India’s first lithium-ion battery manufacturer urges the government to ease visa restrictions for Chinese engineers as it battles to ramp up production. Log9 Materials, which depends on Chinese experts to set up machinery and upgrade existing ones at its factory in Bengaluru, warned that production could take a hit without the fast-tracked visa process. It needs Chinese engineers to ensure the battery cell factory reaches its total production capacity, the founders told a news conference.
“If the Chinese engineers don’t arrive on time, then our cell line production will get impacted,” said co-founder and director Pankaj Sharma. He added that government officials had told the company at a closed-door meeting with the Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI) and the National Institution for Transforming Initiatives (NITI Aayog) that delays in the visa process could have a significant impact on production in India, which has the potential to be a major supplier of EV cells.
The battery cells used to make EV batteries for cars and two-wheelers are all imported. But if companies such as Log9 can start producing their cells, it could cut costs and help India become more self-reliant in achieving its electric mobility goals.
The startup’s new production line is South Asia’s most significant and will be able to produce 50 MWh of cells per annum, enough to power about 25,000 electric two-wheelers. The cells, which the company calls ‘Charvik,’ are designed to maximize efficiency and longevity. They can also charge at high rates and will be stable in extreme temperatures, unlike current lithium-ion cells that are prone to degradation over time when exposed to higher temperatures.
The company has built a recyclability plant to reduce waste and partnered with a battery recycling firm to recycle used cell-based batteries. It hopes to reach its target of having a million recyclable batteries by 2026.
The EV industry’s reliance on China is a concern for the Indian government, which has launched an Rs 18,000 crore production-linked incentive scheme to encourage domestic manufacturing of batteries. However, it is a slow process as EV manufacturers require large amounts of capital to build factories and develop technology. In the meantime, local EV players like Ola Electric and Reliance Industries are importing batteries from China, which is supplying three-quarters of global EV battery capacity. However, companies such as Log9 have been pushing for indigenous EV cell manufacturing to reduce dependence on the world’s largest supplier. The startup has raised $40 million from backers such as Amara Raja Batteries and Malaysia’s Petronas Ventures. Its investors project India’s EV and battery storage market to grow by 36 percent by 2026. The company is expected to start its next funding round this year or early next. It plans to raise $50 million by that time. The money will go towards the expansion of its Bengaluru facility.