As the Indian government goes bullish on electric vehicles (EVs), automobile original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are in a huddle to develop long-lasting, durable battery technology to get hegemony over the EV battery market.
In the automotive paradigm, lithium-ion battery technology stands at the centre of innovation and there has been a significant amount of progress in the improvement of lithium-ion battery technology.
According to Niti Aayog's recent report titled "Zero Emission Vehicles: Towards a policy Framework," it needs a minimum of 10 GWh of cells by 2022, which would need to be expanded to about 50 GWh (Gigawatt hours) by 2025.
Lithium-ion battery manufacturing consists of three parts. First is cell to battery-pack manufacturing involving a value-add of 30 to 40 percent.
The second is cell manufacturing with value addition of 25 to 30 percent. The third involves battery-chemicals with a value of 35 to 40 percent of the total cost of the battery pack.
"While cell to pack manufacturing plants has started functioning, the others need to be encouraged in India," says the Niti Aayog report.
According to Liz Lee, a senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, battery cell manufacturers are spending heavily on R&D for improving the energy density of lithium-ion batteries.
"Although the speed of improvements has been slow, gradually, lithium-ion batteries have helped increase the driving range of EVs by utilizing high-energy source materials and improving the per-unit cell size," said Lee.
Most of the top battery players have announced their plans for commercialization/mass production of NCM811 by 2020.
NCM811, which contains 80 percent nickel, 10 percent cobalt and 10 percent manganese, has a much longer lifespan and allows EVs to go further on a single charge.
"Battery companies have been introducing a roadmap for solid-state battery technology as the next-generation technology and exhibited various innovative products as well," Lee added.
Thanks to their high performance at elevated temperatures and high capacity, solid electrolytes are a technology that could further boost energy density.
Interestingly, automobile OEMs appear to be taking a more proactive approach towards the R&D of the solid-state batteries.
So far, Toyota ranks first in the number of patent applications for solid-state batteries. Last year, Volkswagen announced it would invest $100 million in solid-state battery maker QuantumScape to mass-produce the product by 2025.
The falling prices of battery cells and packs are also fueling the penetration of EVs.
In order to make EVs a successful industry in India, it is imperative that the country gets the cell-cost and parameters like energy-density (size and weight), life-cycles, safety, temperature tolerance right, so that its batteries are best in the world.
At the same time, India would need the policy to secure materials used in Lithium-ion batteries -- including lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and graphite.
"Perhaps the most important task would be setting up of Lithium-ion battery recycling industry (what is referred to as urban mining)," the report suggests.
As batteries dominate the costs of electric vehicles, the strategy would be to use battery chemistry with optimized cost and performance at Indian temperatures.
The country should encourage the manufacturing of such battery cells in India as the country is already making battery packs (cell to pack).
According to Vinay Piparsania, global consulting director-automotive at Counterpoint Technology Market Research, while urgent steps are being taken, India will continue to remain challenged on the availability of critical raw materials and technology.
India - much like most other countries in the world - currently imports its lithium, nickel, cobalt and battery-grade graphite requirements, all vital and basic elements for rechargeable battery manufacturing.
"India should consider favorable trade agreements and MoUs with relevant countries for protecting supplies and prices of these raw materials, especially given the growing international demand and therefore competition for these resources," Piparsania wrote in a blog post.