Zen Energy develops long-lifetime batteries for light electric vehicles

Peng Chen, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Ravi Kempaiah (left) is the co-founder and CEO of Zen Energy. Credit: Zen Energy

Light electric vehicles are rising in Asia. Canadian startup Zen Energy sees the opportunity and has developed batteries with quadruple lifetime for two and three-wheelers. The company has chosen India as a launchpad to expand its business in Asia.

Incorporated in 2021 as an electric bike company, Zen Energy is transitioning its focus to battery technology. Co-founder and CEO Ravi Kempaiah said the company has developed its lithium-ion battery cells with nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) chemistry. The samples were shipped to potential OEM customers in July.

Self-designed materials enable longer-lasting batteries

The patent-pending battery boasts a four-times longer lifetime than its competitors, according to Kempaiah. He said while most battery packs on the market come with a two-year warranty, Zen Energy wants to extend the period to eight years. It achieved a longer lifetime with a self-designed anode, cathode and electrolytes.

The more sustainable battery is expected to offer companies a higher return on investment. Kempaiah said the feature is particularly critical for battery swap service providers, who want the batteries to last as long as possible.

He also said the longer-lasting battery means fewer minerals need to be mined, which is more environmentally friendly. Zen Energy targets the market of light electric vehicles, including two-wheelers, three-wheelers and electric boats.

Zen Energy made the transition to battery technology quickly as a young company. Kempaiah said the ecosystem in Canada, especially the company's experienced partners for battery cells and chemical materials, enabled the rapid shift. More scientists on board also helped Zen Energy make progress in its technologies. It operates an R&D center in Halifax, Canada.

Ramping up in the world's most populous country

The company is on track to start producing its battery cells and packs in India, according to Kempaiah. Zen Energy plans to set up manufacturing facilities for packs this year and cells in 2024.

Kempaiah said holding production capacity will help the company build relationships with potential customers. He added that it has been engaging with several leading OEMs in India.

With the world's largest population, India is poised to create the biggest two-wheeler market globally. Kempaiah said Zen Energy's battery technology will work effectively in the country's high temperatures. Leveraging local connections, he said Zen Energy plans to scale up in India and expand to Taiwan to work with two-wheeler makers like Gogoro and Kymco.

Zen Energy is also exploring other markets like Europe, South America and Brazil, considering adding energy as a service to its business, Kempaiah added.

Taiwan is another market the company has a deep interest in. Kempaiah said there is significant electronics know-how in the country that complements battery technology. Taiwan hosts many companies that produce chargers, inverters and battery management systems as well as TSMC, the world's largest semiconductor foundry. He also mentioned the majority of high-end electric bikes are made in Taichung.

"On top of that, you (Taiwan) have companies like Kymco and Gogoro. So it's a very strategic place compared to any other market," he added.

He said Zen Energy wants to supply battery packs to those companies, working with leading manufacturers to make its chargers and battery management systems.