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SUN Mobility plans to partner Leclanché to develop batteries

LiveMint logoLiveMint 10-09-2017 Utpal Bhaskar

New Delhi: Attracted by India’s electric vehicle (EV) potential, Swiss stock exchange-listed Leclanché SA plans to partner with SUN Mobility for developing battery storage solutions.

Battery costs hold the key to India’s ambitious plans for a mass shift to electric vehicles by 2030, and the proposed joint venture (JV) could be an attempt to address this issue.

Leclanché has been providing battery storage solutions since 1909. SUN Mobility is an equal joint venture between Chetan Maini’s Virya Mobility 5.0 and SUN New Energy Systems that specializes in electric mobility and clean energy. The company is led by Maini, founder of electric vehicle Reva and Uday Khemka, vice-chairman of the SUN Group.

“SUN Mobility is looking at this critical piece of technology and hence Leclanché,” said a person aware of the development, requesting anonymity.

Another person aware of the development who also didn’t wish to be identified confirmed the development and said, “Leclanché has historically been a builder of storage solutions.”

The government is expecting EV prices to drop over the next five years and trigger a shift from internal-combustion vehicles to those powered by electricity. To prepare itself, SUN Mobility is also getting the other EV pieces ready with a strategic alliance with Ashok Leyland Ltd announced in July to develop electric mobility solutions.

While Khemka asked Mint to direct the queries on the proposed JV to Chetan Maini, in response to queries emailed to the latter, an external spokesperson for SUN Mobility declined to comment. An external spokesperson for Leclanché also declined to comment.

India has started work on its EV programme with the state-run Energy Efficiency Service Ltd (EESL) floating a tender for procuring 10,000 electric cars and 4,000 chargers for government departments.

Mint reported on 15 April that India was exploring a plan wherein the Union government, various government agencies, and state-owned firms will lease only EVs.

With India not having enough lithium reserves for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, analysts say raw materials must be secured for domestic manufacturing.

“We would need more action on getting lithium manufacturing in India move towards local manufacturing in a big way and not be a nation of assemblers with core imports from China. This would need serious work in securing the raw materials for battery manufacturing,” Feedback Consulting wrote in a report last month.

EV sales in India grew by 37.5% to 22,000 units in the year ended 31 March 2016, according to industry lobby group Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. Of these, only 2,000 units were four-wheelers.

“We very strongly believe that the future for electricity infrastructure will be swapping. And why is that? The reason electrics have not taken off globally to the degree that they could have done is that the battery is very expensive. In India if you are 10% or 20% above the cost, you have no market,” said Khemka.

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