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India to launch first ‘indigenous lithium cells plant’

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 16:51 -- John Shepherd
India to launch first ‘indigenous lithium cells plant’

India is to launch its first national lithium-ion cells production plant in a bid to reduce imports from regional battery makers and develop a domestic cell-manufacturing hub.

Bangalore-based Raasi Group is to set up the “first indigenous lithium-ion battery project” in Tamil Nadu under a technology transfer agreement with the Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI) and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).

The move follows a policy-shake-up pledge by New Delhi to “incentivise” and favour domestic battery manufacturing.

The agreement with Raasi, whose business interests include renewable energy projects, signals a major advance towards domestic commercial batteries production to power the growing electric vehicles and energy storage markets among others.

Raasi’s batteries will draw on know-how from a CECRI-CSIR prototype cells demonstration facility in Chennai.

Raasi chairman and managing director C Narasimhan said: “We want to bring the cost of cell manufacturing down below INR 15,000 ($222) per kilowatt hour to replace lead-acid batteries.” He said plans were already in hand to make a 25-year lifespan LIB for rooftop solar power storage “to make it affordable enough to drive the photovoltaic market”.

India’s Department of Science & Technology (DST) said the project had already “secured global intellectual property rights”— and established a potential “appropriate supply chain and manufacturing technology for mass production”.

DST minister Dr Harsh Vardhan (pictured) said the move was in line with the government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign— aimed at “turning India into a manufacturing hub and cutting down the outflow of foreign exchange”.

Vardhan said the project “is a validation of the capabilities of CSIR and its laboratories to meet technology in critical areas to support our industry”.

Indian manufacturers currently source lithium-ion battery cells from regional neighbours including China, Japan and South Korea and India “is among the largest importers” of cells, the DST said.

In a related moved, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre is offering to share its in-house developed lithium cell technology to propel home-grown production.

The Centre is inviting Indian start-ups and other “suitable industries” to apply to use the technology on a “non-exclusive basis”— for firms to produce cells “of varying size, capacity, energy density and power density catering to the entire spectrum of power storage requirements”.

Earlier this year, Indian state-owned power plant engineering firm Bharat Heavy Electricals signed a technology transfer deal to produce ISRO’s “space grade” cells rather than rely on imported cells.

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