CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
YEAR ESTABLISHED: 2010
WHAT IT DOES: Designs and manufactures lithium batteries for automotive and energy storage systems.
Kelvin Lim dreams of transforming the lives of the needy with “large power packs” that can be used to store solar or wind energy in rural villages. Sounds like wishful thinking? The chief executive officer of New Resources Technology (NRT) is in fact closer to achieving this than most people are.
After all, his company supplies cells that are used to power those of electric vehicles. Instead of throwing away decommissioned batteries, he has a better idea. “Batteries at the end of their lives still function at 80 per cent, so imagine the impact on humanity if we can recycle them by taking them to rural locations that do not have electricity,” he says. “This is a big deal.”
By next year, NRT is expected to receive its first batches of retired lithium batteries that it has supplied to electric vehicle fleets around the world, and intends to start trials to test the feasibility of this idea.
A self-professed machine geek, the 45-year-old Lim, who holds a master of science in control systems from Imperial College London, has always been interested in electric vehicles and clean energy. Before he joined NRT in 2014, he was vice-president of ST Kinetics’ Hybrid Electric Centre and general manager of Kinetics Systems Shanghai. He’s also on the board of the Electric Vehicle Association of Asia Pacific.
While NRT was already supplying batteries to many cities in China, its big break in Europe came in 2016 when a company running large bus fleets in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, was on the lookout for a battery supplier. “A typical electric bus takes about five hours to slow charge. We can provide lightweight batteries that have a fast charging time of 15 minutes,” he says.
It won the contract and this battery system has since been adopted by fleets in Germany and Finland. “It’s changed the way transport systems are set up,” he says.
Today, NRT’s lithium batteries are used by Japanese electric car manufacturer Fomm, electric buses in China and speciality autonomous vehicles in Germany. Its advanced lithium battery cell technologies are also used for energy storage such as smart-grid and microgrid systems. In March, Banpu Infinergy Company Limited, a Thai company that provides solar energy solutions, acquired a 44.84 per cent stake in NRT for $45.1 million.
Even though NRT’s battery cell solutions are among the best in the world, offering higher power and energy density, and a longer life cycle, Lim says that as a Singapore-based company, “we need to make extra effort to make ourselves known”.
“We are more well-known in Europe than in Singapore,” he says with a chuckle. It is partly because Singapore has been slow in adopting the use of electric vehicles. He believes what’s needed is a mindset change. “We have no lack of technology in Singapore but what’s lacking is acceptance and an open mind. Some sectors are afraid of failure, perhaps, and, so, are resistant to adopting new technology.”
In the four years since he’s joined NRT, he has grown the company’s footprint from a mostly China-centric business to one that has a market presence in 20 cities across South-east Asia, Japan, China, India and Europe. The hustle means he’s had to sacrifice precious family time with his daughters, aged five and nine.
“I don’t get to spend enough time with them,” he laments. “But we need to be responsible for what we do. I hope I can make a positive impact on their lives.”
IN 60 SECONDS
I never miss out on birthdays and anniversaries of my family members. I’ll fly back if I have to. I have a 100 per cent track record.
My strength is that I don’t take no for an answer. I don’t always succeed but I need to be proven wrong.
When I travel, I take pictures and post them on Instagram so my family can see where I am and what I’m doing. It has grown into a hobby.
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