A Battery Management System (BMS) is the heart of a Lithium-ion battery system. It plays a vital role to regulate, maintain and control the voltage, current and temperature of the battery pack, protecting it at all times. The BMS is an integral part of every Li-ion battery, from mobile phone batteries to electric vehicle (EV) batteries. [Voltage ranging from 3.6 V to 1000+ V (for cells connected in series) and current rating of 2 A to 500+ A (for cells connected in parallel)]. The major attribute of a BMS is to ensure the battery is operating within its specified operating limits.
The market for the BMS can be broadly classified into 6 application areas.
1. Electric vehicles – 2W, 3W, 4W and Heavy vehicles
2. ESS (Energy storage systems) – Solar, Home solutions, Telecom, Data centers, etc
3. Industrial applications – Robotics, warehouse cargo vehicles, handheld devices, etc
4. Medical applications – Portable medical devices
5. Defense applications
6. Aviation – Drones, portable power, etc
At present, the Indian market is heavily dependent on imports of battery solutions from China, right from lithium cells, BMS and other accessories. It will be a few more years before lithium-ion cell manufacturing takes off in India. Though we have a significant number of companies operating in battery packing and assembly space (cell to pack), Indian lithium battery packers majorly depend on foreign supply of BMS.
By 2024, the market size of EV Lithium battery segment in India is expected to be around USD 1.86 billion as estimated by consulting firm Frost and Sullivan. “Out of this, BMS market holds a value of around USD 576 million“, estimates Ramkumar iikshvaaku – Founder of Bengaluru based Vaakulab. The start-up aspires to capture 10% of the market share.
Ramkumar has been a long time importer of Chinese machineries for stone mining and processing industry, and wanted to venture into developing technology driven products under Make In India. Their initial idea was to develop swapping stations for electric 3Ws.
“At that time, heavy dependence on Chinese supplies and nonexistent local supply chain drove us to pivot to deep tech product research and development, and we evolved as a BMS design and manufacturing company”, says Ramkumar.
Essentially, Battery Management System is power electronics circuit board, that comes in following categories:
1. PCM – A protection board that does not come with cell balancing
2. Hardware BMS – Has the ability to regulate, protect and allows cell balancing. No data collection or remote monitoring
3. Smart BMS – Comes with firmware. Programmable, allows communication for remote monitoring, data transfer and control.
The team was in R&D mode for initial 2 years. In Feb 2020, they launched Hardware BMS (a 12V to 72V solution with current rating up to 50A). The team is currently pursuing the development of smart BMS and other high current rating BMS.
“This is a complete made in India solution, designed and developed after doing thorough R&D and survey among the Indian battery packers to suit the Indian conditions”, informs Ramkumar.
Multiple tier 1, tier 2 and small time battery packers have tested and validated this indigensed BMS. Although the volume is small at present, Vaakulab claims to have successfully cracked the pricing model for the Hardware BMS and offers the same on par with Chinese supplies without compromising on the quality, performance and efficiency and with 1 year service warranty.
Ramkumar adds, “Though Chinese imports also come with 1 year warranty but it is very hard to claim those warranties. Vaakulab BMS comes with a no-questions asked warranty claims against any malfunction”.
The currently available hardware BMS from the start-up finds applications in light electric vehicles, as well as Cranking BMS for ICE 2 wheelers. The same is being deployed in a pilot project to power the Ignition and Lighting of ICE 2 wheelers using Li-ion starter batteries, which has a huge potential considering the size of the Indian 2W market.
In electric vehicles space, the OEMs are looking to switch over to Smart BMS to enable data collection and analysis. Ramkumar says, “Our smart BMS development is underway keeping in mind the lower end of EV market that is 2W and 3W, offering performance, efficiency and value for competitively priced BMS. We are looking to launch the same in a couple of months time”.
The company has so far on boarded 2 Tier 1 lithium-ion battery packers, 9 Tier 2 battery packers commercially and is in the process of on boarding many more.
We look forward to following Vaakulab’s journey!
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