Founded in 1909, Leclanché is known as one of the oldest and largest battery companies in the world. Nearly 100 years later, in 2006, the company decided to stop its activities in traditional technologies and move into lithium ion batteries.
“We took a journey of ten years and millions in investments into the lithium business,” says CEO Anil Srivastava. When he joined the company in 2014, he was charged with monetizing the investments the company had made. In the process, he made strategic decisions about what businesses to keep and what to leave behind.
“Since I joined Leclanché, we have completely transformed into a full-service energy systems provider,” the CEO continues. “We do much more than just build cells because that’s what customers want. They buy solutions.”
Leclanché now has three major areas of focus: stationary storage systems, mobile storage systems and specialty battery systems. Within these fields, the company serves the transportation, utilities, home storage and consumer goods sectors, among others.
“We don’t focus on electric cars but on fleet operations,” Mr. Srivastava explains. “For instance, we support public transport operators who rely on e-buses and ferries. Fleet operations call for longer life cycles, and we provide the battery packs for them. Our technology is ideal for such high-end applications. One of our customers is the largest electric ferry operator in Denmark.”
Utilities are also major customers of Leclanché. The company partners with independent power producers (IPP) and large utility companies alike. As a full system provider, Leclanché keeps all operations in house and acquired two different technologies – one from Belgium, the other from Germany – in lithium ion batteries to reach its current position.
Lithium titanate oxide and lithium graphite/NMC are two energy-efficient technologies that offer different advantages for use in Leclanché’s systems. “In the past, our technology was expensive, but it was the best technology,” Mr. Srivastava says. “Since making the switch to lithium, we have moved to the head of the market. We’ve been offering complete systems featuring electronics and software since 2015.”
The company’s largest production site was built in 2013 and is located in southern Germany near the French border. Leclanché has activities all over the world. It is strong in the transport sectors in Germany, Belgium and India.
“We’re seeing massive growth in Canada in micro-grid solutions. We already have one of the largest stationary storage projects worldwide there,” the CEO notes. “We’ve also done projects in Portugal, and the Caribbean offers huge potential. The power situation there is alarming, so they’re moving to micro-grid systems to provide power to local areas. They’re integrating wind and solar energy. Micro-grids power communities.”
One of Leclanché’s more notable references is on the island of Graciosa. 1,300 km off the coast of Portugal, Graciosa has a population of just 4,500 that was largely powered with loud and inefficient diesel generations. The company installed a battery plant to combine wind and solar energy, and power the island with 13 GWh of electricity annually.
The last three years have shown stationary storage to be the biggest business for Leclanché, but the company sees great potential in e-transport applications. “The market is evolving,” Mr. Srivastava says. “We plan to continue with our three business units.” There is huge momentum in the high growth global industry, and Leclanché is at the forefront of it.
Already, the company has a very solid 2018 pipeline of 55 MW/h which is expected to contribute to 40 to 50 million CHF of revenues in 2018. “There’s so much work waiting for us,” the CEO continues. “We also have strong R&D to support us in delivering good products. The real game changer, which is both positive and disruptive, is the convergence of the electricity and transportation markets. The impact of electrification and transportation is enormous, and as we’re positioned in both sectors, we are ready to face this opportunity and challenge.”