Inside Nexcharge’s fully automated battery pack assembly plant at Prantij, Gujarat

Nexcharge, a joint venture between Exide Industries Limited (Exide) and Leclanché SA, recently announced the inauguration of its state-of-the-art, fully automated Lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing plant at Prantij, Gujarat. The company has invested more than INR 250 Crore in this manufacturing facility.

We caught up with Stefan Louis, CEO at Nexcharge, to find out more :

What are the current offerings by Nexcharge?

Since commencing operations in India in 2018, Nexcharge has been working to fast-track India’s transformation towards sustainable energy solutions. We cater to the diverse market segments by offering Li-ion batteries of different chemistries viz. NMC, LFP, LTO and form factors viz. Pouch/ Prismatic/ Cylindrical.

Nexcharge offers battery packs for electric 2W, 3W and commercial vehicles in the transportation business; telecom, UPS, inverter battery packs in Industrial and Utility; as well as large format ESS. Our current product range is substantial and our new production lines warrant us the flexibility to assemble products of different sizes and designs. We can now make 3V to 1000 V battery packs with sizes varying from 10 centimetres to 2 meters.

Tell us more about the Prantij facility.

The plant covers a total area of 6,10,098 square feet and is India’s largest for producing Li-ion battery packs and modules. This facility has a 1.5 GWh installed capacity and six fully automated manufacturing lines and testing labs.

Production setup is divided into three sections:

  • Module Assembly, which has 3 production lines for assembling Cylindrical, Pouch, and Prismatic Cells.

  • Pack Assembly, which has 2 lines for High Voltage and Low Voltage packs.

  • FG Testing section, which has a set of 20 testers for charging and discharging cycle and BMS functioning. 

Nexcharge is also supported by a state-of-the-art, in-house R&D facility in Bangalore.

What does full automation entail?

As an example, if you look at the production line for 2W battery packs, it is a high capacity line and fully automated. It means that the operators do not touch the products. The operators only load the production line with components, the components are assembled by the robots. At the end of the production line, there is one operator removing the completely assembled product from the production line. So, all of the processes are fully automated. There are two reasons to do this. One is speed as it is a high capacity line which can handle 4500 cells per hour. The second reason for this high level of automation is the management of quality.

If I look at another production line, for example, our prismatic line, there are a few processes that require manual intervention but again most of the processes are automated. Wherever the process or operation has a potential impact on product quality or wherever a process requires such a speed that it will require too many operators, we have automated those.

Can you talk about your process for testing incoming cells for quality control?

1. First, when we select a cell for a particular product design, we have to ensure that the cell will work well in that particular application. For this, we have an R&D lab to characterize the cell in various ways – Can it deliver the power? Can it deliver the energy? Will it not get too hot under Indian circumstances? And will it have the life that the customer expects from it?

2. Once the design is complete and we go to production, we also have to test the cells that will come in. Every cell is automatically tested by the production line that automates the assembly of the cell into the module. the testing parameters are different for different types of cells. For some cells, we will automatically measure the size of the cell to ensure that it fits in the battery pack. We will always check the open-circuit voltage and the AC internal resistance.

Quality Lab

3. Once the battery pack is completely assembled, it goes into our finished goods testing line where we basically measure the capacity of the battery pack. If a battery pack is supposed to supply 10 kWh, we actually charge the battery, discharge it completely and recharge it ready for shipment. The discharge is done to actually measure if the battery will supply that 10 kWh. If there is one cell in the battery pack that has a problem, the battery will not be able to supply the 10 kWh. In addition to that, all the cells in one battery pack also have to match each other. For cylindrical cells, we ensure that by an automated process of matching the cells with each other. When it comes to the prismatic and pouch cells, this is undertaken by the cell manufacturer.

Is 1.5GWh the full capacity or is there a scope to further increase the capacity in the same plant?

Yes, 1.5GWh is indeed the full capacity, but we still have space left. In total, we have 5 bays and 4 are currently in use, 1 is still free and we could further clear one more bay. So, we have some free space for additional production lines. Currently, we have sufficient capacity which will last us a few years before it is fully utilized. But, we may require to put additional production lines, for the purpose of bringing in new technology into our factory.

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