more lead, the company announced in January that it would set up a third lead smelter in Haldia, West Bengal. Its 100%-owned subsidiary Chloride Metals will run the smelter, which will be built on land offered by the state government to Exide.
“The finer details of investments have still not been made public or finalized and once the land is obtained and made useable for industrial activity we should be able to give figures for capacity and capital expenditure,” chief public relations officer Sudipto Roy told BESB on October 30.
“We use 50% recycled lead in our batteries. It is not only a cost issue but part of our environmental commitment too. We have our own smelting units in southern and western India. In the other regions we collect old batteries from our customers and send them to authorized local smelting units and buy back the lead from them.
“It is a government rule that all battery makers buy back their old batteries from the customers and send them for smelting.”
Speaking to BESB, Ajoy Raychaudhuri, director of the New Delhi-based Battery and Recycling Foundation International, said all lead battery makers were thinking about making the switch to lithium but had not done so yet.
“Nothing so far has happened, there’s not a single lithium battery that’s been produced yet,” he said. “But since the Indian government has taken the decision to do away with the ICE, it’s foremost in people’s minds and by 2030 40% of all cars will be EVs.
“Lead acid battery makers will be okay for the next five years — but they will have to do something then.”