Envision AESC, the Japan-headquartered global battery cell supplier, is the lead contender among a multitude of potential partners, including LG Chem, CATL and FinDreams, that the Tata Group has explored as part of its Project Apollo over the past year.
- Tata Group has committed over Rs 10,000 crore towards cell manufacturing in India
- Tata Motors India and JLR will have different battery solutions
- Project Apollo likely to be steered by Tom Flack, former sourcing head of Tata Motors
Tata's EV battery plans
Our sister publication Autocar Professional learns that the new battery venture is likely to be steered by Tom Flack, the former sourcing head of Tata Motors who has been made in-charge of Tata Agratas, a specially formed battery cell manufacturing company. Project Apollo is likely to involve multi-billion dollars of investment and will be run by a separate arm, which may eventually bring private equity money to fund significant capacities.
To this effect, the Group has already committed over USD 1.3 billion (over Rs 10,000 crore) for the cell manufacturing facility in India, and it’s likely to come up in Gujarat to cater to the needs of Tata Motors’ 10-product EV portfolio, which will be manufactured out of Sanand. And in the United Kingdom, the Tata Group has already committed over £4 billion (over Rs 42,000 crore) of investment to set up a 40GW global battery cell gigafactory. The salt-to-software group is likely to invest over Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 70,000 crore before the end of the decade in battery manufacturing capacity.
The core of discussion with Envision AESC is around high-powered NMC cells for JLR, but the Group is also exploring solid-state batteries. Sources say the discussion includes options from a licensing agreement to an equity partnership, but the real structure of the association will only be known in the coming months.
As part of the study, the Tata Group has explored several chemistries – Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP), nickel-manganese cobalt (NMC) in prismatic and cylindrical form, and solid-state technologies as well. It is understood that the Group is likely to have different solutions for India to power Tata Motors’ EV ambition and a different solution for JLR, which operates in the high-performance luxury car market against the German rivals and Tesla.
While an email sent by Autocar Professional to Envision AESC did not elicit any response at the time of publishing, the one sent to Tata Motors and Tata Sons drew a no- comments-on-market-rumours response.
Envision AESC supplies to global automakers
Though Envision is headquartered in Japan, the company has its roots in China with its promoter, founder and executive chairman Lei Zhang being a Chinese national. The Envision AESC Group operates battery production plants in Kanagawa and Ibaraki, Japan; Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee in the United States; Douai, France; Extremadura, Spain; Sunderland, UK (for Nissan); and four production bases in China, along with an R&D centre in Shanghai.
AESC's 9GWh-capacity Gigafactory, with its state-of-the-art battery technology, is part of a £1 billion partnership with Nissan UK and Sunderland City Council to create an electric vehicle hub supporting next-generation EV production. In October 2022, Envision AESC had announced a new multi-year partnership with BMW Group to supply latest innovation battery cells for its next-generation EVs. The likes of Mercedes-Benz and Renault Group are also some of its key customers.
The Envision Group says it has studied multiple EV segments, exploring the potential of catering to two- and three-wheelers besides electric cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles. It is likely to also supply to other OEs to achieve scale for a strong business case and hence even the swappable solution as well as battery energy storage solutions have been explored.
"The company is likely to invest in different chemistries and cell formats to ensure it caters to a wider market. It is most likely planning to offer a bouquet of options to ensure the right solution for the right product and topography and weather patterns," sources told Autocar Professional.
Tata: Making the most of its Group synergies
Akin to a number of global multinational corporations, Tata is attempting strong vertical integration within its Group companies,a move which will bring together the resources, expertise and technology of multiple Tata Group companies to create a comprehensive solution for the production and deployment of EVs.
This should see the likes of Tata AutoComp, Tata Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Steel, Tata Power and Tata Chemicals, among others, play a pivotal role in helping the Group lead the EV transition in India, as well as be a serious player in the global automotive market with JLR in the future.
The 'One Tata' approach has been at the core of its foray in India, and the same is likely to be replicated in Europe, either in the UK or other overseas bases that it may create in the future to protect itself from global business volatility.
With inputs from Ketan Thakkar
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