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"Manufacturing cells in India, for India, shall go a long way"

By Anvita Pillai, @Anvitap21,

Added 25 July 2022

In tête-à-tête with Akshay Singhal, Founder & CEO, Log9 Materials, wherein he discusses how Log9 is redefining the mobility sector, why cell manufacturing is vital for India, EVs helping India become net-zero, and more. Excerpts…

There are several start-ups in the mobility and energy sector. How is Log9 Materials redefining the mobility sector?

The focus at Log9 is to design cell and battery technologies specifically for Indian conditions and requirements while considering the constraints we have in India in terms of materials and supply chain gaps. So, considering India-centric parameters, like extreme temperature variations, types of vehicle platforms, their usage pattern, material availability in the country, etc., we are working on cells and batteries that provide us with an edge not just in terms of technological relevance but resilience  in the market. By offering B2B last-mile logistics and delivery players our batteries, which can be charged 9x faster, last 9x longer and offer 9x higher performance and safety, we are redefining the EV industry's standards in the fight against  climate change. 
Most battery manufacturers aren't working on the same lines; instead, their push is just on achieving a more extended range. And that's why we nowadays see mishaps, like electric vehicles catching fire, because these batteries were never designed to operate in high-temperature conditions. 

Let me hold you to that. In the past month, EVs catching fire and lack of R&D have been widely discussed. So, which are the key areas where are our manufacturers falling short?

Manufacturing cells in-house is the top and foremost thing that nobody in India is doing. When you don't have your cell, you depend on another country to procure it. And when you're procuring, are you making the right choices? And what parameters are you guided by? Many Indian companies have included NMC-based cell chemistry as the chemistry of choice for their products, which is extremely sensitive to temperature. 
On the other hand, LFP and LTO, based on Log9 batteries' cell chemistry, have been globally known to be more resilient. When developing our cells, we are, of course, taking care to make them safe and suited as per Indian requirements. Finally, when we put these cells together, the kind of cooling systems, thermal management and electronics systems that go into it collectively ensures that the battery pack is safe and provides advanced features like rapid charging, long life, etc.
In my opinion, battery manufacturers no longer have a choice now; cell manufacturing along with battery manufacturing has become a necessity. The need of the hour is to provide safe and resilient technologies in the market, and to this end, manufacturing cells in India, for India, shall go a long way.

Net-Zero is India's ultimate goal and EVs are a part of the means to the end, however, does not check a lot of boxes for sustainability. When it is clear sustainability is the core agenda, why aren't the EVs produced in India sustainable from the get-go? How can the outlook now be improved?

Not really, but I agree that certain choices are being made wrong. Just like the upfront cost of EVs is higher, the upfront carbon footprint is also higher, but the footprint reduces through its lifecycle with the vehicle's running. This is because EVs must have very high utilisation to create a positive climate impact. That's why, at Log9, all our offerings and solutions are for the commercial utilisation of electric vehicles. 
When we're at scale running commercial electric vehicles, whether it's with food delivery, e-commerce delivery, etc., we can have a positive impact from day one. So, the ultimate solution here is two-fold. One, to start with pushing more and more electrification of commercial vehicles. And secondly, to improve the contribution of renewable energy on the grid, because as we have more and more renewable energy, let's say, for example, if our Prime Minister's dream of 500 GW of renewable energy generation is successful, then that 100,000 km. threshold (also known as the ‘green threshold' for EVs) comes down to 35,000 kilometres, essentially making any EV greener from day one.

With other far more sustainable vehicle models coming up, such as green hydrogen, which offers better mileage/range and lesser anxiety, do you think EV as a model is here to stay?

EVs are not a temporary solution, in my opinion. Because if you look at hydrogen, when you use it, hydrogen fuel cell technology is only 30 per cent energy efficient. Whereas, if you're charging a battery with solar power, if you have 100 units, it will be 90-95 per cent energy efficient. 
The bottom line is, as far as mobility is concerned, fuel cell technologies, whether it is with hydrogen or aluminium-based technology, will only be relevant in mobility for long-haul mobility applications. Because in the short-term, it does not make economic or business sense to go with a 30 per cent efficient technology.

What are Log9's long and short-term plans?

The long-term plan is to pioneer cell technology in India and look at the development and conditions in the domestic market. We eventually plan to scale up these technologies from the cell to battery pack level. One of the crucial challenges we've taken up is to ensure that global supply chains can be set up correctly. We plan to work with different parties and players to ensure they start producing materials locally.
By September this year, we will commission and scale up our cell line. On the Log9 battery packs' front, we have already gone from 5,000-50,000 units production per year capacity, which we will be further ramping up to 300,000 units capacity by March of next year. We are happy to announce that Log9 experienced over 10x scale up in the last year and a half. 

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