Startup mantra: Charging up EV battery space

Published on Apr 09, 2022 04:08 PM IST

The startup founders and three forward-thinking young technologists – Akshay Singhal, Kartik Hajela and Pankaj Sharma – claim that their batteries can charge a two-wheeler in 15 minutes and three-wheelers in 35 minutes

Log9 Materials, an indigenous deep-tech startup, is redefining the electric vehicle (EV) industry’s battery charging standards with its two-wheeler and three-wheeler battery pack utilising the supercapacitor expertise. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)
Log9 Materials, an indigenous deep-tech startup, is redefining the electric vehicle (EV) industry’s battery charging standards with its two-wheeler and three-wheeler battery pack utilising the supercapacitor expertise. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)
BySalil Urunkar

Pune: Log9 Materials, an indigenous deep-tech startup, is redefining the electric vehicle (EV) industry’s battery charging standards with its two-wheeler and three-wheeler battery pack utilising the supercapacitor expertise. The startup founders and three forward-thinking young technologists – Akshay Singhal, Kartik Hajela and Pankaj Sharma – claim that their batteries can charge a two-wheeler in 15 minutes and three-wheelers in 35 minutes with battery life as long as 15 years.

In the beginning…

Akshay comes from the small town of Deoband in Saharanpur district while Kartik hails from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. While Akshay was pursuing Material Sciences, Kartik did his Chemical Engineering in IIT Roorkee. The two started a material sciences company in 2015 with an idea of creating local indigenous capacity and competency to create nanomaterials, especially carbon nanomaterials, for using in various applications.

Akshay said, “One of our college seniors introduced us to our third co-founder, Pankaj. He is a seasoned deep-tech entrepreneur in nanotechnology and has founded two startups previously into bio-computational drug discovery and nanomaterial interventions for brain cancer surgery.”

“We are the first company to be incubated at IIT Roorkee. We spent our first two years in the college incubator and during those days we grew more conscious towards climate change. We wanted to solve the climate change problems using the material competency which we had gained by create applications,” he said.

Later, Akshay enrolled into a PhD programme in Nanotechnology from IIT Roorkee while Kartik worked briefly at ITC. In 2017 they shifted their base to Bengaluru.

Identifying the gap

Akshay said, “We tried our two products, one in air or water filtration technology and second in energy storage which is the battery technology. We realised that for creating the most impact on climate change side, we need to solve for energy which in turn was solving for battery technologies. Batteries are required for electric vehicles as well as solar industry. Without battery, solar power scaling up is not possible.”

“A lot of global battery technologies were not made or designed keeping Indian requirements in minds. Whether it is our climatic conditions, the type of vehicles which we have, or the way we use our vehicles on our roads, these factors are not considered while making battery technologies and that’s the reason you see things blowing up, not performing consistently, battery dying early than it does in Europe or China market. We have to buy batteries at 30 to 50 per cent higher costs because the global innovator or a global battery leader doesn’t have any incentive to sell to us. That was the gap we identified. So, we thought we need to make technologies for India right from the material level – creating the cells and battery packs,” Akshay said.

Core competence

Log9 Materials is using its core competence in graphene nanotechnology to develop advanced energy storage technologies from electrode materials, cell to pack level. The rapid charging battery packs solve the challenges in adoption for the two-wheeler and three-wheeler electric vehicle platforms while the ‘Aluminium Fuel Cell’ technology is targeted towards the electrification of long haul, heavier vehicles.

Akshay says, “Quick charging and higher battery life can significantly increase the growth of EV adoption. We saw that there is a huge challenge of consistency and reliability, especially in the intracity segment which was heating up in the Indian market. People who have bought two-wheeler and three-wheeler EVs were not very happy with the performance. Batteries are not lasting for even two years, coupled with all the safety issues arising. The battery performance is also unreliable. There is no guarantee that the battery will run for 2 or 5 kilometres once it discharges to 30 per cent levels.”

“We started to build out technologies for this segment. Our batteries can be charged in less than 15 minutes and can last for more than 20 years. They can operate in any temperature, from -40 degree Celsius to +60 degree Celsius, without any thermal cooling required. Aluminium fuel cell technology, another technology track for long haul vehicles like trucks and buses operating inter-city, will be launched in 2-3 years down the line as we have more vehicles coming up in the segment,” Akshay said.

Tech know-how

Long haul LCVs and HCVs, including buses, are extremely difficult to be electrified using the conventional Li-Ion batteries. For the kind of range required, the total weight of the battery required will take away the entire load bearing capacity of the vehicle. Log9’s Aluminium Fuel Cell technology provides the benefits of the high energy density of fuel cells along with a solid, stable and recyclable fuel. The technology will be demonstrated first as a stationary power generation system followed by vehicular integration with leading EV OEMs in India.

Different vehicle platforms have unique requirements and hence there cannot be a one-type fit all battery technology. Quick charging in two-wheelers is limited by battery capacity rather than the grid. A normal 15-20 A plug point in our houses is sufficient to charge a 2W in less than 15 minutes however current available EV 2Ws in the market require at least 1.5 hours and generally 3-5 hours for a full charge.

Akshay said, “We use lithium-ion technology, but with a different formulation of lithium ion that we have innovated in the cell. As a company we have more than 30 patents filed. These are international patents, under which we have 30 months of international protection to decide the geographies, explore the markets and develop the product further. Whatever technology we are building for India, in India, is also applicable along the tropical belt of the world. Conditions in southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America are almost similar and so our technology will open up this market. For the first time, we will have battery technology out from India to almost half the globe.”

Funding

Log9 is backed by leading venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Exfinity Ventures, as well as strategic investors such as Amara Raja Batteries and Petronas (Malaysia). Sharing his fund-raising experience, Akshay says, “Back in 2015, there was no EV wave. No one was talking about batteries, especially typical hardware-based product startups in that segment. It was obviously tough to raise capital. We were lucky to get investors and backers early on. They have stayed with us on a long-drawn journey of seven years. Investors were willing to work with us, help us grow and scale further.”

“My family actively supported me in my entrepreneurial journey, especially in the initial days. The first graphene carbon nanomaterial line was setup in the godown of my house. My mother, who had chemistry background, would run the operations over there and my father would take care of finance, etc,” Akshay recalls.

“So far, Log9 has raised $17 million in equity and $8 million in debt. Out of this, $10 million was raised in equity last year. We are in the process of closing another round,” Akshay said.

Akshay stated that the entire funding is being utilised for product development. “We have a team of more than 100 people in cell–level research, battery pack development and product development. The overall team size is of 350 people across manufacturing, operations, business development.”

Revenues and sales

•Log9 has got more than 1,000 batteries out in the market in just three months of going commercial in December 2021 across two-wheelers and three-wheelers.

•Battery-As-A-Service: For two-wheeler EVs, Log9 has offered a ‘Battery as a Service’ model. In this model, the customer pays only for the vehicle hull upfront. The battery in the vehicle is fixed. The upfront purchase cost of entire vehicle reduces and the battery subscription cost becomes the fuel cost. This model is especially useful for 2W EVs used for delivery services as these vehicles are not expected to run for more than 3 years. Log9 battery has 20 years life and hence by only replacing the hull, the vehicle can be ‘re-new-ed’. This model reduced the number of batteries, material required and amount of waste generated in the market.

oBattery subscription cost: 2,500 per month

•Buyback for 3-wheelers: The cost of the vehicle with Log9 batteries is higher by 50,000, as compared to other battery-equipped vehicles. However, the customer gets fast-charging (35 minutes) and a 1 lakh buyback guarantee on the fifth-year post-sales. This establishes the resale value of the vehicle. Customer saves 1.4 lakh on battery replacement after second year. Besides, customers are able to get financing for 4-year tenure on the 3-wheeler, which usually is done only for 2 years.

Exploring tie-ups

Akshay participated in the recently organised Pune Alternate Fuel Conclave. According to him, the Maharashtra government is doing phenomenal work in carbon emission reduction. “We are exploring how we can be involved in the interventions of the Maharashtra government to clean up the grids and vehicles.”

Future plans

•Team Log9 is constantly developing technology and within couple of years it will have battery with just 5-6 minutes charging time

•Since lithium is a rare resource, Akshay’s team is working with various raw material suppliers and a startup from IIT Roorkee itself, to secure its supply through recycling. This startup has developed a new technology to recycle lithium at very cheap operating cost.

•Log9 is also working with aluminium companies to get access to battery grade aluminium.

•The company is introducing a versatile range of sustainable high density energy storage solutions.

•Through its initiative, the Responsible Delivery Movement, Log9 is leading an industry-wide consortium of OEMs, aggregators, end users, and other stakeholders to raise awareness about the threat of climate change and to mobilise the first and last mile delivery ecosystem to combat it.

The journey so far

•2015 – Bootstrapped 50 lakh; IIT Roorkee – 15 lakh

•2017 –Seed funding of 1.5 crore from GEMS Partners

•2018 – Pre-Series A funding of $500k from multiple angel investors.

•2019 – Series-A funding round of $4 million from VC firms like Sequoia Surge, Exfinity Venture Partners, etc., to develop and optimise aluminium fuel cells and supercapacitor technologies.

•2021 – Series A+ equity funding round of $10 million led by Amara Raja Batteries Limited and participated by PETRONAS Malaysia.

Target customers

Commercial application of vehicles

•2W for food delivery

•3W for logistics, grocery

•4W cargo or taxi

•Bus

•Truck

Battery Integration with 9 platforms and 7 OEMs

•Hero Electric and Jitendra EV on the 2-wheeler platform

•Already live with Omega Seiki on 3-wheeler cargo platform. Strategic partnership announced to deploy 10,000 3-Wheeler Rage+ Rapid EVs in Tier II and III markets of India by FY24.

•Supporting these 3W EV Cargo Loaders will be Log9’s InstaCharging stations that promise to charge a 3W completely within 35 minutes, as compared to up to 3.5 hours taken by conventional 3Ws.

•Battery cost to OEM depends on the design and various negotiations

Market size

•$100 billion+ market across 2W, 3W, 4W, truck, bus segment

EV startups

•India – 1,010 (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade – DPIIT – recognised – 357)

•Maharashtra – 205 (78)

•Pune – 85 (31) ♥

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