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India’s first electric automobile battery plant takes shape

India wants to move from being a producer of raw materials for electric batteries to making some of their key parts.The son-in-law of India’s biggest steel tycoon is betting big on converting coal tar into graphite anodes for electric-car batteries in a bid to test China’s monopoly in the sector. Vikram Handa set up Epsilon…

India would like to move from being a manufacturer of raw materials for electrical batteries to creating a few of their key pieces.

The son-in-law of India’s largest steel tycoon is betting big on converting coal pitch to graphite anodes for electric-car batteries in an attempt to test China’s monopoly in the sector.

Vikram Handa set up Epsilon Advanced Materials Pvt — India’s first manufacturer of lithium-ion battery parts — at the southern state of Karnataka in August, sourcing the raw material from the biggest steel mill in the country that is owned by his own father-in-law, Sajjan Jindal. Handa intends to spend 60 billion rupees ($807 million) to create 100,000 heaps of artificial graphite anode by 2030, or about 10percent of estimated global demand.

Anode materials would be the negative electrode in lithium-ion batteries and accounts for a quarter of a cell’s components. China has been generating over 80% of the planet’s source of those anodes, importing raw materials from countries such as India. By creating the anodes in India, Handa aims to transition that the South Asian country from a battery gym to a battery substances hub.

India has excellent scope for the production of electric-vehicle batteries locally since it has access to the raw materials, a $20 billion manufacturing incentive program, a projected battery materials policy and enhancing prospects for need, Handa, 40, stated.

“I’m quite optimistic on the outlook for India’s battery space over the next decade,” he explained. “It’s going to take another two to three years for really serious money to go into this space but after, you’ll see a lot of money pouring into it. India is such a big auto market that one cannot ignore it.”

Several Indian automakers have begun generating or have announced plans to make EVs. The newest is Bhavish Aggarwal’s Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. Aggarwal has stated he expects the startup will probably be making 15% of the planet’s e-scooters from the summer of 2022. Then there is Tesla Inc., which has picked Karnataka, the exact same country where Epsilon has its own mill, for its first plant, according to the nation’s chief minister.

One prime motivator for this pivot toward new-energy vehicles: cleaning up India’s choking hazardous air. The adoption of EVs has been slow, crippled by a lack of charging infrastructure and technology, higher prices of the cars and a delayed flow of capital into production and development of batteries as well as other technologies. India currently has some battery gathering plants but no cell manufacturers. EVs account for about 5 percent of China’s annual car sales, based on BloombergNEF, compared to less than 1 percent in India.

“You’re so dependent on cells from China that your cost structure can never really come down,” Handa said. India has the experience required to generate the cells, and it’s plentiful raw materials such as aluminum, copper, electrolytes and nickel, the key elements for batteries,” he explained, adding that”while everybody keeps talking about lithium, it’s a very small part of the whole raw material that goes into the cell.”

Epsilon’s parent company procedures coal tar, largely sourced from JSW Steel Ltd., into thick black liquid or pellets to be used in everything from car tires to fuels and paints. The switch to battery materials would require the organization to additional process the coal pitch. Additionally, Epsilon has secured a patent for its furnace design and expects to file another three patents this year. Currently, it’s exporting precursor anode material to China, Japan and Europe.

Handa’s ambitions are also getting a push from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aim to lure manufacturers from China. India’s Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari in March guaranteed to announce a thorough battery coverage”soon”. Epsilon was in talks with about eight firms that are planning to bid under the government’s project to provide the anode, Handa said.

That domestic distribution will become critical with EV sales forecast to overtake gas guzzlers in India at the end of the decade as costs become aligned and technology and infrastructure improves, according to Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., one of the nation’s largest automakers.

“If adoption of EVs picks up in India and tomorrow Tesla comes and sets up a factory, then a big chunk of the anodes will be utilized in the domestic market,” Handa said. “We’re confident that the Indian market will develop and we will have first mover advantage.”

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