Replus ramps up effort for the roll out 1 GWh Li-ion battery assembly plant in Pune
Pune-based advanced energy storage solutions provider, Replus Engitech Pvt Ltd., continues to bet big on its lithium-ion battery business.
A year on since its joint venture with $1.2 billion conglomerate LNJ Bhilwara Group, Replus has announced that it will establish a lithium-ion battery assembly plant with an initial capacity of 1 GWh by mid-2023 and scale it up to 5 GWh by 2026-27.
"Replus is planning fully automatic state-of-the-art manufacturing line of 500 MWh each for both e-mobility and stationary storage verticals," said Hiren Shah, Executive Director & CEO, LNJ Bhilwara-Replus venture, in an exclusive interview with ETN.
"The civil work and construction are underway at the moment, and we are expecting the plant and building infrastructure to be ready by Q3 FY22-23 [before December]."
By the first half of 2023 [Q4 FY 22-23], Replus will be deploying and testing the machinery at the Li-ion battery assembly plant which is set to come up near Shirval in Pune. And, April 2023 onward, Replus' newly produced batteries and other products are expected to hit the market.
Commenting on the investment required for the manufacturing plant, Shah noted that the numbers are confidential at present, but Replus is backed by the multi-diverse conglomerate LNJ Bhilwara Group which has a strong presence in manufacturing -- from textiles to graphite -- and state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities that enable the Group to exports to multiple countries and continents across the world.
Beyond investments, Replus shared that it has established strategic partnerships for securing the battery cells needed for its battery pack manufacturing lines.
"We have strategic alignments with TIER-1 cell manufacturers in the world and have a preferential status for the sourcing of the latest technology ACC-based products from across the globe," Mr. Shah said.
Battery Chemistry and Replus Battery Pack Price Point
The manufacturing and assembly lines at the Replus plant are designed for automotive-grade manufacturing and battery packs produced will be cell chemistry and form factor agnostic. Replus noted that the facility will produce packs starting from low-voltage to high-voltages catering to applications both in stationary storage as well as EVs.
"The complete design, concept, engineering, and manufacturing is Replus know-how with scalable and modular platforms," Mr. Shah added.
On the question of price point for the battery packs, Mr. Shah shared the landed base prices from the Replus plant will be most economical as all Replus products are value-engineered to suit the Indian market and customer needs purely based on the potential and volumes of the customer.
"As the raw material ecosystem evolves and the demand soars, we will be able to bring a lot of value to the Indian customers," he added.
Prioritizing Battery Safety
For the manufacturing capacity planned initially, Replus has completed the acquisition of 4.25 acres of land in Pune.
Further, to ensure the safety of battery packs produced at the factory, Replus told ETN, it has obtained the fire NOC and is ensuring safety guidelines, and compliances as per ISO and Global Electrical Standards for Environment, Health, and Safety. The upcoming facility will be equipped with special sensors and firefighting systems designed for Class A/B/C types of fire.
Replus has also acquired the approval of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the State authority entrusted with implementing various environmental legislations in the State, and will be creating a clean room with temperature-well-maintained demarcation, special treatment, and a separate area for office and work as per guidelines.
Action plans for circular economy
For achieving a sustainable production process, Replus is working to set up a mechanism to use second-life batteries for non-critical applications and recycle them both mechanically and chemically.
"We will use 2nd life batteries for portable and non-critical applications like power tools, led lighting, etc., and we will also be mechanically recycling the batteries to retrieve up to 95% of the raw materials in slurry form, Shah said. "Further we will be processing them chemically to retrieve up to 99.999% purity to create the circular economy."
Replus' plans of recycling batteries, extracting minerals, and reusing them forms a critical part of its core philosophy of contributing toward 17 Sustainable Development Goals declared by UNESCO.
Li-ion cell manufacturing in India
Commenting on the opportunities for advanced cell chemistry battery manufacturing in India, Mr. Shah added it is a new and evolving industry, and creating a level-playing field for all in terms of regulations, standards, and codes is of utmost importance.
Shah was optimistic that there are both global and Indian companies preparing themselves to gear up in terms of innovation, diversification, and manufacturing base in anticipation of the huge demand coming up from the Lithium-ion battery market, therefore, he does not anticipate any hurdles in terms of securing raw materials.
However, he cautioned human resources and skill development required to cater to the growing industry demand remains a chief hurdle. Additionally, demand creation, in terms of implementation of policies and regulations, and facilitation of this industry in terms of 'special status,' subsidies, and incentives to accelerate the market exponentially remains another hurdle.