The Indian government recently announced its first significant discovery of lithium reserves, a rare element crucial for making electric vehicles (EVs). Lithium is also a key component in rechargeable batteries that power not just EVs but also gadgets like smartphones and laptops. With 5.9 million tonnes found in Jammu and Kashmir, this could help India reach its goal of increasing the number of private EVs by 30% by 2030.
India has so far relied on imports from Australia and Argentina for its lithium needs. But with the new discovery, it’s possible that India will be able to set up its own lithium battery manufacturing facilities, making EVs more affordable for the masses and positioning India as a potential exporter. This idea has already caught the attention of billionaires like Mukesh Ambani, who is building an EV battery facility as part of a broader clean energy push.
The demand for lithium and other metals used in lithium-ion batteries is rising as the world moves away from gasoline-fueled engines. The Geological Survey of India (GSI) discovered the lithium in the Salal-Haimana area of Reasi district in Jammu and Kashmir. In 2021, much smaller deposits of lithium were found in the southern state of Karnataka. The Indian government is taking steps to improve its supply of rare metals and is exploring sources both domestically and abroad.
As countries around the world look to adopt greener solutions to slow down climate change, the demand for rare metals has increased. China recently signed a $1 billion deal to develop Bolivia’s vast lithium reserves, the largest in the world with 21 million tonnes. The World Bank estimates that mining of crucial minerals will need to increase by 500% to meet global climate targets by 2050.
However, there are concerns about the environmental impact of lithium mining. The extraction process requires a lot of water and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In water-scarce Argentina, many underground brine reservoirs are being drained, leading to protests from indigenous communities who say that it’s causing acute water shortages and overwhelming natural resources.
Converting the mined lithium into electric vehicle batteries also poses some challenges. Lithium is just one component of an electric vehicle battery, and many other materials like nickel, cobalt, and other metals are required. To produce a high-quality lithium-ion battery, these materials need to be combined in the right proportions and undergo a series of complex processes like cathode and anode production, cell assembly, and testing. This requires a high level of expertise and investment in technology, which can make the production of electric vehicle batteries expensive. Additionally, the supply of some of the key metals used in electric vehicle batteries, like cobalt, is limited, which can affect the supply chain and lead to price volatility.