Exide may foray into lithium-ion cell manufacturing

The country’s largest lead-acid battery maker, Exide Industries Ltd, on Tuesday said it is evaluating foray into manufacturing Advance Cell Chemistry batteries, commonly referred to as lithium-ion batteries.

Li-ion batteries are the most popular for application in electric vehicles. (Bloomberg)
Li-ion batteries are the most popular for application in electric vehicles.

Also Read: LG Chem under scanner due to faulty battery cells in GM, Hyundai EVs

To take a final call, the company is waiting for the Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) details to come.

The Centre recently approved a PLI scheme on such batteries. The scheme outlay of 18,100 crore is intended to establish 50 Giga Watt Hour (GWh) of advanced cell chemistry and 5 GWh of niche advanced cell chemistry.

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“We are evaluating installing Advance Cell Chemistry Project. We are waiting for the PLI details as it will act as a sweetner.... It entails huge capex. However, the project viability will depend on future demand for lithium based batteries," Exide MD & CEO Subir Chakraborty said on the sidelines of the company's AGM.

Finer details will be worked out later, Chakraborty said.

"As a thumb rule for each gigawatt hour capacity cell, the plant will cost about 700 crore and one gigawatt plant is very small and will be uneconomical," he said when asked about the plant capacity if the company decides to foray into the backward integration for lithium ion batteries.

The company has set up Exide Leclanche Energy, a JV with Swiss firm Lechlance, to manufacture lithium ion batteries in India. The Covid-19 pandemic has delayed completion of the 1.5 GB capacity plant.

The plant will be fully operative by end of the fiscal. However, it will make only modules and the final battery pack but not the cell.

Chakraborty said the company seeks to make a balance between existing lead acid batteries and products of the future.

Exide is targeting to build battery energy storage system for renewable power plants and it is carrying out two trials - one at CESC with lead acid battery and the other at Tata Power with lithium battery technology.

“Battery energy storage will be big market with renewable energy boom," Chakraborty said.

The city based battery maker is also focusing on exports in a big way to de-risk business of lead acid battery.

“Exports is now seven per cent and we aim for strong growth in this segment," Chakraborty said.

Officials expected that margins would improve Earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization (EBITA) margin in the forthcoming quarters, which had squeezed in the first quarter of the fiscal owing to disruptions.

Meanwhile, the company will continue to maintain annual capex of 400 crore.

First Published Date: 01 Sep 2021, 09:59 AM IST
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