Log 9 to focus on e-LCV development and cell manufacturing plans in  FY 23-24 period.

January 9, 2023
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Dr. Akshay Singhal Founder Log 9

Bengaluru, January 9, 2023

Amar Raja Batteries backed Log 9 Materials which started off making EV batteries for two-wheelers is scaling up its operations to kick-start domestic manufacturing of cells by April 2023. Its founder, 30-year-old Dr. Akshay Singhal who is an IIT Roorkee Alumnus and  Ph.D. in nanotechnology is sitting on an order book of 20,000 plus battery packs for his  RapidX 2000&6000 batteries for two-wheelers, and RapidX 8000 for three-wheelers. Besides Amar Raja which has a 15.4 percent stake,  Sequoia and Exfinity Ventures have also taken positions in the battery-to-cell maker. Log 9 basis such ambitious moves has shored up its current valuation and is pegged around Rs 1,700 crore or $213 million basis the last round of fundraising.

In an exclusive interview with EV Story at their Jakkuru Layout headquarters in North Suburban Bengaluru, Singhal shares his current and future plans

1. How was FY 22 for Log9? Can you share some of your achievements this year?

FY22 has been nothing less than spectacular for Log9 from all the facets of our business. To start with, the people who have been the backbone of our journey, our tribe has grown from less than 50 people in Jan’22 to over 550 people today. Our product range has evolved and today caters to 2Ws, 3Ws, 4Ws, and forklifts. To share a few numbers, we today have over 2000 batteries deployed in the market that have cumulatively covered 2 million kilometers, thus reducing the carbon footprint by 180+ tonnes. 

We are working with over 15 different vehicle manufacturers across different vehicle platforms and have launched commercial utility two, three, and four-wheeled vehicles.

We have been able to aggregate the largest Charging infra on our InstaCharge app for rapid charging of these vehicles on the road by working with leading Charge Point Operators (CPOs) in the country and have been able to increase the utilization of existing public chargers by up to 10 times. 

We have raised over $50 million so far and are constantly ramping up manufacturing capacity at Log9 to serve the ever-growing EV demand in the country. 

2. How do you think domestic cell manufacturing is shaping up? Also, on your cell manufacturing plans can you share the latest updates?    

Developing cell technology is no easy feat. Any attempt to copy-paste chemistries and solutions that were inherently developed to solve the Western world’s operational conditions and applications won’t translate well in the Indian tropical climate. In the short run, sure a lot of over-engineering can help mask the misfit but over time the market as a whole will suffer and eventually reject such solutions.

A lot of work still needs to be done by the ACC PLI winners, validation of PLI firms and their technology as well as execution strategy is still underway by the government. We will see adjustments within these projects as they begin to understand the depth of such an undertaking. 

The lack of in-house R&D (not just to validate any chemistry recipe they can buy but to develop ground-up with Indian conditions in mind) will limit the impact of such cell technologies in the Indian market. Additionally, supply chain restrictions on manufacturing and testing equipment also add months to cell manufacturing projects. 

3) How far do you think India’s local cell manufacturing is from now and what will be your approach?

Any scaled-up local cell manufacturing is still at least 3 years away in India. Log9’s approach is to indigenize curated technologies, which we have validated against real-world India-first Indian conditions, material selection, cell level sub-component, and design considerations have to be made to truly develop technology that is made with an India-first approach. 

Before Day Zero 21st April 2023, our 50 MW/h Pilot cell manufacturing facility will be fully operational. 

Ironically, we will host India’s largest cell manufacturing capacity for EV and BESS applications. The manufacturing line will allow us to stabilize our cell manufacturing processes and experiment with a wide range of cylindrical cell formats before scaling to Gigawatt manufacturing levels. 

More on our plans for cell manufacturing, battery production, and other important developments will be revealed as we raise the curtains on Day Zero 2023. 

4) What are your fundraising plans and where would you like to deploy the funds?

Yes, we are actively raising funds for ensuring substantial capital for our cell and battery technology. So far we have raised over $50 million and we are looking forward to raising up to $400-500Mn by FY25.

The plans for the deployment of these funds are on the expansion of our battery pack assembly line and building a large Gigafactory scale cell manufacturing facility. We will also continue to fund R&D on cell and battery pack development, from material-level changes to pack-level engineering. 

A good amount of the funds will also be invested in the ongoing AFC developments, which will gain pace and reach stack-level optimization (based on the insights of our in-house experts).

Apart from these areas, we are also deploying funds to expand our teams, setting up new offices in Pan India, and mapping manpower to ensure after-sales support across our service areas. 

5). How do Aluminum Air fuel cells provide solutions for long-haul intra-city e-commerce?

Aluminium Air Fuels Cells a.k.a AFCs have proven to be a truly green energy solution, but the way we envisage technology to evolve when it comes to long-haul inter-city travel, AFCs will work in tandem with Li-Ion batteries.  

During long-haul intercity transport, there’s an intermittency of charging infrastructure. AFCs are designed to generate energy at a constant rate with high energy density (no. of km per kg of battery). So, to develop an ideal ecosystem for intercity travel, Li-Ion batteries can be coupled with AFCs for long-haul applications, where AFCs will continue to charge the Li-ion batteries at a constant rate, while the Li-Ion batteries will power the vehicle as per the load and operational requirements. 

Will you also be looking to target the truck electrification space and get into areas like green hydrogen? or can BEVs support India's truck electrification transition?

LCV electrification has already begun with the first proto batch of LCVs with our RapidX battery being procured by Maersk for their launch of the logistics electrification program in India. You will see more updates throughout the year with our OEM partners.

No, we don’t have plans to get into green hydrogen. Hydrogen while a potent technology stack, is still unclear the degree of its adoption in all the use cases currently presented. Its cost of manufacturing, safe & long-duration storage, and transportation will be some of the determining factors in terms of which hydrogen applications mature. 

Our approach to an AFC hybrid system is inherently different in that energy generation can take place in adequate quantity within the vehicle itself. Basic physics: a solid is denser than a gas or liquid hence Aluminium inherently for the same weight will carry more energy potential. Hybrid electrification of LCVs and trucks can also solve the intercity transport issue. 

7. On EV charging in India, what is your assessment of the current way we are going?

Without any doubt, the EV charging infrastructure has evolved but is yet to come of age. There are quite a few challenges that we foresee. First, the need for adequate charging stations across the country. Thanks to multiple private and public partnerships and investments, these numbers have come up, but if we’re to be compared to the ICE fuel points, lack behind. We do see alternate addresses to this, partly via on-road mobile charging infrastructure, and also on the battery technology front. 

However, putting up charging stations is not the complete solution for the current lack of charging infra in the country. 

90 Don't you think it's too much of a nightmare to travel between cities using an EV?

The often overlooked issue is the lack of adoption of different chargers. It is equally important to set up chargers with data planning, ensuring optimum utilization of the chargers. 

OEMs should invest time, research, and funds in mapping routes for their Passenger as well as a commercial electric vehicle) customers and adopting a specific charger type to ensure maximum utilization of charging infra. 

This ensures gradual growth of Charging infra based on pockets of high commercial vehicle charging demand and once the infra grows it will serve all types of vehicles.

At Log9, we believe that for sub-100volt systems (2Ws and 3Ws), Bharat DC 001 charging protocol is the best fit as it enables fast charging. 

When we can fast-charge 2Ws and 3Ws, we also boost the demand and utilization of charging infra (less waiting time for customers at the charging stops/increased revenue for the CPO as more EVs stop by to charge through the day). 

And for larger vehicles, CCS2 DC fast charging is the way to go. These two charging protocols can take care of all sorts of vehicular platforms.

Next comes clarity regarding the different types of charging points available in the market. Today, our customers are unable to decipher between them, making their operations difficult. 

Lastly, comes the payments where there are multiple modes and points of payment, but no unison between them. Consumer education plays an important role, and ease of discovery, booking, and payments for chargers put up by multiple players on a common app becomes important 

8. Can battery swapping in 2-wheelers work in rural areas aided by solar?       

In principle, we do not see battery swapping as a promising route to keeping the vehicles on road. Especially not in rural areas where the density of vehicles is significantly lower than in urban centers. 

Swapping requires a very high density of vehicles of the same type using the same batteries for it to be viable, it’s not even possible in urban centers forget rural India.

Battery swapping is an operational solution to today’s cell and battery-level technological constraints. While it aids in faster adoption of EVs, swapping does very little to solve the inherent technological challenge of finding the right energy and power density mix for an economically viable and scalable.

9) What are the CAPEX challenges you see for battery swapping?

From the high CAPEX that it entails to operational complexities arising out of different battery models, to concerns around safety given swappable packs must be light enough for consumers to carry and space efficient, leaving little room for active cooling, battery swapping comes with more risks and challenges than a benefit to the customer. 

However, we do encourage getting the charging infrastructure powered by solar as that paves the path to a truly green mobility ecosystem. In such a scenario, Battery Electric vehicles have an undeniable advantage in terms of emissions per Km driven as compared to any other technology currently known.                                            

10)What are the broad trends in FY 23-24 that will redefine India's EV growth story?

One of the major trends in FY 23-24 will be the ongoing mass acceptance of the e3W overpowering ICE 3W market.  Additionally, the technology and vehicle are proving to be more effective than the anticipation of fleet owners earlier this year. Furthermore, e3Ws will also eat into the 4W LCV segment, a growing market that’s taking over service routes traditionally reserved for LCVs. 

Electrification moving up vehicle platforms from e3Ws to e4Ws, specifically, commercial LCVs is signaling immense trust and mass acceptance of the technology.

On the passenger electric vehicle front, hatchbacks and smaller vehicle platforms are to be electrified. The goal for OEMs is to push out more affordable vehicle options to enable mass adoption. 

There’s a lot of excitement from the start-up sector as multiple start-ups will evolve out of stealth and launch their products this year. This will witness Indian ingenuity and the chance for start-ups to truly give leading OEMs a challenge. 

EV options within each vehicle category will grow, giving consumers the ability to choose between products, and ultimately boosting adoption rates. It is typical of any technology that is heading toward maturity. 

As EV density grows, charger utilization will increase, improving unit economics for CPOs hence allowing them to expand their networks further therefore new geographies and high-traffic inter-city routes will be unlocked for EVs. Overall adoption on the ground is happening faster than any estimate or model put out. 

11) What are the challenges you see moving forward in FY 23-24 and how do you plan to make the change?

The biggest challenge for any OEM or battery/cell technology company is the dependency on foreign countries for supply chain/raw materials. Moreover, India’s uptake of the resources is very low which gives us little room for negotiation. 

OEMs need to prove quality maintenance and broader scale. As vehicle growth is outpacing EV infrastructure growth, infra must move fast to not continue becoming a limiting factor for mass acceptance in the commercial EV sector. Such a scenario will slow down India’s ability to reach its Net Zero goals.

Another critical challenge is the dire need for vehicle and battery level service with the boosting mass EV adoptions across the nation. We have set up Log9 service stations across states to address the high uptime needs of our customers. 

As OEMs learn the limits of their technology stacks and gauge real-life user interaction with EVs, they need to adapt their service strategy to suit real-world driving data received from vehicles on road for the past 2 years. It will be interesting to see how many OEMs can keep up on the service end to ensure a smooth customer experience, especially when these early adopters whose word of mouth carries the most weight.

At a macroscopic level, the impact on the grid level is not yet an attention-grabbing point. However, some high EV adoption areas of the country are witnessing slow charging infrastructure deployments due to power availability already. The Indian government (state and center) must proactively intervene to upgrade the conditions with a foresight approach. 

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EVStory team is group of well seasoned journalists from the e-mobility segment with rich experience in the auto industry.

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