Cellex Putting Coimbatore on the Battery Map of India

Coimbatore has always been known for its entrepreneurial spirit. It is a well-known fact that the city is a key hub for the textile and pump industry. But did you know that with a recent launch, it has also found a place on the battery map of India? Yes, you heard it right. Cellex Battery Systems, headquartered in the city, had recently launched its ‘CELTAN’ brand of energy storage solutions (ESS). Our Consulting Editor M. K. Prabhakar caught up with Pramoth Madhavan, CEO and one of the four co-founders of the company, at its manufacturing facility for an exclusive chat and got to know more about the venture.

Speaking about the trigger to enter the energy storage sector, Pramoth said, “Primarily we were a group of friends with interest in this sector. Once this idea came up we did some deep research and after gaining good understanding of the opportunity pooled funds and setup the company.”

“Energy storage solutions did not receive its due prominence mainly due to lack of access to advanced Cell technology. With our access to advanced cell chemistry we are in a strong position to address this challenge effectively. It’s clear that the world is shifting from fossil fuels to renewable sources, due to environmental and economic reasons and energy storage is an integral part of the renewable energy ecosystem,” he added.

“Over the last decade, renewable energy generation has grown exponentially. For instance, the capacity of solar energy has expanded so much that it’s causing grid instability in many regions. In some cases, the grid is designed to handle, let’s say, 100 MW during a hot sunny day, but it’s receiving 200 MW, leading to grid breakdowns,” he said.

“This presents two main problems: overproduction and a mismatch between demand and supply. Additionally, there’s the issue of solar energy not being available during peak demand hours, such as from 6 pm to 10 pm. Without effective storage solutions, we’re unable to utilize solar power as per demand,” he explained.

Continuing further he stated, “In 2021 we registered out company and completed all our certifications. Our cells are certified by TUV Rheinland, and we completed other required certification. Last few years we have carried out rigorous testing to ensure that we are ‘right first time’ when we go to the market,” he said.

Advanced Battery Technology
“We are working with an advanced LFP technology,” he said, before adding, “ Firstly access to technology was very restricted. The high end batteries went mostly to the defence sector and the developed countries. What China did was to produce large quantities of lithium ion batteries and as they moved up the value chain and making better products they started pushing the earlier ones into India. As a result batteries without warranty, with low life and with very low safety standards came into the market. We have seen a lot of accidents happen because of such batteries.”

“Presently 90% of the storage market relies on Lead acid batteries which is a 200 year technology .These batteries have a very low efficient functioning life and also contributes heavily to environmental pollution,” Pramoth said.

According to him some of the salient features of the Celtan brand include, advanced next generation cell technology, innovative proprietary and manufacturing process, unmatched warranty, performance and ultra-long life ranging from 10- 30 year depending on the variants. Performance in extreme conditions (-40 to 60 degrees Celsius), high charge and discharge rate and recyclable green technology, are other key advantages. “Also in comparison to Lead acid storage CELTAN occupies approximately one-third of the space required, “he pointed out.

Focus Sectors
According to Pramoth the sectors that the company is focusing on includes, renewable energy storage, defence, data centers, commercial storage and specialized EVs.

“It is important to note that India is now the data center capital of the world and there is huge requirement for Lithium based energy storage in this area. Lithium ion technology will mean longer life, lesser space and low maintenance. Defence is another area we are keen on working with. Coimbatore is also an emerging defence manufacturing hub. We have had fruitful discussions with the Indian Navy and we hope to collaborate with the Indian defence sector. Then there is commercial storage, i.e., factories, shops and establishments. We will have batteries that can be stacked on one above another and work as a single huge battery. Then there are areas such as railways, bank ATMs, telecom towers, etc.” he said.

Specialized EVs
With respect to EVs the company will be focusing on specialized EVs. Going into details regarding the company’s strategy Pramoth elaborated,” As we speak the EV market is growing evolving. Last 7 odd years it has gone through a lot of changes. But again the problem of advanced cell chemistry is there. Companies are not able to offer higher warranties. The market is evolving. A lot of big name players are increasing their capacity. In the future they will have bigger capacities. That will help the EV industry.”

Speaking further he mentioned, “In our case, we will be focusing on specialized EVs for instance those that are used in defence, commercial vehicles, tippers, etc. As the EV market matures and with more robust regulations, we will look at this sector.”

According to Pramoth the Coimbatore manufacturing set up will be good for 30 MW output per annum. Going into further details he said, “If you look at the market volumes, 30 MW is small but we want to have organic growth for the first one to two years. From the second year we will almost double it. From the third year we are expecting exponential growth.”

Aftermarket Services
After market support services have emerged as a key differentiating factor in recent times. Speaking about the companies initiatives on the front, he observed, “When it comes to lithium ion batteries, the service requirement is very less, for unlike lead acid batteries, where you have to refill and maintain, there are no discharges these are dry cells. But any product will have its pros and cons. These batteries are made up of cells and even if one or two cells go below the charge, the battery could switch off. However, this will be controlled by the battery management system (BMS) and we can monitor. The service can be done on spot if the issue is minor .For larger issues we will look at replacing that battery till the time the other batteries are made to function properly.”

Optimistic Outlook
Pramoth feels that there is huge growth potential in the energy storage solution market. According to Pramoth India is going to consume over 2400 GW of batteries by 2032 surpassing even China. “That is USD 1 Trillion worth of batteries being consumed in India. In such a huge market I think the only restriction is in our mind, how much we want to grow. But having said that we have set ourselves of becoming a USD 1 Billion company in the next five years. As a first step towards the mark, in the near future, we want to put our products to various segments, make a name for ourselves” he said signing off.