In an initiative that could give a fillip top to the electric car industry in India, Suzuki Motor Corporation, Toshiba Corporation and Denso Corporation have agreed to join hands to set up a joint venture company that will make automotive lithium-ion battery packs.
While Suzuki will have a 50 per cent stake in the JV company, Toshiba and Denso will have a 40 percent and 10 percent share respectively. Initial work on the production facility will commence this year itself and the plant will become operational as soon as possible. The three companies are together planning to invest a total amount of 20 billion Japanese yen in the venture.
The outlook for electric vehicles appears to be very bright in India as there is growing awareness about the impact of carbon dioxide emissions and environmental norms are becoming increasingly strict. Compared to other key markets, compact cars are more popular and are the mainstay of the industry. Hence, there will soon be growing demand for sustainable technology that can be used in such models and the battery pack manufacturing joint venture by the three companies will cater to the growing need for lithium-ion battery packs in India as sustainable cars assume growing importance.
The output of this plant will also contribute to the ‘Make in India’ initiative by the Indian government. The Indian government is actively promoting more widespread adoption of electric vehicles and has set an ambitious target of selling six million EVs by 2020, according to its National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 and the FAME (Faste Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric & hybrid Vehicles) India scheme.
In view of the fact that only 22,000 EVs were sold in 2015-16, of which 2,000 were four-wheelers, it does not seem likely that this target will be achieved.
A few years ago, Denso had developed a lithium-ion battery pack that can enhance the fuel efficiency of vehicles with stop/start systems. The Li-Ion battery pack, which comprises a battery management unit and power supply control switch, as well as battery cells, stores power obtained through regeration, and then redistributes that power to the electrical and electronic components, like the car navigation and audio systems. This reduces the need for power by the alternator, thus reducing the load on the engine and thus improves the vehicle’s fuel economy.
The battery does not need a dedicated battery cooling system battery pack as it is naturally air-cooled. The battery is lighter and more compact as it does not need auxiliary cooling components. Automotive manufacturers thus have greater leeway when it comes to design, and this gives is highly important when it comes to vehicles with limited space.
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