IGT delivers lightweight swappable battery packs through its association with Murata

Gurgaon based IndiGrid Technology (IGT) has been providing swappable NCA batteries for use in electric 2W and 3Ws for over a year. We caught up with Rishabh Puri – Director at Indigrid Technology to understand more about their work and scale of operations.

Most Indian OEMs are using LFP or NMC batteries. Why is IGT focused on NCA batteries? 

A leading Tier-I cell manufacturer (Murata) provides us with NCA cells that have low internal resistance and impedance, which deliver higher c-rates (charging and discharging currents) with lower heat generation. Hence, our battery pack has a high power density with the lowest weight of 9.5 kg, making it an ideal swappable battery pack for two-wheeler applications in India. 

Please tell us about your association with Murata. How does it work?

Currently, only IGT has access to Murata Cells in India (through an exclusive agreement) to develop and validate the swappable ecosystem for light electric vehicles.

Murata Business Engineering India has helped us develop a robust battery pack by giving key inputs regarding safety considerations in the battery pack along with working with our staff to adopt best practises while assembling the battery pack. The team continues to give us advice on areas of improvement in pack design, the assembly process, and maintaining quality.

What advantages do NCA batteries offer over other battery chemistries?

Cell chemistries are largely divided into two broad categories, i.e. cobalt-based and non-cobalt-based. Usually, non-cobalt chemistries like LFP have a lower power density as compared to cobalt-based chemistries like NCA or NMC. 

NCA batteries and NMC batteries are similar as they both share the layered cathode structure. However, NCA batteries replace the manganese of the NMC batteries with aluminium. This improves the specific energy and lifespan when compared to its NMC counterpart.

How do NCA batteries compare with NMC or LFP in terms of cost per kWh?

The cost per kWh of the battery depends on various factors, including the BMS used, the quality of the material used for the battery enclosure, the thermal solution deployed and the cells used. However, the chemistries should not be judged on their initial cost but on the normalised cost of energy delivered by the batteries throughout their usable life. For example, our partner can provide LFP cells with as many as 10,000 cycles of usable life. It is wrong to compare them with NMC or NCA cells with much lower life.

Currently, we are offering a solution that is of the same if not lower lifetime ownership cost as the currently available solutions while being much safer.

How does your prior experience with electronic system design and manufacturing help you with battery manufacturing? What kind of synergies have you been able to derive from that work?

We are familiar with the industry requirements and standards because we are from the ESDM sector and a vendor to well-known automotive OEMs and Tier 1 companies. This helps, especially since the process control involved is extremely stringent, and the same was adopted for our battery pack design and assembly, ensuring the highest level of production and quality standards.

Keeping note of our track record, our automotive customers, who are now venturing into the EV space, have shown a lot of interest in our battery packs and trials/deployment of the same are underway. Our experience not just limits us to being battery pack providers but to make and provide other ancillary electronic parts such as BMS, motor controllers and vehicle control units as well.

Can you talk about the BMS and thermal management systems used by IGT battery packs? Are these developed in-house or imported?

BMS and batteries are fully developed in India. The integrated BMS was thoroughly validated to ensure optimum functionality and safety at all critical levels-cell, module, and pack level.

Cell and Pack’s thermal performance capability ensures optimum performance at worst-case ambient temperatures in India. In addition to that, Murata’s NCA cells have less internal resistance/impedance as compared to other NCA cells, which enables safer and more efficient performance in the worst case, giving the battery technical superiority over others.

What kind of impact has the recent increase in battery raw material prices had on your operations and how are you managing the same?

An increase in raw material prices is always a challenge, but long-term planning and well-placed orders have helped us negate the immediate effects of this price rise. Hopefully, pack performance will lead to a lower total cost of ownership in the future when compared to competition, which will cover any premium due to raw material price increases.

Can you shed some light on what kind of testing setup or protocols you follow to test the incoming NCA cells and the outgoing battery packs?

Cells are tested and graded by QA by a cell grading/testing machine based on their voltage range and internal resistance, and in the case of any defects, they are eliminated and sent to the manufacturer for further fault analysis and post for recycling. For the most part, we have found that the cells we receive are within a tight tolerance and do not require further grading.

Each outgoing battery pack is thoroughly inspected and tested by running it through the specified charge-discharge cycle monitored by a CHROMA battery cycler testing machine, a global benchmark for battery testing at normal ambient temperatures.

Can you share information on your current scale of operations and scale-up plans for 2022?

Targets for the current financial year are 6.5MW and for 2022, 52 MW. Expansion plans are underway.

What kinds of EV OEMs are associated with IGT?

We are under strict NDA obligations and so will not be able to disclose names, but we are working closely with 2/3-wheeler OEMs, EAAS providers, MAAS providers, as well as certain automation equipment manufacturers where high-performance battery packs are a requirement.

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