India’s Quest for Lithium Ion Batteries

India’s Road Transport and Highways minister, Nitin Gadkari made a statement earlier this month on the need to reduce dependence on the import of lithium ion batteries, which is the key component of Electric Vehicles and has the biggest chunk in the cost of an EV. The government, he said, is working to boost the manufacturing of Lithium Ion batteries in India. The article explores some activities taking place in this space.

Insignificant reserves in India

Battery manufacturing has been insignificant in the country as it is heavily dependent on import of the Lithium. Some reserves of lithium were discovered earlier this year in Karnataka, which according to researchers at the Atomic Minerals Directorate, would be around 14,100 tonnes. But comparing this with 8.6 million tonnes in Chile, 2.8 million tonnes in Australia, 1.7 million tonnes in Argentina or 60,000 tonnes in Portugal, this is inconsiderable. However, these mines of lithium ion have been given by the Government to two private companies that are working to get the raw materials.

Reaching out to other countries for Lithium

To meet the heavy requirement of Lithium, the government of India is reaching out to countries specially in South America like Chile, Argentina and Bolivia that are believed to hold 50 per cent of the world’s lithium reserves. A joint venture company, Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL), has been set up to ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to Indian domestic market. The JV is visiting these countries and exploring possibilities of lithium extraction with the local companies.

KABIL has already signed MoU with JEMSE, an Argentine state-owned enterprise to establish a commercial link and scientific-technological development in the field of Lithium. India has also signed an MoU with Bolivia for development and industrial use of lithium. With Chile too, India has an agreement on cooperation in the fields of geology and mining. Australia is another country with which has signed a preliminary deal to get supply of critical minerals like Lithium.

National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage

The government, apart from providing push through budgetary provisions and programs like FAME II, has also setup National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage, with an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee chaired by CEO NITI Aayog. The Steering Committee has been given the task to recommend and drive the strategies for transformative mobility and Phased Manufacturing Programmes for EVs, EV Components and Batteries. A phased roadmap to implement battery manufacturing at Giga-scale is being considered now with initial focus on large-scale module and pack assembly plants by 2019-20, followed by integrated cell manufacturing by 2021-22.

Some other developments on the domestic front:

  • Indian PSU, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and Libcoin, a consortium comprising Magnis Energy, Duggal Family Trust and Charge CCCV(C4V), have also entered into an agreement to initially build 1GWh lithium ion battery plant in India. Its capacity will be scaled up to 30GWh in due course.
  • Last year, ISRO has chosen 10 companies including BEL, Tata Chemicals, Exicom, GOCL etc to transfer its indigenously developed low-cost Li-ion cell technology.
  • Tata Group plans to invest Rs 4,000 crore to set up a lithium-ion battery plant in Dholera Special Investment Region (DSIR) in Gujarat and has already procured 126 acres of land for the purpose.
  • Suzuki Motor Corporation, Toshiba Corporation and Denso Corporation have formed a JV, AEPPL, to manufacture Lithium Ion batteries in the country and has inked a Memorandum of Understanding proposing an investment of Rs 4,930 crore with the Gujarat government.
  • United States-based XNRGI has opened a high temperature (HT) lithium-ion battery factory in Gurugram in India having 240 MWh of battery production capacity.
  • Amperex Technology Limited (ATL), a manufacturer of rechargeable Lithium Ion Polymer (LIP) batteries, has acquired a 180 acre land near Gurugram in Haryana.
  • Exide has also formed a joint venture with Switzerland-based Leclanché SA, a well known energy storage solution companies to manufacture Li-ion batteries at it Gujarat plant. The JV named Nexcharge was formed between Exide and Leclanché in a 75:25 ratio.
  • The Centre has also proposed 50 GW battery production plan for the states, under which Telangana has pitched for a 5 GW lithium ion plant by announcing the ready availability of 200 acres of land plus power and water at a concessional rate.


India needs a minimum of 10 GWh of cells by 2022, which would need to be expanded to about 50 GWh by 2025, according to a report by NITI Aayog. Therefore, manufacturing these cells in India needs to be pushed aggressively.

Another major task for the country is to setup of Lithium-ion battery recycling industry. The country is also mulling over allowing import of used Lithium-ion batteries for recycling, with tight environment norms, as from  Li-ion batteries valuable metals and other materials is possible to  be recovered, processed, and reused.

Developing battery manufacturing capacity has become more important now as India’s EV sector is greatly dependent on China that has unrivaled control of required domestic and foreign battery raw materials and processing facilities. The current rift with China has therefore made it essential for India to focus more on mass producing Lithium Ion batteries if it has to keeps its EV dream alive.


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