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Transcript : Battery Technology For Bharat | Akshay Singhal @ Log9
Akshay Singhal talks about scaling up one of India’s most ambitious EV battery manufacturing plants, Log9 Materials.
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[00:00:00] Akshay Singhal: Hi, this is Akshay Singhal. I'm the founder and CEO of Log9.
[00:01:14] So Log9, it's a material science company which is focused towards energy storage technologies particularly developed for India and the tropical world.
[00:01:21] I was quite drawn towards research, and that happened primarily because of two things. One is that I like to do research projects from the first year itself and all of it. And then in my second year what happened was that one of the family functions, I met one of my grandfather who was a scientist in National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi.
[00:01:39] And he devoted all his life to kind of research. And he was a material scientist himself. And he said that, okay I, I can come to Roorkee every weekend and maybe we can start doing some experiments in one of the labs if you can arrange for it, So I spoke to one of the head of departments of nano Technology Center, and then we were able to get a empty lab.
[00:01:57] He actually brought some equipment and chemicals on his own expense to the lab, and we started doing research over there. So because he was working in our technology for the last 40 years and he had set up a lab in his own house in Delhi. So all a lot of that equipment and material came came to Roorkee.
[00:02:14] We started working on that. So that's how my initiation into material science. I researched, actually started then around the same time there was a professor who ha, who later became my supervisor for PhD as well. He joined IIT Roorkee from university of Florida, US. He completed PhD and joined over here.
[00:02:29] And he and his wife who also joined in IIT Roorkee at the same time. They're both their PhDs were around graphine and that year , which caught my fancy, and I started to work with them as well. So that, that's how this got limited. The whole concept of starting a venture around this happened in Canada. So I was in Canada for three months for my third year internship. And while that was the most idle time of my life, I don't think I have spent so many casual days at a stretch in the last 15, 20 years. So that, gave me a kind of option to think about what to do in life and how to go about picking a career and all of it.
[00:03:02] And one thing I realized was that while I'm drawn towards research, but academic research is just too inconsequential and boring at least. And what I saw around me, and I said that if I have to do some meaningful work, then there has to be a venture which can support new inventions, new products and that can fuel more research happening going forward. It was Canada where Log9 was born in that sense. And then moment I came back, we started a lab in my backyard in the open itself. And that's how it started. Yeah.
[00:03:29] Akshay Datt: So fourth year of it you were mostly working on uh, Log9 , like setting it up and
[00:03:35] Akshay Singhal: Yes, mostly, and it was very initial days. We didn't even have a company registered or anything. It was just one small lab that we set up and just my father was good enough to buy some equipment. So we put it up trying out bunch of things, doing all other research in Roorkee itself on the campus. And then around the same time the incubation center came along. So Director was, uh, by that time, Pradipta Banerjee was there and he was very focused towards hitting a incubation cell in IIT Roorkee. So that came around. We were the first company to get incubated there, so we grew, the incubation cell also grew, and so that, that's how it started. So we finally incorporated the company in April of 2015, which was just one month after my graduation.
[00:04:15] Akshay Datt: Amazing. And so that one year when you were tinkering around, what kind of problem statement did you have in mind? Or what, what were you doing in that? There must have been some focus area.
[00:04:25] Akshay Singhal: Yes, it was about basically stabilizing the graphene production process. The idea was to take this material, develop processes, optimize them, so that we can produce it at scale, customize it.
[00:04:34] And that was the whole idea, just, an un- understanding the basic traits of business as well. And I remember buying the whole Company's Act and then going through it page by page , so even that happened, while many would argue that it was never required, but yeah, nevertheless, that also happened.
[00:04:51] Akshay Datt: Wow. Amazing. You have the mind of a researcher, basically . Amazing. Okay, so gimme like a Graphine 101. What is graphine? Where does it get used?
[00:05:00] Akshay Singhal: And Graphine is a very new material, I think in the whole family of carbon materials are, so you have graphite, you have coal, you have diamond. So these are all various forms of carbon, so they came around carbon nano tubes, which around which came around in the nineties. And then graphene is the latest entrant in that family, so to speak.
[00:05:20] Akshay Datt: And graphine is also naturally occurring. Like say a diamond is naturally occurring?
[00:05:24] Akshay Singhal: Uh, It's completely artificially occurring or produced material. And it is basically, the simplest way of producing graphine is chiseling down graphite. So basically graphite has a layer, such as, so basically what you can imagine that you take a stack of printing paper, like A4 size sheets, that stack is resembles graphite. And if you pull out one sheet out of it, that is basically graphine. So basically chisel down graphite to make graphene. That's the most simplest way. The other more complicated ways, more pristine ways to do it, assembling atom and all of those things. But this is how you can explain it in the simplest form.
[00:05:57] Akshay Datt: And Graphine manufacturing is not cheap. So that's why you were trying to figure out how to scale it up?
[00:06:02] Akshay Singhal: Yeah, no, nobody was practically doing it in India. It was a very new material. Globally speaking, not many applications have been figured out. And still it is in its nascent stage where people are still trying to figure out more and more use cases and how it can be incorporated across multiple things. So that's what we were trying to do in the first two years of the venture. And one thing that we realized in the first two years is that there's no point of just selling graphine as the material. So you would work on using this material to create products, and that's only when a successful venture can be built.
[00:06:30] Akshay Datt: One question first before we come to 17. What what are the use cases of Graphine what can it be used for? Is it like a hard substance or what is it like?
[00:06:39] Akshay Singhal: It's a very versatile material in that sense. So it is not, it cannot be corroded, so it's not non-corrosive.
[00:06:44] It can be used as a protective layer. It is very highly conducting. So it can be used in semiconductor chips or in electronic industry and stuff like that. Then because is conducting it, it finds application in battery materials and battery technologies in that sense. And also because it is a very thin layer material. So it has very high catalytic properties so that it further enables battery work and any kind of electro
[00:07:08] Akshay Datt: What do you mean by catalytic properties?
[00:07:10] Akshay Singhal: Basically Catalyst is something which enables a reaction to happen faster, for reactions to happen faster, you need to reduce the barrier for things to come together, so in the context of viral stuff on the internet. Let's say a matchmaker. Everybody would've seen Indian matchmaking web series.
[00:07:28] So a matchmaker is a catalyst in the whole process of bringing two people together, this material, provides a substrate, or basically a platform where two items can come together and react and kind of form new product. So it's a very good catalyst in that way. And and hence it can be used in various kind of electrochemical or battery based technologies.
[00:07:49] Akshay Datt: And you were also doing your PhD from IIT at the same time as you were working on Log9 .
[00:07:55] Akshay Singhal: So there were a lot of firsts in 2015 for IIT Roorkee and for us as well. So the first time where Roorkee was allowing somebody to have a startup as well as join a PhD program at same time and many people didn't, were not even able to fathom this concept.
[00:08:11] So I still remember one of the days receiving a call from my head of department in department. And he called me and he started thrashing me that you are doing up all because you have a company registered in your name, and then at the same time you registered yourself as a student over here.
[00:08:27] So then I had to go and bring out the incubation policy of the campus, which was drafted four, five years ago, but nobody was aware of it. And I found one (inaudible) office in the, in that administrative building, and I got that copy, gave it to him then wrote an email to the director copying him saying that this is all happening with proper protocol and process of the campus. So that, that happened. And, but the primary reason for joining PhD was very different. It was not to actually do PhD. The concept was that while I was able to get some support from my family to start the business, but I had to manage my own personal expenses as well. And PhD at at that time provided a 30,000 rupees stipend per month. So that was quite good at that age. And that's the reason that was the primary reason why I joined PhD. And also another reason was that as a student, you can get access to many more labs on campus versus uh, as somebody who has already graduated.
[00:09:23] Akshay Datt: Okay. Amazing. And like before you moved to Bangalore 2017, you moved to Bangalore. But before that what kind of use cases were you looking at? I can see that you built like a filter for cigarettes?
[00:09:34] Akshay Singhal: A lot of weird stuff like including filter for cigarettes a water filtration membrane, air filtration membrane.
[00:09:40] so there were a lot of this kind of weird applications that we were looking at. The concept was one simple. One was to look at things which can potentially lead to saving climate change and save carbon emissions, beautify things. So that was the whole idea that we look at applications which have a climate angle to it.
[00:09:58] Akshay Datt: And was your goal to build an IP and sell that intellectual property? Was it an intellectual property business, or did you actually want to manufacture also?
[00:10:07] Akshay Singhal: I think the concept was not very clear at that point of time. We did and I was not reserved to do one versus with the other. But lot of people did suggest at that time that why do you want to go into manufacturing and doing these things? Why don't you just take, make technology, keep on making technology and licensing them out? Which sounds like a very rosy picture, but it doesn't happen that often. And it's far more difficult to be able to do it in the first place because thing is that your credibility on a technology comes with market success. And without having any product of your own in the market, nobody will be willing to give you that credibility that okay, the product you developed actually works, it has actual benefit, and all of those things. So you really need to get your hands dirty before you think about licensing and stuff like that. I think that's the experience I got.
[00:10:55] Akshay Datt: 2017 did the plan change? Why did you move to Bangalore?
[00:10:58] Akshay Singhal: So, 17, the move happened because obviously see Roorkee was a good stepping stone in that way, but obviously a venture of this type cannot be built in Roorkee to the, obviously the geographical constraint that Roorkee has to offer. And I initially we thought that why don't we move to Delhi, but sorry to all Delhiites, but I don't like Delhi at all. I spent six months over there and no, that was not the vibe I was looking for. And also around the same time, I again went to Canada for a conference, and there I met the chairman of our technology center at Institute of Science, Bangalore Pratap was the founding chairman there.
[00:11:32] And I met him. I told him what what kind of venture we are building. . And he was kind enough to invite me to ISC and say that why don't you visit, see what all we have and we'll be more than happy to support an individual like you to build this kind of a venture in India.
[00:11:47] So I went to Banglore moment I came back and what I saw was just phenomenal. So they had one of the, like it was the most advanced and state of the art nanotechnology facility in the entire country and at par with any good center globally as well. So it was 300 odd crore facility under one roof having everyth ing in house, and I was getting access to that facility for peanuts for practically 50- 50,000 1 lakh rupees a year, something like that, so that was a dream come true in that sense. And then we started to work with various professors also there. So the relationship kind of developed very quickly and got into advanced stages very quickly because of the kind of repo that I was able to create with Rudra Pratap.
[00:12:30] So that that kind of limited the move to Bangalore. And I think it took us only three months pack everything up and move, bang.
[00:12:37] Akshay Datt: So who is we here? Are you still like a solo researcher trying to figure out some use case or do you have other?
[00:12:44] Akshay Singhal: By the time we had one or two people so we had our first team member , who joined us in 2016. So he was so he graduated from Amity and then he was a researcher at IIT Bombay. And uh, so I met him in a conference in 2016. And he joined me in IIT Roorkee itself. Karthik, my co-founder was also there at that time. Our third co-founder, Pankhaj who was our advisor then to Log9, he was there, but he was not making the move, he was still in Delhi. And he was actually making a move to Kochi at that time because of his, another venture. So all of that was happening. So bunch of two, three people, that's all we had at that time. And so I decided that let's, if we really have to have grow the team so the right talent will also be easier to find in Banglore and we are getting access to resources. I think that that move was good in that sense.
[00:13:28] Akshay Datt: But how were you paying the salaries? You were just getting that 30,000 internship stipend.
[00:13:34] Akshay Singhal: Because we were the first company incubated in IIT Roorkee, so we got a small very small investment from the campus itself. While that was okay to last us during the two years in Roorkee and my family also put in something. But in, just before moving to Bangalore, we closed our first investment round from a bunch of friends in Delhi led by, uh, Mr. Aditya Gupta who has been our earliest investor in that sense. And so with that money being available, we made a move to Bangalore.
[00:14:00] Akshay Datt: And what was your pitch here? That you will build something using Graphine?
[00:14:03] Akshay Singhal: I think at that time, the one product which we had finished was the cigarette filter. So that was there, but luckily Aditya always realized that this is not the ultimate potential of the company. This team has more to offer and with graphine and the materials understanding there is a bigger potential out there.
[00:14:21] Akshay Datt: Okay. So tell me the journey now once you're at ISC in Bangalore and you have access to a 300 crore facility.
[00:14:28] Akshay Singhal: Yeah, so we were not stationed inside the campus, so we were just, besides the campus, we were half a kilometer outside the campus and we set up a small office over there. And then we would I think almost every day, one or the other person from the team would be at ISC doing some experimentation, testing, whatever it is.
[00:14:45] And then we had a, so most of the fabrication or processing or synthesis kind of experimental work used to happen in our office, or RnD center, which was outside ISC. And most of the testing and characterization we would use ISC for. And then we also started doing certain projects with,
[00:15:01] Akshay Datt: what do you mean by characterization?
[00:15:03] Akshay Singhal: And then whatever your produce, has it been produced at the right quality, right type. what you actually looking to get this right. because materials, you cannot look that, like you cannot just observe it with an open eye, you have to really put it under a very slim microscope to see if the structure is right or the properties are right.
[00:15:21] So all of that testing characterization as we call it, was happening at ISC. And synthesis work is mostly being done at IIT Center, which is set up.
[00:15:29] Akshay Datt: And you said you were doing some projects?
[00:15:31] Akshay Singhal: Yeah. So we started doing certain projects with various professors in ISC. We applied for certain grants. There are various government schemes. But the only thing was that I think with Pankhaj's experience and his previous company it was clear that we cannot be dependent on grant for sustenance of the business because you apply for a grant today while the intent of the grants are right, the processes take s forever. And while you apply this year, maybe it'll come through a year and a half, two years later. So that happened. But with that experience, at least you're not depending on these grants and they came when they came.
[00:15:59] Akshay Datt: Okay. Okay. So had you started working on battery by now or when you still experimenting?
[00:16:04] Akshay Singhal: Within six months of moving to Bangore, we started working on batteries. So we, that battery batteries caught our attention around that time. And also one thing with really like, given that we want to focus our energy towards climate change doing anything around energy whether generations, storage or whatever is the best bet because energy contributes whatever our energy consumption contributes 70 odd percent of all the carbon emissions in the world.
[00:16:30] So if you're solving for energy, then you are getting the biggest impact from a carbon emissions perspective. Became a very obvious choice from that context. And one thing that we were particularly looking at is why batteries research is not happening in India. A, and why the other batteries which are being developed globally, why are they not able to perform in the same fashion as in in India as they're being able to do so in Europe, China, US, or wherever other places?
[00:16:56] These two questions we were trying to answer at that time, and we realized that our conditions are very different. Our temperatures are very high types of vehicles that we have is very different. Road conditions are different, usage patterns are different. And then hence technologies need to be customized for these operating conditions. And at the same time, we also have conscious of what materials and what (inaudible) the supply chain is available within the country so that we are not just climbing one ditch, which is basically buying oil from the Middle East and falling into another ditch, which is buying batteries from China tomorrow.
[00:17:28] So the idea was to solve for these two things at the same time.
[00:17:30] Akshay Datt: Okay. Now there, there are two concepts I want you to like, gimme a 101, like an explanation. First is nanoscience and nano materials. And second is batteries. So whichever one you want to start with first, you can.
[00:17:42] Akshay Singhal: So I think the best way to understand why nano technology is important, why it works is So let's say you take a jar, and you start putting pebbles inside the jar, or let's say chocolate like for offshore kind of a chocolate, you're putting stuffing it up in the jar, and now what you do is that you take out all those chocolates and then you want to put one chocolate dish into one single jar.
[00:18:07] Maybe smaller size jar, but one single jar, so what you will notice, the amount of glass, let's say for the jar required in when you are storing them in individual jars would be much higher, because you cover each chocolate into a different jar, whereas if you stuff them all together, it is one single jar, the amount of glass would be so less.
[00:18:25] So the most important thing that happens when you are dealing with nano materials is that instead of dealing with a bulk material which require, which requires one single, which has a one single surface, which is much smaller, if you break these into smaller particles, the overall surface that is available is exponentially higher.
[00:18:43] And this surface basically is what enables nano materials to have very varied and very important properties that can be leveraged for various kinds of applications. So that is what is happening when you're breaking things down into macro to micro to nano .
[00:19:00] Akshay Datt: And how do you define macro, micro nano? Is there a numerical?
[00:19:04] Akshay Singhal: So basically, let's say anything which is one meter or let's say one centimeter in that range all is, everything is macro, we have milli, which is millimeter, and then you have micrometer, 10 power -3 meter is micrometer, and then you have nano, which is 10 power minus six is micro and 10 to the power minus nine is nano, so it is very small, and a nanometer, your hair is in micrometers. So imagine thousands of times thinner than a hair, so that's what we're talking about over here.
[00:19:33] Akshay Datt: Surface area allows for like you give that example of the matchmaker the catalyst. So more surface area means
[00:19:39] Akshay Singhal: more surface area means more space for things to come together and react and do things, and there are other properties which as you reduce the size, there are other properties that also come into the picture. But this is the most easiest one to understand.
[00:19:51] Akshay Datt: What are the properties come into the picture?
[00:19:53] Akshay Singhal: Like for example, the conductivity changes, so just another example, which is often used in our technology is that if you take a gold, if you take gold is a very good conductor of electricity, but if you keep on breaking it down into smaller and smaller particles, gold will become a semiconductor or, and if you further break it down, it can even go into becoming a insulator, which is when the contradictory in the practical sense of how we visualize gold or silver in that sense.
[00:20:22] Akshay Datt: Oh, interesting. Okay. Fascinating.
[00:20:24] Akshay Singhal: Change a lot as you reduce size.
[00:20:26] Akshay Datt: Okay. Fascinating. Okay. Now tell me about battery technology. Like you said, not much innovation has been happening in battery technology. What is the state of
[00:20:36] Akshay Singhal: so basically what, what's happening in a lithium ion battery list? Example of a lithium and battery itself, so if you open a lithium ion battery, you will see a coil like a aluminum foil coiled into a casing. And that is closed, so if you open that up you will realize that there are two coil, two foils, two panel foils, which are coiled together to make a battery pack. And what's happening between these foils is that it can be imagined to be a long corridor, and then on one wall of the corridor, there are multiple shooters like with guns who are standing, and then the, when you're charging the battery, these shooters are firing bullets at the wall in front of you. Now these bullets are those lithium ions, so as they move from one electrode as we call it, or one wall to the other wall charging or discharging, happens right now in the basic sense of it, obviously if you will fire bullets on the wall in front of you, the wall will get broken. Hence, every time charging and discharging is happening, the walls are getting broken, and degradation and then batteries have a limited lifetime, unlike the usual energy of just balls bouncing back and forth between the walls, it is not balls. It's basically similar to bullets being fired between the two walls.
[00:21:46] Akshay Datt: But how is energy generated in a battery?
[00:21:49] Akshay Singhal: So energy as it is going from one wall to another, so to give an analogy, it is in a higher energy state as it going from one wall to another, it is going to a higher energy state, right when it is. So it is similar to bringing water from first floor to the 10th floor, that's how you basically, that's why you need power motor to pump water. And then it comes down, it releases energy, and it is as available in the house that is similarly as you're charging the battery, you're basically putting energy inside the battery and the ions are going from one place to another, or one wall to another wall, where it is at a higher energy state.
[00:22:23] And when it comes to releasing the energy for various application. Now as this is happening, the wall is always getting broken, and this breaking of wall, will obviously create noise in the analogy, and in the actual battery, it'll create heat, so that, that is why batteries get heated up and that's why you see fire explosion and all of those things.
[00:22:42] And what happens with the rise in temperature is that this process of the walls breaking up gets amplified. The materials are more agitated and hence they break faster. So what we have done is that we have nano engineered this wall in front of you. So that A, as the bullets are coming, it does not break. It can catch those bullets into its structure and then throw them back so that the wall is not breaking. That basically means that there is less heat generation, so these batteries are far more safer and because it is not getting broken, it'll last much longer. And at the same time, because anyway, it is not getting broken. So why shoot with a pistol? Start shooting with machine gun? Which is basically equivalent to you can charge it much faster.
[00:23:24] Akshay Datt: What are the the two materials which these two walls are made of?
[00:23:28] Akshay Singhal: So it can be a variety of materials, but so for example, the most commonly used chemistry globally is NMC chemistry of lithium ion batteries, which we which is basically that this one wall is made up of lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt.
[00:23:42] And the other wall is made up of graphite. In our case it, the first wall can be li lithium nickel, manganese cobalt. It can be any other formulation of lithium with with manganese or nickel and stuff like that. And the other wall, instead of being a graphite, we have it made up of titanium, a nano engineer titanium with graphene incorporation. So that enables it to catch these bullets and and explain we can charge faster last, longer in all of those things, and then there is another chemistry, which is lithium, ferrous phosphate, which we are also developing. So in this case uh, instead of lithium lithium nickel, manganese and cobalt, we have lithium, iron and phosphate.
[00:24:18] Now because there is no nickel and cobalt, it is far more cost effective. Secondly, from an India perspective, it is far more self-reliant because uh, iron is available, lithium still can source from Australia and other places. And also what happens is that as compared to NMC Lithium LFP and lithium titanate these, the LFP and LTO chemistries that we are making are more, more resilient to higher temperature. NMC is very, very sensitive. It can explode, it can catch fire, it can degrade much faster. Whereas LFP and LTO are far more resilient so they have a longer life, they can perform in very high temperatures.
[00:24:55] Akshay Datt: And the way charging happens is that one of these corridors, when it's plugged in, then one of these corridors gets a positive charge and therefore it attracts,
[00:25:03] Akshay Singhal: one of the walls of the corridor gets charged. And then the ions move to that site, which is my analogy of shooting bullets.
[00:25:12] Akshay Datt: And then when you reverse the direction, then
[00:25:15] Akshay Singhal: bullets come from, come back from the other side, and it releases energy in that because it's going from high state to low state, then.
[00:25:21] Akshay Datt: Okay. Got it. Got it. so about 2018, I guess you must have started battery research. Tell me about that journey of actually from an idea to a minimum viable product.
[00:25:31] Akshay Singhal: I think the first battery technology that we started to work upon was aluminum air battery, or as we call it, the aluminum fuel set. And we were trying to solve everything at one go, so we were saying, yeah,
[00:25:42] Akshay Datt: and what is an aluminum fuel set?
[00:25:44] Akshay Singhal: So it's like lithium and batteries are there. So aluminum air battery, the technology which is there in which what you don't need to charge it. So basically what happens is that the battery is being utilized. Aluminum plate, which is one of the walls in this analogy of a corridor, is getting consumed. So all the aluminum will just go to the other wall and it'll get finished.
[00:26:02] Then nothing can happen again.
[00:26:03] Akshay Datt: Okay, so this is a one time use battery, basically?
[00:26:06] Akshay Singhal: Aluminum air battery, is a one time use battery. When you convert this concept into aluminum fuel cell, what you can do is you can refuel, keep on adding more aluminum in on the side so that its not discharging on the other side, so that's the aluminum fuel cell concept and started we, we developed beside developing it because we wanted to solve everything at one go, so we said that aluminum is abundantly available in India, so we'll never have supply chain issues. India, largest producer of aluminum in the world, so no problem on site.
[00:26:35] Battery likes working at 50 degree celcius so temperature is not a problem Now cost is very, very cheap because (inaudible) , so cost is not an issue, so that way it had very like huge positives. And the other thing is that with this battery, you can go for thousands of kilometers, because the concept is you don't have charging time issue, charging issue and all of those things.
[00:26:57] Akshay Datt: Yeah, there's no range anxiety.
[00:26:58] Akshay Singhal: There is no range anxiety, so all of these things were getting solved at one go, but obviously this was a far more nascent concept. Globally, not just in India, globally. Today also, there are only two companies including Log9 and Israeli company called Finergy which are developing and have uh, reached some kind of commercial viability or how to say technical viability on this technology.
[00:27:21] And that, that's where we started our journey into the battery space. But what happens is that in any kind of a fuel cell system, whether it's our aluminum fuel cell or whether you have, you would've had a hydrogen fuel cell, any kind of a fuel cell system always will give you a constant energy, it, it cannot increase and decrease on demand. So it'll always give you constant energy and, but if you're driving a vehicle, you would imagine that you are accelerating, de accelerating, braking. You're stopping, so your energy requirement cannot be constant. It'll always keep on fluctuating. Now to manage that fluctuation, you need something which can store energy and give it back, which is your normal battery. So what happened was that as you, you're developing them,
[00:27:58] Akshay Datt: so in, in a normal battery there is the ability to increase the output.
[00:28:02] Akshay Singhal: Because you are just storing charge, you're not generating energy. There you are, you're basically storing energy. So you can take out as much as you want. And as you are developing the fuel cell, there has to be a sub component of a
[00:28:13] Akshay Datt: But one quick question, sorry. Before what is the hydrogen fuel cell?
[00:28:16] Akshay Singhal: So hydrogen fuel cell is that, so what happens in a aluminum air battery or a aluminum fuel cell is aluminum, metal is being oxidized. So what basically that means is that it is aluminum. So what happens is when you mine aluminum from Earth, it comes in its oxidized state, which we call as bauxite.
[00:28:31] So we have bauxite mines across the country and so it is aluminum is oxidized in that form, that is the most stable state of any metal, oxidized state. The most stable state of any metal. And that's the reason we have rust on iron and it tries to get rusted, because that's natural state now impart energy into that to bring it into metallic form, basically remove that oxygen. So we take these aluminum plates, and in the system we are intentionally or deliberately trying to oxidize it. And as it is getting oxidized, it's getting into a stable state. It is releasing energy, and that energy is being used to our system. That is the aluminum fuel cell. Now really in the case of hydrogen fuel cell, you are, you basically have water to start with.
[00:29:12] Water is hydrogen and oxygen combined together, when you remove oxygen from water, you basically get hydrogen, which is the excited state of water, so to speak, right? or hydrogen is what you're getting. Now in the hydrogen fuel cell, you're deliberately combining hydrogen oxygen again to release energy and get in that nature.
[00:29:30] But the problem with hydrogen fuel cell is that it is hydrogen is a very inflammable gas, so it can explode it, it it has to be stored under pressure. And obviously the system that is required to combine hydrogen oxygen in a safe manner becomes costly. So from that perspective aluminum seems to be a more reasonable or a simpler approach in the larger scheme of things.
[00:29:51] Akshay Datt: hydrogen is not something that you mine, you create it through chemical process.
[00:29:55] Akshay Singhal: Yes. It has to be created. Either you can like the most so to say ideal way is to split water and create hydrogen, but you can al -also, which is a greener way, but you can also create it from methane, from natural gas.
[00:30:07] So you can also create hydrogen from methane, natural gas, and all of those things.
[00:30:11] Akshay Datt: Okay. Got it. Yeah. Now, coming back to your journey, sorry.
[00:30:14] Akshay Singhal: Basically uh, when you're developing a fuel cell, you need a battery, so as you're developing aluminum fuel cell technology, we started to develop this battery sub component itself, which is suited for the fuel cell application.
[00:30:23] Akshay Datt: so you need a battery because the fuel cell is constantly in a state of releasing energy, and that has to
[00:30:29] Akshay Singhal: Yeah. And it's a constant release it'll be almost always the same amount of energy when you're using a fuel cell. But in a vehicle, in any application whatsoever, you always have peaks and troughs of energy requirements.
[00:30:40] So whenever, and it doesn't make sense to waste the, waste, the peaks, so you channelize that through a battery will be more efficient. So developing this battery, which can do this charge and discharges very quickly, has a very long life and all of those things, that's when we aside developing our uh, battery pack with using a lithium ion technology and COVID happened.
[00:30:58] By that time before Covid, we already had Sequoia, Xfinity, everybody. So we had VCs come in.
[00:31:04] There were more investors who came in after from gems 18, after 2017. And then we had around in 18 than had VCs coming in 19. 19.
[00:31:12] Akshay Datt: And how much did you raise pre covid?
[00:31:14] Akshay Singhal: So pre covid all put together, we had raised around $5 million.
[00:31:17] So it was a decent sum of money at that time. Yeah.
[00:31:20] Akshay Datt: And the pitch was batteries like by then you had pivoted two batteries.
[00:31:24] Akshay Singhal: We have, we've completely focused that battery is our forte and that's what we have do. And but covid happened. Everything was shut down. And unlike a software company, you cannot do things on a so-called, you have to be in the lab, develop the, make it happen. So the obvious listing was that why don't we scale down. Why don't we fire a few people, reduce salaries, and just get by for a few quarters uh, before things are back to normal.
[00:31:46] But I put my foot down and said that, no we are not doing this. These are engineers which are capable of many more things and the nation or the entire globe is in distress. So why not develop something which is beneficial for the requirement at this time, at the same time it can keep us afloat.
[00:32:01] And that's how for six, seven months we did this whole line of products around UV disinfection. And we pioneered that entire concept in the country. We had 70% market share within a quarter of launch. that was phenomenal. And one, it was done at like break neck speed. So from idea to understanding the UV technology to creating a product to setting up manufacturing and dispatching. It took us 14 days. One four. Wow.
[00:32:26] Akshay Datt: Amazing. Tell me what is the idea? How does it work? How does UV disinfection work?
[00:32:30] Akshay Singhal: Basically, UV disinfection is something which is known, but you have to keep it, give it the right shape and form, and then you have to also have to simulate what amount of UV dosage will be required to kill a cor- coronavirus, can kill a lot of microbes. But what, how much would be required to kill covid? So we did a lot of back study. A lot of uh, analysis were available from the SARS break times.
[00:32:51] SARS and covid are very similar in nature. Uh, They (inaudible) is very similar. And all of those things, all of that simulation, all of that analysis happened. Then we were able to narrow down, okay, this much amount of UV is required. Then setting up a supply chain in middle of covid.
[00:33:07] Akshay Datt: What form factor? Like for what use case did you want to?
[00:33:10] Akshay Singhal: So this is basically for anything from a mask to hospital equipment to groceries coming into your house, anything and everything, any object that you can touch, basically you should be able to sanitize it,
[00:33:19] Akshay Datt: like something the size of a microwave one.
[00:33:21] Akshay Singhal: Yes. So it was actually called Corona oven. So we called it Corona Oven. And you can stuff things inside and sanitize them. And the idea that everything you cannot put a sanitizer on, and many things you cannot put a sanitizer on. So something has to be more of say non-touch or non-contact in, in that sense. And that, that's how it started. And then we did I think some 20 odd SKUs of it from a oven type of thing to conveyor systems and and towers and handheld systems and whatnot. And even deployed them at the airports. Even today at the Bangalore airport, all package goes through a conveyor system, which was designed by us and deployed over there for disinfection.
[00:33:59] Akshay Datt: This would be like the first revenue making that happened.
[00:34:02] Akshay Singhal: Yeah, absolutely. It was the first. And, and in that sense, I think it was really good for the team because we got a sense of uh, what does it take to develop product take it to market manufacturing branding after?
[00:34:14] Akshay Datt: How did you figure out manufacturing? And especially during covid
[00:34:17] Akshay Singhal: we worked with various so to say, contract manufacturers in Banglore uh, in and around Banglore. And co-founder Karthik he had a short stint at ITC, so he had some background of setting up manufacturing facilities in ITC.
[00:34:30] And so we've scrambled all of that together set up these contact manufacturers controlled their entire user process and then set up distribution. We had 140 some odd retail points across the country within a matter of one month. And this even in Meghalaya, Manipur and in the north northeast Jammu and Kashmir, we had our uh, systems go all the way to the Army containment in where that incident uh, happened. and uh, places like that, and even I think even today if you go to Prime Minister's office, so you are supposed to keep anything that you're carrying your file, mobile phone, whatever, into a Corona Oven when before you can meet the Prime Minister. So we deployed far and wide across ev- anywhere and everywhere. Our end result, we didn't need to fire anyone. We didn't need to reduce salary we actually gave increments during covid and people who we were working with super excited and at the same.
[00:35:21] And also it gave a huge commercial sense to the entire team. And as we went through this process we realized that how important it is to go commercial, how important it's to have a product in the market as a start. And that gave us an idea that this battery that we were developing as part of the aluminum fuel cell largest stack, this component itself has a huge application in the Indian context.
[00:35:43] And it can go into the small vehicles, like two wheelers, three wheelers, and solve the challenges that we have over there. And that's how we were able to produce our go-to market from a battery perspective by at least three years, if not more. And then we went commercial on that side, and now we have a huge standing in the battery industry or the EV industry in India.
[00:36:02] Akshay Datt: Okay. I want to understand how that happened. The battery component you were uh, working on, you made it that titanium graphine you said it was a titanium graphine.
[00:36:12] Akshay Singhal: In the batteries there are two levels of manufacturing, one is your cell manufacturing and the other is battery pack. So you first make a cell, then you put multiple cells together.
[00:36:20] Akshay Datt: What is the difference? Okay, cell is like a small unit of battery. Basically
[00:36:24] Akshay Singhal: Cell is small. The cell is similar to your remote cell, right? What you, now for a vehicle to work, you'll have to have multiple cells put together, connected with all the electronics battery management system and everything into a battery pack so that it can power a vehicle or any application whatsoever, now cell manufacturing is the most complicated and the most CapEx intensive play in the entire value chain, because we as usual are always late to any new party, any new innovation, we are always late to the party, people in China or in Europe have been setting up these things the last 20 years. We have just woken up, to the extent that in India we are talking about setting up cell manufacturing to the scale of 50 70 gigawatt hour as a country as a whole by 2030, whereas individual factories in China and Europe are coming up with capacities of hundred gigawatt hour today so there are gigawatt hour size of factories coming up today.
[00:37:20] Where our country's expectation aspiration by 2030 as a whole is 50, 70 gigawatt hours, so that is the kind of disparity that is there. And hence, you cannot start small. You cannot say that I will take baby steps and start small and can move forward to it. in that essence you need to have a large factory and anything less than 10, 15 gigawatt hours is just too small to be of any competitive benefit, and setting up a 10 15 gigawatt hour kind of facility is a CapEx of 3000 plus crores, and you can imagine how many business houses would have that capability to set up something about 3000 crores at onset itself, that is where cell technology is challenging. That is part of the CapEx. Then access to technology. Who, where is the technology? Where will it come from? If you look at the PLI scheme of the government itself, the government was expecting that lot of international battery majors.
[00:38:16] Akshay Datt: What is the PLI scheme?
[00:38:17] Akshay Singhal: So PLI scheme is a is a production linked in incentive scheme where the government is trying to incentivize manufacturing, cell manufacturing in India.
[00:38:25] So there are PLI schemes for different sectors. There are PLI scheme for semiconductor. There are PLI scheme for automotive, the PLI scheme for batteries in the similar fashion,
[00:38:33] Akshay Datt: like they would get some tax breaks if they manufacture in India?
[00:38:36] Akshay Singhal: Tax breaks. But if you are able to hit the benchmarks of quality and value manufacturing, then you get some rebate from the government per unit of production or per kilowatt hour, or whatever the are.
[00:38:47] Now thinking that as the PLI scheme came about the government was expecting that obviously a lot of international battery majors would apply for the PLI scheme and they would be willing to set up base in India for this to happen. Not even a single one came forward, because they were too caught up with the demand coming in from Europe, China, US in that sense that there was no incentive for them to focus on India. And if they're not even willing to look at setting up manufacturing, forget about giving access to technology in that sense. And that's the other bottle like that, where the technology come from. So what we are doing at Log9 is that A, we are the only company today in India which has a homegrown ground up developed cell technology available on the lithium mine site which has been proven to work in a viable manner.
[00:39:31] And now we are scaling up those processes.
[00:39:33] Akshay Datt: Now, the cell technology here that you're talking about, that is the titanium graphine uh,
[00:39:39] Akshay Singhal: titanium one and the lithium ferrous phosphate LFP, LFP, and titanium. These two technologies, which are the choice based on the operating conditions the both technologies we are developing and scaling up.
[00:39:50] But it takes a while to scale up the process, arrange CapEx for all that machinery, all that commercial this thing to happen. And that's the reason we brought in Amara Raja batteries as one of our lead investors last year in Log9 log nine. So working with them very closely to see how we can scale it quickly.
[00:40:06] Now, as this is scaled up, you cannot just keep on sitting on your hands, you need to kind provide validation of the, these technologies working in the market. So we decided that till the time our own cells are able to reach the market, we will import cells of this type, the closest that we can get and start producing batteries and start creating a market for ourselves.
[00:40:28] And that's what we have been able to do and commercialize so far wherein the battery packs and So we were the first to bring this kind of cells to India.
[00:40:35] Akshay Datt: Which did you bring LFP or titanium graphine?
[00:40:38] Akshay Singhal: Yeah. Titan eight.
[00:40:39] Akshay Datt: Titan eight is what it's called, LTO.
[00:40:41] Akshay Singhal: So we were the first ones to put LTO cells together into a battery pack for mobility app. Uh, Two wheeler, three wheeler, four wheeler, cargo trucks, and those kind of applications, and launch it in the, launch it in the market. And that has solved a lot of problems, which was a problem of life because when these batteries, while they were able to run for four, five years in a Chinese setting or a European setting in India, they were not even lasting for two, two and a half years, and that was affecting the livelihood of somebody who was trying to buy a electric three wheeler, for example, and do logistic operations on that. Secondly it took just forever to charge these vehicles, four or five hours. It's just too long to charge them, and third thing is that as the battery was discharging they were losing the load bearing capacity or the torque or the acceleration on the vehicle. There were multiple challenges in operations of these vehicles. But with the other batteries, you could charge them in 15 to 30 minutes time. You have a life, you don't need to worry what life, the life of the battery was three, four times the life of the vehicle itself, there wasn't a challenge of replacement of the battery or your range going down every month, so that was not there. Thirdly, your load bearing capacity, whether your battery's a hundred percent charge or one 1% charge, it was all the same. That gave us a lot of traction very quickly to the extent that as we went selling these batteries commercially just last December within a matter of three, four months. our vehicle manufacturing partner, omega Safety Mobility, which is a three wheel manufacturer out of Delhi, they went from number fifth position in the electric three wheeler cargo category to number one position within a matter of four months.
[00:42:11] So that is the kind of scale and traction that we have seen. And while we are scaling our battery production we are also scaling our cell manufacturing. And we did our day zero. So this was basically technology day which we now plan to do every 21st of April of every year, which is our foundation day as well. so we did the first installation of it This year, 2022, April 1st, 21st 2022, we did that and we announced that what kind of technology we are bringing up, what is possible with this technology, and also announced the setting up of the first commercial scale cell manufacturing line in India and Southeast Asia.
[00:42:48] So this will be the largest cell manufacturing line that will be coming up by Log9 in the entire Southeast Asian region.
[00:42:54] Akshay Datt: Is your technology very different from what you're importing? You're already importing that LTE battery?
[00:43:00] Akshay Singhal: Yes. So it is very different from what we are importing right now. So we'll be able to offer much better features in terms of life, in terms of the range that we can offer, and also the cost of every cell that we'll be able to produce. And this is basically the way those two walls inside the cell are designed and what kind of s we are putting it up.
[00:43:19] Akshay Datt: Okay. So you've changed the way in which those walls are designed, uh, these walls how are they manufactured? Like how does a nano material get manufactured at scale?
[00:43:28] Akshay Singhal: So basically in a physical form, it'll look like a powder, those. because what happens is when you are, when you have these nano materials in a powdered form, they cannot stay as individual particles. So they'll glomerate is what we call it, and they'll form bunches. And then if you look at it look like like a atta, or whatever color it might be in, but then you have to disperse it. You create formulations you create a good suspension of it to create a battery. Then you coat that onto the foil, which is very similar in physical shape and form, like a kitchen foil, and then coat that, combine materials together, put it inside a casing, fill the electro light, and then seal it out. So that's the process of it. And it has to happen in a very controlled environment. It can, there can be no dust, there can be no moisture. So all of that controlled environment has be made.
[00:44:13] Akshay Datt: Okay. And how does this atta get made, the powdered form of the nanomaterial?
[00:44:17] Akshay Singhal: uh, so that two approaches to it, there are two approach, either you start with bulk, and you sell it down. So you basically are breaking a bigger material into very small pieces. So that we call it a top down approach, the other approaches that you,
[00:44:31] Akshay Datt: and does the chiseling happen with like blades or
[00:44:34] Akshay Singhal: Like various processes. So you can have uh, vibrations, you can have blades, you can have hammers. So there are various processes and equipments to do it depending on what material you're dealing with, and then the other approach is that you assemble atom by atom, so you have things in a gaseous form. You take atoms, combine them together to kit the nano material directly, which we call as the bottom approach that you're starting.
[00:44:57] Atoms and molecules and creating material in the nano form. So either the two approaches are there. Typically when you're dealing with bulk applications for example, coatings and batteries and stuff like that you typically take the top down approach because that is more economical, it has less finess, it has less purity.
[00:45:14] The top down has less purity, but it is more economical and viable in that sense. Whereas if you are dealing in the semiconductor industry or the electronics industry in that sense, then you need very, very high purity. And there the amount of material required is also less. So you don't worry about doing a bottom approach and assembling atoms atom by atom and then getting the material.
[00:45:34] So typically that's how you segregate the two processes or two parts of creating the
[00:45:40] Akshay Datt: You said like setting up a plant costs a lot of money, like 3000 crores, so do you have that money in the bank or what is the way in which you're doing
[00:45:48] Akshay Singhal: we don't have that money in the bank right now, but given that we are not just, we are not dealing with a me too technology, we are not dealing with a comp something which already is happening elsewhere as well.
[00:45:56] We are developing it in a new way. So we have that levy to have baby steps in the process, so we get a small plant first, which itself is not a small investment, so the plan that we are setting up right now, it is still around 200 crores of investment that will be put up right and then further expanded to that 3000 crore kind of scale.
[00:46:16] So we have, we, we'll do it in those steps, but if you are just taking a technology which is available on every nook and corner, then you cannot start with a small, not never be competitive. And that's the reason technological edge is important in the industry.
[00:46:30] Akshay Datt: Fascinating. You said you raised from Amara Raja and others. How much have you raised? Have you raised this 200 crores that you need, or?
[00:46:37] Akshay Singhal: Yeah, so that has been raised and we are raising more right now. So last year till three months back, we have raised around 25 million dollars. uh, we have just closed another 25 million right now. And then the total round that we are raising at this point is around 50 million dollars.
[00:46:52] So there are more investor permissions that are happening for the balance 25.
[00:46:55] Akshay Datt: And essentially your product line today is purely just a battery pack, the UV line, you're still doing that, or that was
[00:47:03] Akshay Singhal: The whole company is just focused on batteries,
[00:47:06] Akshay Datt: currently, you are importing the cells and then assembling it into a battery pack.
[00:47:10] Here the, you have built the software in-house for
[00:47:13] Akshay Singhal: so other components of the electronics, or the battery design system, ems, everything is developed inhouse.
[00:47:19] Akshay Datt: And how many, battery packs have you sold till date?
[00:47:22] Akshay Singhal: So we have around 2000 vehicles with our batteries on road slightly more than that.
[00:47:26] And by the end of this financial year, we are looking at a number of more than 15,000.
[00:47:30] Akshay Datt: And are these like iot enabled? Do you get back data of
[00:47:33] Akshay Singhal: Yeah, all the data? So we have data, we, and we have predictive models also. In our system, we can monitor each and every cell. So there is far better control on what's happening inside the battery pack.
[00:47:44] And at the same time we have predictive models where we can see how the energy is being used in inside battery to even say that your tire pressure is low and hence you're losing efficiency. So that level of predictive analysis is what we.
[00:47:55] Akshay Datt: So, Which is why you needed to work with a manufacturer and have a deep integration. You couldn't just find a distributor who will sell it because uh, you have the data coming back to you. That data adds value to the manufacturer also. Interesting. Does the vehicle owner get data from you about battery health and all of
[00:48:13] Akshay Singhal: vehicle Vehicle owner gets the data, the manufacturer gets the data, we get the data, so it's all linked. And even finances get the data that how is the battery health? Is it fine? What is the life left? What kind of financing can use, they can look at it so the entire value chain gets stitched together.
[00:48:29] Akshay Datt: Because I think the biggest cost component in a EV is the battery. Like 40, 50% of the cost is And so you tell me about this partnership with Omega Seiki. Why did you select them as your partners and what is the future of this partnership? And
[00:48:44] Akshay Singhal: While we are now working with 15 different vehicle manufacturers in the country, including new age companies like Omega Seiki many of them have already been announced.
[00:48:52] Bravo, all Northway E-bike Co and all, a lot of other players. Then Hero Electric that's announced JMT, so all of these are already announced partnership. There are others as well. Total 15, 16 OEMs is that we are working with. And it was old legacy companies, large companies as well. The reason we went forward with Omega Seiki to start with is because A, they were new. They had the fire to do things at our pace and at a large speed. And also to disrupt the market traditional companies just by the nature of their scale and operations. They tend to become, inherently slow. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but it's just the nature of the business,
[00:49:28] so you have to work on those (inaudible). So while they are also important partners, it is for a startup that is important to deliver quickly.
[00:49:35] Akshay Datt: And so are you also working on charging infrastructure or battery is your sole focus?
[00:49:41] Akshay Singhal: So we don't make our own charging stations, we also don't deploy our own charging stations, but we still manage to control the largest fast charging infrastructure in the country. And that is because our end customers of these batteries and these vehicles are all commercial users and these commercial users like personal use, like you and me using it for home purpose and like us, they provide consistent charging demand because a home user like you and me would may or may not end up at a charging station in a week's time, typically, you would like to charge it at home where electricity cost is six, seven rupees a unit, why go to a charging station where it is much higher, double or more than that? And at the same time, we don't need to charge every day. Our utilization is very low 30, 40 kilometers average is what comes out in India. Whereas in a commercial use case, you are at least looking at 120, 130 kilometers per day. So you need to have multiple charges during the day itself. And also is predictable in the sense that if, let's say 10 vehicles of are type, are deployed in a certain locality, those 10, 10 vehicles will remain in that locality their entire life. Unlike us when we are going to office one day to the cinema hall another day, and then on a road trip the next week, those commercial vehicles will follow the same route, same say track day in and day out, so that provides a consistent, predictable demand for charging and enables charging infra to grow more viably for the business. and in the case, we were able to provide minimum guarantees and utilization commitments to these ChargePoint operators, and they were able to scale as well.
[00:51:10] Before we went commercial, there were only 300 odd charges, some 300 change charges deployed all over the country, which can support rapid charging and fast charging. And within six months of, and this happened over the last three, four years, and with our commercialization happening within the matter of six months we were able to put 200 additional of them. We were able to facilitate installation of 200 additional of them. And we are looking at a scenario by the end of this financial year, we were, we be putting 200 every month or we just let it in 200 every month, that is the scale that is required. It can only come with commercial.
[00:51:44] Akshay Datt: So this is more like a platform approach that you're taking where you are saying that on my platform, I have EV manufacturers who are putting my batteries in and on my platform I also have charging companies who are setting up charge points and I can, and
[00:51:59] Akshay Singhal: I'm able to provide business guarantees to both of them.
[00:52:02] Akshay Datt: For a EV manufacturer, it makes sense because then the customers don't have range anxiety and for the charging infra provider, it is assured revenue, basically predictable revenue because you know what is being deployed. Probably you can also tell them that there is this deployment happening here and therefore I would need
[00:52:20] Akshay Singhal: this customer taken 10 vehicles for the fleet operations. So why don't you put a charger at their base? And that has happened.
[00:52:27] Akshay Datt: But these manufacturers share data with you of who's buying, where their vehicles are being deployed, like that sales data?
[00:52:34] Akshay Singhal: We have that data online, so we know which person is buying, where they're using it. So all that data is coming from the battery pack .
[00:52:39] Akshay Datt: Okay, so you have a API integration with them. So whenever a new signup happens on the app for the vehicle you get to know about it. And because you are providing the battery the battery dashboard is powered by you in a way, so Correct. Okay. Okay. what other pieces are you tackling in the EV space? So you told me you're fixing battery you're fixing charging.
[00:53:01] What about the port? Now I'm coming from a mobile phone user. So in mobile phone you have, apple has its proprietary port and Android phones have the USB C port and so on. Are there such issues in eVs also?
[00:53:14] Akshay Singhal: A lot of it. So while there was a lot of excitement to create our own charging connector we shied away from it. We said that let's use what is already at scale, even if that scale is small, at least will get some head start and we'll not be unnecessarily introducing another competition into the connector space. So we use whatever was already deployed and scaled on that itself.
[00:53:37] Akshay Datt: Which is like the most deployed?
[00:53:39] Akshay Singhal: So the thing is there are two, two most deployed ones, one is called GB by T connectors, or in India we call is international. It's called GB by T. And in India it's called bharat dc 001. And then the other is CCS so the GB by T connector is for sub hundred volt platforms . Smaller vehicle platforms, smaller cars, two wheelers, four wheelers. CCS can three wheelers, it can support that. And ccs is then about 250 volts, which is meant for heavier trucks bigger cars, and where you need higher voltage platforms to be definitely there. So these two are fine. And I think these are the two connectors which should be progressed further. Keep these two connectors, make it universal in that sense.
[00:54:19] Globally there is a gravitation towards these two charging protocols. So I think we should buy onto that. There is, I don't know why there is this inherent need to develop your own connector all the time. It makes very complicated for everybody.
[00:54:31] Akshay Datt: How many volts is there in a two wheeler, like you said?
[00:54:34] 700 vol is two and three
[00:54:35] Akshay Singhal: 48 to 72 volts. And it's not like linear, so you have either mo, like the most common is 48 that have very few 60 and then 72 is also there. So 72 and 48 are the most common. There are a few platforms which are on 60 volt as well.
[00:54:49] Akshay Datt: And for three wheeler?
[00:54:50] Akshay Singhal: Three wheeler is, I think most of the industry is at 48.
[00:54:54] Akshay Datt: Oh, okay. Same only for both. Okay. Okay. But three wheeler is like predictable usage because purely commercial you don't need very long range because you'll always be near charging. Okay. And what about for a car?
[00:55:05] Akshay Singhal: So there are vehicle platforms, uh, which, are at a 48 also, but now that is completely fading away.
[00:55:12] But we have for example, Tigor and Verito the older four wheel electric cars in India, they were I think like 72 volts platforms. But now four wheeler, like all car kind of platforms are moving to 304 volt platforms because that enables faster charging in that platforms. And you have need to have bigger battery pack as well.
[00:55:30] We'll still have four wheeler cargo vehicles, for example, Tata launched, one, we also launched one. And those are around 90 96 volts uh, kind of platform.
[00:55:38] Akshay Datt: What do you mean you launched a vehicle?
[00:55:41] Akshay Singhal: So as in like with another partner, so there's a company called Northway. So with them we launched a four wheeler cargo platform uh, with our battery pack.
[00:55:48] Akshay Datt: What else Now uh, besides these, so Port we've discussed, you've discussed charging infra, you discussed battery. What other issues are you tackling?
[00:55:56] Akshay Singhal: We also offering, also financing is another, another issue. So we are also offering battery or service options. So while our battery doesn't need to be solved, because it can be charged very quickly but what we are doing is de-linking the battery financially from the vehicle so you can pay for the vehicle up front and for the battery part of it, you can pay a lease or rental in that sense.
[00:56:15] Akshay Datt: Fascinating. That is amazing. So essentially then I am no longer worried about battery life. I just am paying a monthly subscription fees. Basically it's like a subscription. I'm subscribing to a battery then. Amazing. Okay. And how does the cost differ for somebody who's subscribing versus somebody buying out?
[00:56:32] Akshay Singhal: Your overall impact on per kilometer is doesn't change much. Obviously in a subscription you'll have to pay the interest rate as well, but in any case you'll be paying the interest because hardly anybody buys the vehicle upfront paying all the money. I'd rather I'll take a EMI loan or he will pay a subscription. It doesn't make much of a difference, but yes it provides more peace of mind because liability of the battery is not with you, it's with with a manufacturer like us, and we are happy to take that.
[00:56:57] Akshay Datt: And, that is on your balance sheet or do you like, get it financed?
[00:57:01] Akshay Singhal: They're multiple structures, so some of them are on our balance sheet, there are the structures wherein it is all balance sheet and stuff like that.
[00:57:08] So it industry is a little nascent on the side. So we are trying to make it more mature and open to exploring options at this point in time. Yeah.
[00:57:16] Akshay Datt: And this would be done in partnership with the manufacturer, like the manufacturer would not all of them would be giving this option, the ones who've opted in for this program, they would start offering. And this payment comes directly to you or it goes via the manufacturer, or how does that work? Like the,
[00:57:30] Akshay Singhal: if it is
[00:57:31] happening, then it, it comes directly to us.
[00:57:33] Akshay Datt: Fascinating. Okay. And so this actually would give you very predictable monthly revenues then if you did it only, like only subscription based,
[00:57:41] would you want to do that or you are neutral to both?
[00:57:44] Akshay Singhal: So we are neutral to both at this point of time. So whatever works for the end customer. The, I see if you practically look at it, our business is making batteries, everything else is to support that business. So we don't need to be picky on that side.
[00:57:58] Akshay Datt: Will this lead to some selection bias? People who select subscription are likely to misuse batteries, because then they know that
[00:58:06] Akshay Singhal: uh, misuse can happen in case when you have battery swapping because you are touching the battery, you're removing putting it back every day. Whereas here, the battery is fixed, it's below the base of the car or the vehicle, whatever it is.
[00:58:19] So what can you really do with it? You cannot, you're not even handling it every day. So from that perspective uh, we are better off, and as I said we are able to monitor each and every cell inside the battery pack, right? so moment, anybody tries to do any hanky panky with the battery, immediately an alarm can get triggered.
[00:58:37] Akshay Datt: So in this, like you will, once the life of the battery is over, you will replace with a new one. The person will just keep paying subscription.
[00:58:44] Akshay Singhal: We do actually, it's, the, it's the other way around because typical, for example, in the three wheeler, typically the life of the three wheeler is five to six years, battery life is more than 20 years. So actually the battery will come back to us after five, six years, and we are even offering guaranteed buybacks on the battery pack. And then we can refurbish it, augment it a little bit, and put it in an next set of vehicles.
[00:59:03] Akshay Datt: This sounds like a massive play battery as a service.
[00:59:06] I, I think this could probably be the biggest part of what you're building. And currently you're only doing commercial vehicles. Like you don't want to get into passenger vehicles and all?
[00:59:14] Akshay Singhal: So it doesn't make sense with the climate, contradictory to belief all EVs are not clean.
[00:59:18] Akshay Datt: Okay. What do you mean by that?
[00:59:20] Akshay Singhal: So the thing is that EV manufacturing and battery manufacturing in particular is a very carbon intensive process. So there are a lot of emissions associated with the battery manufacturing itself. Now, if combine the emission that have happened in the manufacturing process and the emissions which you are saving or not saving on the road, and a typical car, let's say Tata Nexon for example, right? a Tata Nexon was EV versus a Tata Nexon petrol it'll take you a hundred thousand kilometers before an EV becomes greener than a petrol. and that is primarily because AA batteries are ready to manufacture. And we, even today, 70% of the energy anywhere in the, in, in the country is coming from burning coal, so you're not absolutely green when you are using electricity to charge your vehicle put together there is a threshold of hundred thousand kilometers before you hit parity. And no personal use case vehicle is driven for hundred thousand kilometers in its lifetime in India, or very rarely. Whereas the commercial vehicle will be driven like a taxi for example, will be driven for 300,000 odd kilometers, two and a half, 300,000 kilometers in its lifetime there's a clear path to sustainability in that sense.
[01:00:26] So at least for the next two to three years, we will be focusing only on commercial and we expect that uh, the prime minister's dream of adding 500 gigawatt of renewable energy on the grid comes true much sooner than expected. And then even the personal use case vehicles will become cleaner and the threshold of hundred thousand will potentially become 40,000, 50,000 kilometers.
[01:00:46] So then you have a clear path of sustainability on your personal mobility side as well.
[01:00:50] Akshay Datt: So once this 500 gigawatt of renewable energy is activated, what percentage of our city will then be green?
[01:00:57] Akshay Singhal: Depends till when it comes up, , it also the growing demand, if it comes up by 27, 28, I think 70, 80% of our electricity should be clean.
[01:01:08] But if it takes longer then you never know what is the overall demand. Like there are projections out there for that as well, it's a factor of time.
[01:01:15] Akshay Datt: And is the government doing something to get this 500 gigawatt? Like it sounds like a massive target like
[01:01:21] Akshay Singhal: Couple of policies. Yeah, it is a massive target because the overall demand today is 250 gigawatt.
[01:01:24] 250 gigawatt is the total demand of the country and about 500 gigawatt renewable. So the installations are aspirational or the targets are aspirational. And at the same time, there are a lot of policy interventions which are coming up. And so the government is really focused on doing it. But there are some inherent practical challenges also associated with that.
[01:01:42] Akshay Datt: What challenges are there?
[01:01:44] Akshay Singhal: So the biggest challenge is that renewable energy is intermittent in nature, solar will only work when the sun is out there, what do you do at night? Wind always doesn't blow and it doesn't always blow at the same speed, so you will have variance of generation.
[01:01:57] Now, how do you tackle with this very generation, but you need consistent demand like the demand, which is consistent on the user side. So how do you manage to do so there has to be channelization of energy, and then again, batteries come into the picture. And then what are the scale of batteries?
[01:02:12] Then again, what is the cost of these batteries? So again, the same foot comes up.
[01:02:16] Akshay Datt: So in a way to have 500 gigawatt renewable energy, you'd probably need something like hundred, 200 gigawatt of battery storage capacity.
[01:02:24] Akshay Singhal: Much more than that.
[01:02:25] Akshay Datt: And this is a space for you to explore as well,
[01:02:28] Akshay Singhal: So we are exploring that. But the space is slightly more nascent, more needs to, things need to be figured out because there are a lot of other auxiliary systems which need to come up with the grid and all of those things. So even the government policies are shaping up now. Also for this to really work, you need to bring in dynamic pricing of electricity today in India we hardly have any dynamic pricing.
[01:02:47] The cost of electricity is same in the day and the same in the night. Whereas if you look at Europe, US, everywhere else there is higher pricing in peak hours the evening hours and stuff like that. Uh, Whereas the daytime pricing or the late night pricing is far lower . For this to efficiently work and for the batteries to be paid up by themselves it's uh, relevant pricing is very, very important for those things shaping up.
[01:03:06] We had a huge challenge in India setting up smart meters, like it's a, it's an known fact that a significant portion of our electricity consumption is all theft, so obviously people don't want smart meters. If smart meters come up then you cannot steal electricity and all of those things.
[01:03:22] There are some very serious on ground challenges with the government is trying to tackle.
[01:03:25] Akshay Datt: Is a one gigawatt battery fundamentally different from a, let's say a 48 volt battery pack or,
[01:03:32] Akshay Singhal: Yeah, the voltage bands can be different, but it's all like units, multiple units coming together.
[01:03:37] Akshay Datt: The, it's the same technology only
[01:03:39] Akshay Singhal: Yeah, same technology, but just that your architecture, the battery pack level will change.
[01:03:44] Building blocks will more or less remain same.