EXCLUSIVE: Mahindra to launch ‘Born Electric’ EV range with BYD blade cells, Valeo electric motors
M&M partners with BYD and Farasis for broad basing supply base for battery cells to meet product timelines.
With a defined plan of launching over 5 electric models in the next three years, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) is working overtime to secure its supply base, especially the critical battery cells which for now are still imported.
Exactly a year ago, Mahindra tied up with Volkswagen to source EV components, notably the battery cells and the electric motor for its upcoming INGLO-based vehicles, but this has run into delays, and people in the know say the supply of these critical parts from VW’s MEB architecture may not come before 2026-27. Mahindra’s first born EV – the .e8 – meanwhile is due by late 2024.
Sources say that Mahindra & Mahindra also explored several other battery suppliers, soon after signing the deal with VW just to broaden its supply base to ensure that there are no disruptions in supply as it had witnessed post Covid-19.
The homegrown automaker has already struggled with battery supplies for the XUV400 which uses pouch cells from LG Chem with an NMC 532 cathode. However, the Korean battery supplier discontinued the 532 chemistry, and has been unable to supply battery cells to Mahindra in the required quantity, which was also the reason for the XUV400’s delayed launch. However, Mahindra has since managed to secure a continuous supply of batteries for the XUV400 from Chinese battery maker Farasis which makes cells with similar chemistry and construction to the ones from LG Chem.
While Farasis will supply batteries ranging from 32kWh to 40kWh for the XUV400, we have now learned that BYD will be supplying the 60kWh and 80kWh batteries for the upcoming ‘Born Electric models’. Mahindra has also secured the electric motor from French component supplier Valeo which will drive the .e8.
Sources reveal that dealing with VW has been more challenging than Mahindra anticipated, with lots of paperwork involved in handling IPR, legal and compliance issues. But having a non-exclusive arrangement with VW, Mahindra has been in talks with BYD almost parallelly.
The ‘Born Electric’ range was conceived with two battery sizes, 60kWh and 80kWh packs, both with LFP technology. VW was to supply the 60kWh pack, while BYD was to supply the 80kWh pack. The reason why Mahindra went with BYD for the larger battery pack is because VW could not give an 80kWh option which BYD could, with its blade cell technology.
However, due to delays on VW’s part, BYD will be supplying both the 60kWh and 80kWh battery packs right from launch, until VW is ready with its next-generation ‘unified’ cell technology, which will use LFP chemistry. The unified cell design has several advantages over the previous LFP cells. It is a larger cell which allows for higher energy density and improved thermal management which results in longer range and faster charging times.
Also, the unified cells are more scalable and flexible to be adapted to different vehicle sizes and for different power requirements.
BYD’s blade cell technology will also be in the Maruti YY8 that’s due around the same time.
Given the current political stand-off with China, BYD has no plans for cell manufacturing in India, which means in the short term, the cells will be imported from China. Mahindra has already committed over Rs 10,000 crore in the electric vehicle business and has secured interest from private equity investors like Temasek and British International Investment.
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