Kolkata: India’s largest automotive battery maker Exide Industries Ltd Thursday said it is planning to reduce dependence on lead—a key component of lead-acid batteries that it makes—by developing new technology with a US-based partner.

The company claims that Lead suffers from erratic price movement which prompted it to go for developing the new ‘bipolar based battery technology’ in association with a US-based company.

Bipolar battery technology makes lead-acid batteries lighter, more cost-efficient and consume less lead, it said.

“We are currently developing bipolar lead acid storage battery and have a technical tie up with US-based Adavanced Battery Concept. This will be a disruptive technology," Exide managing director Gautam Chatterjee said after the company’s annual general meeting in Kolkata.

Currently, 40% of the cost of manufacturing lead-acid batteries go into lead. With the successful rollout of the new tech, expected to take over a year, lead consumption would reduce to 30%, he said.

“A 10% reduction in lead cost will bring a huge cost advantage," Chatterjee said.

He said Exide would decide on a later stage the uses of the bipolar lead-acid batteries. If they are meant for e-rickshaws, Exide will set up a plant at West Bengal’s Haldia to manufacture it.

On the other hand, if the batteries are meant for telecommunications, then Exide will manufacture them at Hosur in Tamil Nadu, Chatterjee said.

“Haldia will anyway get most of the Rs1,100 crore capex investment in FY’19 for brownfield expansion of lead-acid batteries and a new recycling plant on two plots land at Haldia," Chatterjee said.

Speaking about the company’s entry into lithium ion batteries via a joint venture with a Swiss company, he said Exide will make use of the Tudor facility in Gujarat.

Last month, in a notification to the stock exchanges, Exide had said it has entered into an agreement to acquire the Gujarat-based facility of Tudor India.

Tudor is the Indian arm of the US-based Exide Technologies. Last year, Exide Industries had announced that it had reached an out-of-court settlement with Exide Technologies over rights for using the Exide mark in India.

“We are transferring the facility in favour of the joint-venture. Initially, we will procure cells until we get a viable volume. If we produce the cells of lithium ion batteries then it would require an investment of about Rs800 crore," Chatterjee said.

Exide maintained that it would continue to grow insurance business but agreed that it remains a drag on return on capital, Chatterjee told the shareholders.

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