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26th March 2023

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India's Lithium Iron Reserves and the Challenges Facing the EV Industry

Definition of Lithium for batteries: 

Due to its capacity for storing and releasing energy, lithium is an extremely reactive metal that is frequently used in batteries, including lithium-ion batteries. In recent years, lithium has grown in importance as a crucial component in the manufacture of electric Vehicles (EVs). Like many other nations, India is attempting to expand its lithium reserves in order to support the expansion of the EV. 

The discovery of lithium for batteries might help India achieve its goals of becoming a leading green industrial nation and alter the medium- and long-term prognosis for lithium availability, preventing a race between China and the US for lithium access. In terms of lithium resources, the finding would put India in sixth place, just behind top producer Australia and in front of China, which is the world's biggest importer and producer of raw lithium.

Lithium-ion battery for EVs: 

Batteries are important parts of electronic consumer products like cell phones and laptops, as well as in mobile and power backup supplies., They are also used in critical medical and industrial applications, solar energy storage, and electric vehicles (EVs).

Improved energy density, discharge tolerance, cycle life, and recharge times with little memory effect are a few of the main advantages that make lithium-ion batteries EV a favourite for use in applications. 

Also Read: Guide to buying used electric cars

 How does a Lithium-ion battery work?

The lithium-ion battery for EV works on the principle of circulating electrons by establishing a difference in potential between two electrodes, one negative and the other positive, which are submerged in an electrically permeable ionic liquid known as the electrolyte. 

The terms "energy density" and "power density" (1) are used most frequently in relation to batteries. A battery's energy storage capacity is measured in watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg). The power density of a battery, measured in watts per kilogram (W/kg), is the ratio of the power a battery can produce to its bulk. Consider emptying a pool to help you visualize this better. Power density is like draining the pool as fast as possible, whereas energy density is like the size of the possible. 

Advantages of Lithium-ion battery over other types

  • Lithium has long lasting life: 

In most cases, lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles have a lifespan of at least five years. Lead-acid batteries typically only last two years. In addition to maintenance, lead-acid batteries require water replacement to prevent structural damage; if they are not correctly maintained, their lifespan is further shortened. A one-time purchase of lithium batteries ensures durability because they don't need ongoing care. 

  • Lithium for batteries: 

Lithium offers the greatest degree of versatility for all kinds of applications thanks to its fast rate of charging and discharging. Fast charging reduces downtime, and lithium's fast discharge rate is ideal for a power surge. Lead-acid batteries are less adaptable than their lithium counterparts because they must be charged gradually over an extended period of time and operate inefficiently during high discharge periods. Lithium is the most effective material, especially when under great stress. Unlike lead-acid batteries, lithium's power transmission is hardly impacted by changes in temperature or energy levels. For applications that will drain the batteries or run in extreme weather, lithium is the sensible option. 

  • Car lithium batteries:

Concerns about battery weight are diminished by the fact that lithium-ion batteries in EV offer more energy than lead-acid batteries and usually weigh half as much. Lithium offers the same or more energy than other battery materials while being less than half the size and weight. More freedom and simpler installation follow from this! 

  • The role of Lithium-ion batteries in the EV industry: 

Due to their high energy per mass compared to other electrical energy storage systems, lithium-ion batteries are presently used in the majority of portable consumer devices, including cell phones and laptops. They also have excellent high-temperature performance, a high power-to-weight ratio, high energy efficiency, and low self-discharge. Although it is possible to recycle the majority of lithium-ion battery car parts, the expense of material recovery continues to be an issue for the sector.

Lithium reserves in India:

How much reserve does India have?

The Indian government has declared the finding of a significant amount of lithium (2), a crucial mineral used in electric vehicles (EVs) and battery storage, which could be a game-changer for green energy. The mountainous Salal-Haimana region of the Reasi district in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is home to 5.9 million tonnes of lithium resources (3), according to the Geological Survey of India.

Around 31,000 tonnes of lithium are thought to be found in India. India has been actively exploring its reserves and developing its lithium resources, even though this may seem like a comparatively small amount compared to other nations, like Australia and Chile, to support the expansion of the EV industry. The majority of India's reserves are in the southern state of Karnataka, and the government has started a number of programmes to encourage lithium mining and production. 

Importance of India's Lithium reserves for the EV industry

Lithium has a key role to perform in this scenario. One might wonder why lithium-ion batteries, rather than sodium, magnesium, or hydrogen batteries, are preferred for EV motors. A car's small size makes it difficult to store the energy required for a long range. The world's lightest metal, lithium, has a significantly greater energy density than other metals. Because less energy is required to move the vehicle, it can move farther and with greater efficiency. This is the area where lithium will be very important. 

Also Read: Future of electric cars in India

Uses of Lithium-ion in the EV Industry:

Lithium for batteries is an alkali metal, which is a soft, silver-white collection of chemical elements. Due to its high levels of chemical activity when present alone, lithium is the lightest metal and has a density that is roughly half that of water. It is also always found as a compound with other elements. 

There are numerous commercial, technological, and medical uses for lithium and its compounds, including:

  1. Industrial Usage: glass/ceramics heat-resistant, aeroplane building

  1. Tech-related usage: a lithium-ion battery (found in laptops, cell phones, and most recently, in electric vehicles)

  1. Medical Purpose: calming medications (treatment for bipolar disorder)

Challenges Facing the EV Industry

The worldwide supply of electric vehicles (EVs) and the demand for their batteries are expanding as the cost of EV batteries continues to decline.

It is reasonable to wonder whether there is enough of the highly prized element to satisfy global requirements because a shortage of lithium would cause significant delays in the development and use of electric transportation and renewable energy. A lack of supply would undoubtedly make them worse because of the harm that traditional lithium mining techniques have brought to the environment. We can, however, set all of these worries to rest.

According to various estimates, there are over 14 million tonnes of lithium reserves (4) in the world, and between 0.5 and 1.3 million tonnes of lithium are required to achieve current objectives. The industry benchmark for lithium extraction in 2021 was 100,000 metric tonnes.

Limited availability of Lithium In the World 

There will be a lot of extraction activity necessary to obtain the sheer volume of battery minerals required to meet net-zero goals and realise the sustainable economic system we are moving to. Given the environmental impact of rare earth, lithium, and other materials needed for electric car batteries and energy storage systems, we must actively look for ways to lessen the effects of the mining industry. 

Unless action is taken to address sustainability and efficiency problems in the industry, the U.S. demand for lithium alone could have an impact on the entire world, according to a 2023 report from the Climate and Community Project. 

Lack of domestic infrastructure for Lithium-ion battery production

The quantity of electricity that lithium-ion batteries can generate given their size and weight is the reason for their popularity. A typical lithium-ion battery has an energy density of 150 watt-hours per kilogram, as opposed to lead acid batteries or NiMH battery packs, which have an energy density of 100 watt-hours per kilogram (25 watt-hours per kg). Lead-acid batteries require 6 kilogrammes to store the same quantity of energy that a 1-kilogram lithium-ion battery can.

Lithium-ion batteries are naturally flammable and highly sensitive to high temperatures. Due to heat, these battery cells typically deteriorate much more quickly than they would otherwise. A lithium-ion battery pack that malfunctions will catch fire and potentially cause extensive harm. This necessitates taking quick action and developing battery safety regulations. 

Government initiatives and policies for promoting the EV industry

The Indian government is consistently demonstrating its backing for efforts to make India a world leader in the EV industry. The government has introduced a number of programmes and incentives to increase consumer demand for electric cars and to encourage automakers to invest in the R&D of electric cars and associated infrastructure. FAME-II, PLI SCHEME, Battery Swapping Policy, Special Electric Mobility Zone, and Tax Discount on EVs are the current initiatives of the Indian government. 

Car Lithium Battery Price

Factors affecting Lithium-ion battery prices

The price of raw materials, manufacturing expenses, and economies of scale are some of the variables that affect the cost of lithium-ion batteries. High production expenses and a lack of economies of scale have caused the price of lithium batteries to be high in some nations, including the United States. However, it is anticipated that lithium for battery prices will continue to fall as manufacturing capacity rises and economies of scale advance.

The factors are as follows:

  1. Battery Selection

  2. Design and specifications of lithium for batteries

  3. Lithium battery casing and construction demand.

Why Lithium Battery Price is too high in other countries

Despite the numerous ongoing lithium mining projects around the world, the long-term drivers of the price of lithium have stayed unaffected, providing a price floor that is anticipated to remain above the historical average. Lithium demand is driven by the global transition towards a greener economy, with China, the USA and the EU expected to triple their EV sales by 2026. Lithium production is expected to decrease in 2026, with Australia, Chile and Argentina having the largest share. 

Lithium reserves in 2022 were dominated by Chile and Australia, with 41% and 10% respectively. 

Key Takeaways: 

Lithium for batteries is a crucial component for the production of lithium-ion batteries, which are necessary for the expansion of the EV market. Like many other nations, India is attempting to tap into its domestic lithium resources in order to lessen its dependence on imports and support the expansion of the EV sector. 

The expense of lithium-ion batteries, the limited supply of lithium, and a lack of domestic infrastructure are just a few of the industry's difficulties. In order to handle these issues, the Indian government has started a number of initiatives, and it is anticipated that the EV market will continue to expand and change over the next few years.

More Blogs To Read:

Best Luxury Electric Cars: High-End Features with Longest Range

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Confused To Buy Petrol or Electric Cars?

Why to choose an electric car?

FAQs For Indian Lithium Reserves For EV Industry

Q: What is lithium and why is it important for EVs? 

A: Lithium is a chemical element that is used to make lithium-ion batteries, which are the main source of power for electric vehicles (EVs). Lithium-ion batteries have a high energy density, long lifespan, and fast charging capabilities. They are also lighter and more environmentally friendly than conventional lead-acid or nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Q: How many lithium reserves does India have and where are they located? 

A: According to the Geological Survey of India (GSI), India has lithium resources of 5.9 million tonnes in the District of Jammu and Kashmir, Salal-Haimana area of Reasi. This is the largest discovery of lithium reserves in India so far. The GSI will undertake further research to establish the economic viability of mining lithium from these deposits.

Q: How does this discovery affect India’s EV industry? 

A: The discovery of lithium reserves in India has been welcomed by the EV industry as a game-changer for India’s transition towards green mobility2. The discovery will reduce India’s dependence on imports of lithium and other critical minerals like cobalt and nickel, which are mostly concentrated in South America, China, and Australia3. It will also help lower the cost of manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in India, which currently account for about 40% of the cost of an EV3. Moreover, it will boost India’s li-ion battery ecosystem and create opportunities for innovation and employment.

Q: What are the challenges facing India’s EV industry? 

A: Despite the potential benefits of lithium reserves, India’s EV industry still faces many challenges such as:

  • Lack of adequate charging infrastructure

  • The high upfront cost of EVs compared to conventional vehicles

  • Low consumer awareness and acceptance

  • Policy uncertainty and regulatory hurdles

  • Environmental and social impacts of mining lithium

Q: What steps have been taken by the government to promote EV adoption in India? 

A: The government has taken several initiatives to support EV adoption in India such as:

  • Launching schemes like FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles) and NEMMP (National Electric Mobility Mission Plan) to provide subsidies, incentives, and tax exemptions for EV manufacturers and buyers

  • Setting up a National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage to facilitate domestic production of advanced battery technologies

  • Establishing a consortium called Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL) to acquire strategic mineral assets abroad

  • Forming bilateral partnerships with countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Australia etc. for securing the supply of critical minerals

  • Encouraging research and development on alternative battery technologies such as aluminium-air or sodium-ion batteries

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