With electric mobility still struggling to find a foothold in the Indian automotive space, battery technology expectedly isn't as diverse and advanced as in developed markets. Lead-acid batteries though have undergone a significant change and so have the companies making them. Recently, we got an opportunity to interact with
Dr RN Galla, Chairman, Amara Raja Batteries Limited, who talked about the new technology developments within the company and the roadmap for the coming years.
The entire range of Amara Raja products available today has been developed on the basis of consumer feedback, said Galla. The product range, marketed as Amaron, is benchmarked with the best of the world in the same segment and all the technology has been developed indigenously, he added.
Although the company has a technical agreement with world leader in batteries, Johnson Controls Inc (JCI), the batteries in India aren't designed by the American company. Developed by Amara Raja in accordance with local requirements, JCI only helps in improvise the design.
An example he gave to highlight the technical capability of the battery was that of the three-wheelers in Singapore. These vehicles are famous for operating 24 hours in a day with only eight hours of maintenance scheduled for a month. In such a demanding operating cycle, the batteries used earlier usually didn't last for more than 12 months. Amara Raja's battery, on the other hand, gave an operating life of 18 months, said Galla. A similar experience was cited from Dubai, where Amaron batteries lasted longer than the competition despite the high temperature range there. The technology superiority hence has led to the company garnering a major marketshare in international markets.
Talking of the Indian market, Galla told us that the company already enjoys a strong presence in the aftermarket. Building further on its strength derived from the aftermarket, the company has now been able to win the confidence of OEMs across vehicle sectors as well, he added.
In order to stay competitive, the company's R&D team plays a crucial role as it continuously collects data from the market in order to make improvements to the product. The challenge the R&D team faces in a market such as India is offering the best of performance in adverse conditions at a low-cost. In order to do so, engineers have to make continuous process improvements and metallurgical enhancements, which do not result in a significant cost increase. The cooperative engineering with JCI plays an important role here, enabling Amara Raja to enhance efficiency across the board.
Talking of alternate chemistries, Galla said the company has been studying them but hasn't been deeply involved yet. JCI though has the latest technical know-how, which can be used as and when required. In present times though, the application prospects of new chemistries in India isn't too bright, Galla said.
With the Indian lead-acid battery market growing at a healthy rate, the company's present focus is to increase production capacity. The existing plant can produce about six million batteries per annum and there is already a new plant in the plans to further increase this number.
Speaking of the effect of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020, Galla said that if the projected numbers do translate into market numbers, Amara Raja with the help of its partner can quickly bring the required battery technology for different vehicles. That said there is usually a gap between the plans of the government and their implementation, making it tough for companies to commit resources solely on basis of a government announcement. Till that happens Amara Raja will continue to bolster its R&D capabilities to fine tune the lead-acid technology and expand production, concluded Galla.
Text: Arpit Mahendra