Solving three problems at once, start-up Odisha Nexus Power uses crop scraps to create fast-charging bio-organic batteries for electric vehicles
An old biochemistry book from their grandfather’s library inspired the sisters born to Odisha Nikita and Nishita Baliarsingh to create an electric vehicle (EV) battery from crop residue. “It’s still so clear in my mind. There was a statement that said, “Proteins may have potential benefits in electrolytes.” It was the turning point. We embarked on continuous research and development and founded Nexus Power in April 2019, ”recalls Nikita.
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Rewind in 2016, the electric vehicle industry was in its infancy with great potential but skewed demand. Buyers were not convinced of the efficiency of an EV battery compared to a traditional battery. “This gap between demand and supply forced us to look for the root cause of the skepticism. Some of the main concerns were the long charging time, high prices and lack of local sources to source lithium and, of course, toxicity. ”
According to a report by the Energy, Environment and Water Council (CEEW) in November 2020, a total of 5,30,560 electric vehicles (two-wheelers, three-wheelers, cars and buses) were sold. in India. The Baliarsingh Sisters aim to transport electric vehicles through vehicle segments. The current market is primarily for low-speed electric two-wheelers using lithium. Nikita explains: “We only spent almost six months on theoretical research on bio-organic batteries. Our first prototype was built at home during lockdown with simple household items. ”
Biodegradable batteries are made from crop residues. “A cell is made up of three structural elements – the cathode, the anode and the electrolyte. Our manufacturing process plays with the chemistry of the cell and builds all of these elements with nanodot proteins derived from crop residues. Our batteries are lithium-ion free. We source the crop scraps from local farmers and, using a unique extraction and filtration process, we make EV cells that store rechargeable energy, ”says Nikita.
The materials used at Nexus are derived from natural compounds, underused or wasted by other industries. Buying farm waste helps farmers earn an extra ₹ 25,000 income for 100 batteries. The manufacturing process has been designed to ensure that no part of the environment is exploited.
“We focus on a sustainable manufacturing process with a zero waste model. The production of our batteries creates bio-fertilizers as a by-product, which we intend to bring back to the market to facilitate favorable agricultural performance. In this way, we guarantee a circular and viable green model, ”adds Nikita.
Looking for investors
While Nexus is built on cutting edge technology and lofty goals, the company is mostly primed. The young company received two scholarships of around 10 lakh from the Indian government under its TIDE and NIDHI PRAYAS program and through the KIIT TBI (Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology-Technology Business Incubator), Bhubaneswar. As the electric vehicle industry is ripe for investment, most investors are turning to the lithium battery market.
Nikita, however, is convinced that Indian consumers are ready for a “truly green” battery. “The main differentiator for Nexus is that ours is a truly ‘Made in India’ fast charging battery, which aims to make electric mobility more affordable and efficient.”
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Batteries charge eight to 10 times faster than conventional batteries and last 20% to 30% longer. “More importantly, once the batteries die, they can be recycled at no additional cost, which is not the case with conventional EV offerings.
Made from biodegradable materials, the cells exclude the risk of toxicity and the use of crop residues ensures that a part will not be burned, which in turn protects against deterioration of air quality. Our entire process is energy efficient and sustainable, ”says Nishita.
The siblings keep an eye out for new entrants to the electric vehicle market. “If the opportunity arises, Nexus would love to collaborate with big offerings like Tesla and Indian automakers like Tata, Mahindra, Hero and others. We hope for collaborations with several manufacturers of electric two-wheeled vehicles throughout the Asian region for our pilot program, scheduled for the third or fourth quarter of 2021. A somewhat long-term plan would be to develop Nexus batteries for vehicles at four wheel and electric commercial vehicles. We also want to respond to the mobile phone and consumer electronics industry in the future, ”concludes Nikita.