Following are the topics that we covered in this Article:
- Lithium Reserve in India
- Where are India’s Largest Lithium Reserves?
- India’s Response to the Importance of Lithium
- Lithium Mining Companies in India
- Lithium Mining Companies Worldwide
- Electric Vehicle Batteries and Lithium:
- Alternative to Lithium Batteries for Electric Cars?
As we know, lithium is the critical commodity of an electric vehicle. The relevance and the demand are increasing multifold year on year. The cost of lithium increased over 400%in 2021 alone, and the price is set to rise.
Lithium reserves are concentrated in the lithium triangle in South America – Argentina, Bolivia & Chile, with 50% of the deposits concentrated in these regions.
According to Bloomberg Report, while Australia accounted for 48% of the production in 2020, China controls 75% of Lithium refining. As the demand for Electric Vehicles increases, there’s a need for production, refining, and mining in India. This article will dwell on the initiatives that are put forth for the rising demand in India.
Lithium Reserve in India
India currently imports lithium for its needs with a tiny 1600 tonne reserve which was found last year in Mandya, Karnataka. There is a joint venture between three PSUs and the Lithium triangle for a consistent supply of lithium as the majority is routed through China and Chinese’s influence.
There are ideas and strategies to acquire mines overseas to keep the price of the raw material in check and also policies to recycle Lithium from Li-Ion Batteries to create a sustainable and renewable ecosystem. As current ICE’s power source cant be recycled, the recycling capacity of Lithium from Li-Ion batteries will definitely reduce the burden not just on the air pollution perspective but also on land pollution.
Apart from these, the Geological Survey of India also works on the probable location of such reserves in 6 states of Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Department of Atomic energy conducted surveys in Karnataka and Rajasthan.
Where are India’s Largest Lithium Reserves?
Researchers from the Directorate of Atomic Minerals (under the Atomic Energy Commission of India) have recently estimated lithium reserves of 14,100 tonnes in a small stretch of land surveyed in southern Karnataka’s Mandya district. Along with this, India’s first lithium deposit site was also found.
India’s Response to the Importance of Lithium
In 2021, the Department of Atomic Energy discovered the country’s first lithium reserve of 1600 tonnes in Mandya, Karnataka. Although meager compared to the levels found in the triangle and Australia, this discovery began aggressive search and exploration in areas with possible lithium extraction.
As of Jan 2022, the research is going in full swing at 20 different sites across the country. Although there’s no raw material manufacturer, there are Li-Ion battery manufacturers such as TDS Lithium-Ion (a partnership of Suzuki, Toshiba, and DENSO), Amara Raja Batteries, Exide. With reliance and other big companies’ entry to Electric Vehicle and Allied Industries, the production will increase.
Even though the current requirement is through import, there is a strong possibility for a strategic partnership with the members of the Lithium Triangle and manufacturing within India.
This was seen even in the 2022-23 Union Budget, where the Finance minister announced a separate battery swapping policy alongside the government’s Faster Adoption of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme.
Lithium Mining Companies in India
- KABIL Consortium
The consortium, as we said, comprises three PSUs – National Aluminium Company, Hindustan Copper, and Mineral Exploration Corp. The principal purpose is to provide a vehicle for research & development for recycling, acquisition, and also joint manufacturing as Li-Ion batteries are used in various applications, including mobile phone batteries, EVs, space launchers, Defense.
The intensity for development increased with the border standoff with China. The consortium is also making arrangements to manufacture li-ion batteries in India as opposed to manufacturing in the respective countries to boost internal economic growth or Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self Reliant India).
- GSI, Department of Atomic Energy –
GSI and Atomic energy currently focus on the possibilities of Lithium reserves in India through Surveys and surface/sub-surface exploration.
Australian Govt’s offer to develop India’s own lithium resource is also looked at with interest as the country is one of the foremost producers with abundant technology and insights for mining.
Lithium Mining Companies Worldwide
- Tianqi Lithium –
The largest Lithium mining company with assets across Australia, China, and Chile, the company is responsible for almost half of the world’s Lithium production and controls 75% of the world’s manufacturing of Li-Ion batteries. The customer base ranges from Mobile phone manufacturers to Aerospace R&D companies.
- Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co. Ltd –
With a market cap of almost $40Bn, this company is in recent news and has made a fortune in recent years due to its customer – Tesla, The Elon Musk’s company, sourcing its lithium for li-ion batteries in this company alongside the distinction of world’s largest producer of metallic lithium with the resources spread across the globe in Australia, Argentina, and Mexico.
Due to the partnership with Tesla, the VW and the BMW Group signed a long-term agreement, and with these deals, the company is expected to corner some 25% of the world’s EV battery market.
This US-based company holds a 49% stake in Australia’s largest Mine-Greenbushes and recently signed key contracts with 25 odd EV companies, including Uber, GM, etc.
The company also owns reserves in China, the Lithium triangle and produces 25% of the world’s pure lithium, and currently is the largest manufacturer of lithium required for Li-Ion Batteries in EV.
Electric Vehicle Batteries and Lithium:
Although lithium’s prices are increasing with demand, the preference for Lithium for EV batteries hasn’t dwindled. The reasons are the high power-weight ratio that packs in a greater charge with a low curb weight of the vehicle with the increased energy efficiency.
The other advantage is also the performance at varied temperatures makes it a safe and reliable method in comparison to other materials as the impact on the thermal management system is low due to the presence of lithium.
The low discharge of lithium also provides a cushion to make long distances at low regard for complete discharge.
Alternative to Lithium Batteries for Electric Cars?
Interestingly Sodium ion is considered an alternative to Li-Ion, in some places to the extent of an environmentally friendly alternative. Recently reliance Industry invested in a Sodium-Ion manufacturer for the above reasons with greater efficiency than conventional Li-ion battery.
With sodium being an excellent ionizer can be used as a cathode with appropriate material for an anode, thereby providing not just an inexpensive battery but also an equivalent solution for an EV battery.