Reliance's renewable arm invests in US energy storage company

Ambri is developing a battery that it claims is safer than lithium-ion units

An employee installs a Lithium-ion battery cell into a testing system in this arranged photograph taken at the Powervault Ltd. office in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2018. Powervault is among companies helping to recycle lithium-ion car and bus batteries for another seven to 10 years after being taken off the roads and stripped from chassis -- a shelf life with significant ramifications for global carmakers, electricity providers and raw-materials suppliers. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Reliance Industries' renewable subsidiary will invest $144 million in US energy storage company Ambri as part of the Indian conglomerate's push into clean energy as it seeks to become a net-zero carbon company by 2035.

Reliance New Energy Solar, or RNES, is investing alongside Paulson & Co, US billionaire businessman Bill Gates and other investors.

Reliance Industries, which is owned by Asia's wealthiest man Mukesh Ambani, has invested in a range of applications across the energy value chain.

RNES will spend $50m to acquire 42.3 million shares of preferred stock in Ambri. The companies are also in talks to bring battery manufacturing factories to India.

The Massachusetts-based Ambri will manufacture calcium and antimony electrode-based cells that they claim will be more economical in the long-term than lithium-ion batteries, which are currently more prevalent.

These batteries are also designed to function without requiring additional air conditioning and can last for more than two decades with minimal degradation, the company said.

The more conventional lithium-ion batteries have suffered from several safety issues recently. They have raised concerns over their ability to catch fire through a process called “thermal runaway”, which results in the battery overcharging.

A Tesla battery bank in Moorabool, near Geelong in Australia, caught fire earlier this month and it took three days to extinguish the blaze. In April, a fire at a lithium-ion battery installation in Beijing, killed two and required 235 firefighters to bring it under control.

There were 38 large lithium-ion battery fires reported since 2018, according to Paul Christensen, a professor at Newcastle University.

These incidents have sparked concerns among companies, which are now on hunt for lithium-ion alternatives as scrutiny grows.

Ambri is tapping into this trend and is looking to start commercial operations by 2023. It is currently securing customers for its battery systems.

The investment in Ambri is also part of Reliance's push to invest $10.1 billion in clean energy over the next three years.

The conglomerate is spending 600bn ($8bn) rupees to build gigafactories to produce solar cell modules, batteries and green hydrogen among others.

Updated: August 11th 2021, 1:37 PM