We Believe in Designing for Indian Requirements: Log9 Materials Founder and CEO Akshay Singhal

Log9 Materials is an advanced EV battery technology and deep-technology startup that was founded in 2015

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"Whatever battery technology or cell technology we are creating are specifically designed for Indian conditions and requirements. Because all the other batteries which are being designed do not keep Indian conditions in mind, be it the temperature profiles that we have or the type of vehicles that we use, or the way we use them," said Akshay Singhal, founder and CEO, Log9 Materials, during an exclusive interview with Entrepreneur India at the Green Vehicle Expo 2022 in Bengaluru.

Company Handout

Log9 Materials is an advanced EV battery technology and deep-technology startup that showcased its entire range of product offerings and its cutting-edge and indigenously-developed innovations/technology-based solutions for the EV, energy storage and other allied domains at the expo. This is an annual event organized in tune with the Government of India's commitment towards encouraging cleaner and sustainable mobility in India.

For the first time through its participation at the Green Vehicle Expo, Log9 unveiled new range of electric vehicles for last-mile logistics across different EV platforms – including 2-wheelers, 3-wheelers and 4-wheelers – all of which are InstaCharged by Log9's RapidX batteries.

Explaining proudly about what the startup does, Singhal told us, "We are primarily a material science company. So that expertise is what we have leveraged to get into the energy storage battery space. Because batteries are made up of cells and cells are made up of materials. So that's the entire value chain that we cover from a mateiral to cell to pack level and the only company to be doing so in India."

Customizing for India

Singhal believes that when technologies are brought in without any customization, we either see cost issues or performance issues such as the ones we have seen in recent months. He explained further with an example. "Let's say if you can charge a normal li-ion cell 2000 to 3000 times, that is, you can charge and discharge in its life. But that number of cycles is available at a 25 degree celsius lab condition. Moment you take those cells and put them in vehicles in Indian conditions where typically the average temperature is around 40 degree Celsius, the life is reduced by 50 per cent. That is on the performance or the life expectancy segment. At the same time, higher temperature makes them more prone to safety issues."

This is what Log9 is striving to solve for along with providing advanced features like rapid charging, so that one can charge quicly and then go for another shift of operations.

The startup also claims that the cost is also fixed according to Indian consumers. Explaining how, he said, "Because our batteries last for almost nine times more as compared to other batteries in the market, so whatever the upfront cost is, it gets divided and per km cost comes down significantly and we are still able to get all the advanced features."

A PhD in nanotechnology

Singhal graduated from IIT Roorkie in 2015 and around the same time he not only started Log9, but also enrolled in a Ph. D programme in nanotechnology over there. "This was the first time a BTech in IIT Roorkee was doing a PhD there. And so they were able to offer me a part time programme where I could build a startup and at the same time get an understanding on all these things. We are also the first company to be formally supported by the campus itself. We were the first incubated company in it," said Singhal.

The entrepreneurship journey for Singhal started with a passion for indigenous technology development. He felt that Indians have so far been technology adopters, and not technology creators. "When I went out for internships across Canada, I realized that it's not like we don't have resources or the know-how, we just don't want to make an effort within India. We are happy going out and doing all the work but not doing it in India. So that was the motivating factor for me to start with," he said.

Additionally, he believes that his upbringing also has a role to play in choosing this path. "My family has always been climate conscious. While those terminologies were never used, the outlook was that. So, when I started, the idea was to build a product which I can solve for climate change. If you look at all the way we have designed our products or positioned the products, it is to create the largest climate impact," he said.

That is the reason the company focusses on the B2B applications of EVs right now as that's where utilization is high enough to create a positive climate. In the B2C space, Singhal believes it requires more of electricity generation to come from green sources before a real green impact can come from it.

Lithium-ion alternatives

While a lot of people are looking at Li-ion alternatives like Nickel, Cobalt, Aluminium, among others, Singhal firmly believes that these are much more challenging than Lithium. "When we talk about designing cells for Indian requirements, it also means availability of resources within India and Nickel and cobalt are much more complicated in supply chain as compared to Lithum. So what we have done is that in our chemistry choices, we have completely eliminated these two so that we are not dependent on China where supply chain becomes messy," he said.

An alternative that the compay is heavily investing into is urban mining, which is basically recycling old batteries, taking out Lithium and putting in new batteries. Singhal believes that India can become a hub of recycling and create an artificial source of lithium in country. He believes that it is the only way we can be sustainable end to end.

According to Singhal, it can easily take four five years to stabilize all of these supply chains for really large companies to be able to do that. Talking about the challenges in EV, he said that the biggest challenge is that the demand is much higher than the supply. And, another challenge is talent. "This is happening in India for the first time we are the first company doing cell technology over here. So getting access to talent, when the talent is crunched worldwide, is problematic," he said.

Lastly, talking about NITI Aayog's report which is optimistic about 100 per cent EV penetration in two-wheelers in India by FY27, he said that he is optimistic too. "Also, we should have those kinds of targets, otherwise it will never happen," he said.