Amara Raja looks for new battery technology options

Amara Raja looks for new battery technology options

  Amara Raja Batteries Limited, a dominant Indian player in lead-acid space, is looking to make a foray into other battery technologies while keeping the cost factor at the core of its business strategy.

"Besides the alloy development we are also considering the alternative chemistries. The work on research, capital costs and partnerships is currently underway. We expect to finalise the technologies and the investment plans in a year or two," Amara Raja chairman Ramachandra N Galla told Business Standard.

Batteries are classified by chemistry, and the most common are lead, lithium and nickel-based.

Using its international partnerships and R&D, the company has launched new type of products like AGM(absorbed glass mat) and gel platform-based batteries within the lead-acid space in the recent past. It has also developed flat plate gel and tubular gel battery variants, which are expected to be commercially launched in the current year.

Ramachandra Galla says the new plans will not in any way distract the company's focus on further strengthening its existing business as lead-acid batteries will continue to be the cost effective solution in several existing applications and will be used even in the new-age e-vehicles for ignition, lighting and other requirements.

A recent market estimate suggested that Exide Industries and Amara Raja, the two top domestic battery makers, account for 60 percent of the lead-acid battery market in the country.

Lithium ion batteries is going to be one of the obvious choices for the established battery makers like Amara Raja, who are closely watching the emerging opportunities in e-vehicle and solar storage space.

Government of India is also contemplating to provide incentives to set up lithium-ion battery manufacturing facilities on the back of its e-vehicle push. Union Heavy Industry Minister Anant Geete recently told PTI that the government was trying to establish a battery manufacturing facility with Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited(BHEL) and Maruti Suzuki was mulling a much larger investment on lithium battery production in the country.

Amara Raja chairman, however, believes that the entry into lithium-ion battery manufacturing will make sense when the number of electrical vehicles in the country was large enough to sustain the domestic battery production. The company would prefer sourcing lithium-ion batteries from its partners for supply in domestic market in the initial phases before it sets sight on manufacturing, according to him.

While battery technologies are advancing on several fronts such as longer run times, high-current load requirements, energy density and quick charging, Amara Raja chairman told Business Standard that they need to make a conscious choice among these and other technologies because the cost of product plays crucial role in India's mass market.

On mobile phone battery manufacturing, which Amara Raja considered for a while, Ramachandra Galla said there was no scope for mobile phone battery production in the country as China has excess capacities in this space, resulting into dumping. "Chinese market has already saturated in mobile phone space. India is the next big market for Chinese companies to use these capacities," he said.