[Startup Bharat] Bhubaneswar-based Nexus Power is using crop residue to make EV batteries

EV battery maker Nexus Power is developing batteries for electric two and three-wheelers from crop residue. The prototype is currently undergoing trials with EV manufacturers.
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A new study by CEEW Centre for Energy Finance has revealed that electric vehicles will be a $206 billion opportunity for India by 2030. But to make this happen, the country will need an estimated annual battery capacity of 158 GWh by FY30.

It was to green this ambition and make a sustainable impact in the EV space that twin sisters Nishita and Nikita Baliarsingh launched an EV battery startup that upcycles agricultural waste. The duo launched Bhubaneswar-based Nexus Power in 2019 to provide battery technologies for electric vehicles.

Their idea was one: to build a green alternative as efficient and effective as other batteries available in the market.

Nexus Power is now building biodegradable electric vehicle batteries from crop residue, focusing on batteries for electric two and three-wheelers.

Speaking to YourStory, Nikita explains that the duo initially wanted to manufacture electric vehicles, but their research revealed that consumers did not prefer EVs over conventional IC Engine cars “because of long battery charging time, expensive cars, lack of local sources for procurement of lithium, and toxicity hazards”.

We wanted to help improve the e–mobility sector. Our research led us to realise that the battery had to be perfect to make electric vehicles popular. We focused on continuous research and development, and finally ended up making an effective innovation in EV batteries,” she says.

Nikita did a master’s course in media and mass communication while Nishita completed her studies in corporate finance.

Nishitawent on to study battery thermal management, hybrid electric vehicle designing and innovation, and IP rights in a bid to find battery solutions for electric vehicles. Nikita did a couple of courses in selection of nano materials for energy storage.

Image Credit: Nexus Power

Biodegradable electric vehicle batteries

Nexus Power procures crop residue and uses it for building electric vehicle batteries.

Nikita explains that the crop residue is agricultural waste that is generally burnt , causing heavy air pollution in many states in winters.

“We procure the unburnt crop remains and manufacture rechargeable energy-storing cells from this by applying a unique extraction and filtration process. Multiple such cells go into making the IoT and AI-based sensor-enabled battery pack used in EVs,” Nikita says.

A cell comprises three structural elements: the cathode, anode, and electrolyte. “We build all these elements with nanodot proteins derived from crop residue.”

Nikita explains that the batteries are eco-friendly, sustainable, and lithium-ion free. Since the raw materials are available at a low cost, the price of the end product is also reduced, solving for the cost factor.

“Procurement of crop waste helps farmers earn an additional income of Rs 25,000 for every 100 batteries. Also, our patented technological innovations will let us eradicate seven billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the next century,” she claims.

Nexus is currently developing batteries for electric two and three-wheelers. The company may later expand in other sectors such as consumer electronics and solar energy storage among others.

Illustration: YS Design

Business and more

Nikita reveals that the startup recently beta-tested a prototype of its battery pack for its ability to power a two-wheeler electric vehicle, its charging time, and its range. Nexus Power is currently a 11-member team, including the co-founders.

“The current tests show a significant improvement in the energy density and driving range. The Nexus batteries also offer 8x–10x faster charging. The team is still working on the R&D to make the composition more efficient to derive better results. The crude form is promising and we are looking forward to building the MVP (minimum viable product) in the coming months,” she adds.

According to the co-founder, Nexus is in talks with three to four EV manufacturers for market trials

The startup is currently joining hands with two-wheeler EV manufacturers across Asia for its pilot programme scheduled for Q3 or Q4 of 2021. The bootstrapped company is also in talks with potential investors and is looking at government grants for raising its first round of funding for expanding operations and achieving organisational goals.

Nexus will operate on a B2B model where electric vehicles manufacturers and dealers will be target customers for batteries and the main source of revenue. Apart from the core product, the cell manufacturing process releases organic manure and ethanol as by-products, which can also be sold as an additional stream of revenue, the co-founder explains.

Several startups such as Lohum Cleantech, Inverted Energy, and Grinntech among others are involved in manufacturing li-ion batteries for electric vehicles. However, Nexus’ use of biodegradable agricultural waste for developing the batteries makes it unique.

The price of Nexus' biodegradable battery is yet to be decided, but it is expected to cost 30 to 40 percent lesser than Li-on batteries.

Speaking about future plans, she says, “Our prime focus right now is on perfecting the cell composition. We are also working on designing battery packs according to prevalent industry standards. Once we are ready with the MVP, we will perform market feasibility tests and pilots. We are aiming to get done with the market testing and pilots as per schedule and go commercial by late 2022.”

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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