Reliance New Energy to set up 20,000 solar powered swappable battery stations
The company aims to replicate success of oil and gas energy business to zero emission mobility ecosystem.
As part of its US $10 billion investment in the clean energy space, Reliance Industries’ subsidiary Reliance New Energy has defined a plan to install 20,000 battery swapping stations across its 18,000 retail outlets and 2000 Jio BP centres in the coming years.
The aim is to replicate the success of the oil and gas space by developing a value chain in the zero-emission energy space. Reliance will source its own material, develop its own batteries, and offer swappable battery stations from renewable sources to accelerate the move towards zero-emission space.
The Fortune 500 company on Wednesday displayed an electric scooter prototype that runs on an in-house-developed LFP battery wired to its solar-enabled battery swapping station. This was embedded in an app that runs the entire solution which was shown at the Renewable Energy India Expo 2023 - underlining the areas where Reliance Energy is likely to play in the future zero emission mobility space.
A company presentation at the event stated that a host of use case applications were in the works, including customisable batteries for both personal and work usage, intelligent swap stations and integrated charging networks. It further stated that Reliance had no aim of entering the EV manufacturing space, but would join hands with EV makers, as per the presentation.
A Reliance official speaking to Autocar Professional said the company has developed a central monitoring solution (CMS) platform in which the battery communicates with the two-wheeler, which connects to the swap station, which draws energy from the solar panels that Reliance intends to invest in, to create a net zero ecosystem.
The consumer, fleet operator, or even EV as a solution provider only needs to invest in the electric scooter without the battery; Reliance will handle the entire value chain, claimed the official.
Reliance also displayed an app at the Renewable Energy India Expo 2023 that integrates all aspects of the ecosystem, including the solar panel, telematics data from the electric scooter battery, and the swapping station.
To be sure, the company has already acquired two battery companies - Faradion, which makes sodium ion batteries, and Lithium Werks for about Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,700 crore in the last few years, for both sodium-ion batteries and lithium iron phosphate (LFP)batteries. The LFP battery was showcased at the show.
Reliance New Energy to invest in the full ecosystem
The New Energy division has also developed the electric scooter's powertrain, motor controller, and Battery Management System, allowing potential two- and three-wheeler OEMs to join and select the form factor in which they would like to use Reliance's battery for their business.
Reliance New Energy will invest in solar and battery-swapping infrastructure so that the customer, who could be a gig worker, two-wheeler EV consumer, or even a fleet provider, can transact on a pay-per-use basis.
New energy business plans to reduce battery swapping costs by one-third
Reliance is betting heavily on solar power to reduce the current cost of swapping from Rs 40–50 per KW charged by existing operators to less than Rs 5 per KW.
To cover operating costs, existing swapping companies have raised their rates, and the current EV swapping charges range between Rs 30 and Rs 50 per kWh.
Today, a battery swapping customer pays nearly five times the cost of operational power and management fees charged by existing swapping companies. Solar will cut costs by more than a third. Reliance has the infrastructure with its Jio BP fuel stations and other retail touch points where there are no operational costs and power is available on demand.
A Reliance official speaking to Autocar Professional said the company has developed a central monitoring solution (CMS) platform in which the battery communicates with the two-wheeler, which connects to the swap station, which draws energy from the solar panels that Reliance intends to invest in, to create the ecosystem.
The government's Rs 18,100 crore production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for Advance Chemistry Cell (ACC) storage will benefit Reliance significantly. Reliance has been granted 5GWh by the Ministry of Heavy Industries, which it intends to use to further reduce the cost of the batteries.
Being OEM-agnostic is the heart of the solution
Reliance intends to be OEM-agnostic while also supporting vehicle makers by providing the entire energy ecosystem, which will include two-wheeler powertrain software, cells, battery packs, and solar-powered swap stations.
The Indian government has set a target of 500 GW of renewable energy installations by 2030. Solar is expected to account for the majority of this, with 280 GW. As of February 2023, India had 65 GW of solar power capacity.
"The only way to reduce the cost of a two-wheeler or three-wheeler is to separate the battery from the vehicle. Battery as a service with a pay-per-use model will be the future," the company spokesperson told Autocar Professional.
Reliance also intends to introduce standardised batteries, allowing entry-level two-wheeler start-ups and even mid-stage EV manufacturers to migrate to the Reliance multi-energy powertrain architecture.
"The two-wheeler or three-wheeler OEM will develop their designs, but the heart of the vehicle will be an energy platform architecture-mated powertrain," one of the people present at their energy showcase explained.
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