India eyes lithium reserves in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia

4 January, 2021 | newsx bureau

India strives to establish a robust battery supply chain in order to meet its ambitious targets for electric vehicle (EV) uptake, India's Khanij Bidesh India (KABIL) has signed an initial agreement...

As India strives to establish a robust battery supply chain in order to meet its ambitious targets for electric vehicle (EV) uptake, India’s Khanij Bidesh India (KABIL) has signed an initial agreement with an Argentinian mining company Jujuy Energia y Mineria Sociedad del Estado (JEMSE) for the exploration and production of lithium. The South American country has the third largest reserves of lithium and with India only manufacturing battery storage packs and relying on Chinese imports for the rest, the aim is to become self-sufficient across the value chain by 2025

Lithium cells are the building blocks of rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), laptops and mobile phones. Lithium-based batteries also cater to the consumer electronics industry and power grids, given the intermittent nature of electricity from clean energy sources such as solar and wind. 2021 is likely to be an inflection point for battery technology, with several potential improvements to the Li-ion technology, and alternatives to the tried-and-tested formulation, under advanced stages of commercialization.

Globally, lithium-ion cell manufacturing is dominated by China, followed by US, Thailand, Germany, Sweden and South Korea. The value chain comprises raw material processing, and manufacturing of separators, cathodes, electrolyte, anode, cell and finally the battery storage packs. The Indian government has taken note of China’s dominance in this space and there are geopolitical reasons as well behind wanting to expand.

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According to the energy security plan, India plans to issue expression of interests to shortlist around five companies for setting up Tesla-style gigafactories for cell and battery manufacturing—each having a 5-to-10 gigawatt hours (GWh) capacity. While the Li-ion batteries are seen as sufficiently efficient for applications such as phones and laptops, in case of EVs, these cells still lack the range that would make them a viable alternative to internal combustion engines.

A few of these options include- Toyota’s solid state battery, Apple’s battery tech, QuantumScape’s solid-state battery and Tesla’s new tabless battery.

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