The son-in-law of India’s largest steel mogul is betting heavily on converting coal tar into graphite anodes for electric vehicle batteries in an attempt to test China’s monopoly in the sector.
Creation of Vikram Khanda Epsilon Advanced Materials Pvt – India’s first manufacturer of parts for lithium-ion batteries – in the southern state of Karnataka in August, sourcing raw materials from the largest steel mill in the country, owned by his father-in-law Sajan Jindal. … Handa plans to invest Rs 60 billion ($ 807 million) to produce 100,000 tonnes of synthetic graphite anode by 2030, or about 10% of projected global demand.
Anode materials are the negative electrode in lithium-ion batteries and make up a quarter of the cell’s components. China produces over 80% of the world’s supply of these anodes by importing raw materials from countries including India. By producing anodes in India, Handa aims to transform the South Asian nation from a mining hub to batteries.
According to Khanda, 40, India has great potential to produce batteries for electric vehicles locally because it has access to raw materials, a $ 20 billion production stimulus plan, proposed battery materials policies and improved demand outlook.
“I am optimistic about the outlook for battery use in India over the next decade,” he said. “It will take another two or three years to invest really serious money in this space, but after that you will see how much money is pouring into this. India is such a big car market that it cannot be ignored. “
Several Indian automakers have started production or announced plans to produce electric vehicles. Last Bhavish Aggarwala Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. Aggarwal said he expects the startup to produce 15% of the world’s e-scooters by summer 2022. According to the state’s chief minister, Tesla Inc., which has selected Karnataka, the same state where the Epsilon plant is located, as its first plant.
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One of the main motivations for this shift towards new energy vehicles: cleaning up suffocating toxic air in India. The adoption of electric vehicles is slow, hampered by the lack of infrastructure and technology for charging, the higher cost of cars, and delays in funding the development and production of batteries and other technologies. There are currently several battery assembly factories in India, but no cell manufacturers. According to BloombergNEF, electric vehicles account for about 5% of annual car sales in China, compared with less than 1% in India.
“You are so dependent on cells from China that your cost structure can never come down,” Handa said. India has the expertise needed to make cells and has a variety of raw materials such as aluminum, copper, electrolytes and nickel, key battery cells, he said, adding that “although everyone keeps talking about lithium, it’s very small part. all the raw material that goes into the cell. “
The parent company, Epsilon, processes coal tar, mainly sourced from JSW Steel Ltd., as thick black granules or liquid for use in everything from car tires to fuels and paints. Switching to battery materials will require further processing of coal tar from the company. In addition, Epsilon has received a patent for the furnace design and plans to file three more patents this year. It is currently exporting precursor anode material to China, Japan and Europe.
Khanda’s ambitions are also being pushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of attracting manufacturers from China. Indian Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari promised in March to announce a comprehensive battery policy “soon”. Epsilon has been in talks with about eight firms that plan to apply for a government project to supply the anode, Khanda said.
This domestic supply will become critical as projected EV sales will overtake gas consumers in India by the end of the decade as prices become more consistent and infrastructure and technology improve. Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., one of the largest car manufacturers in the country.
“If the introduction of electric vehicles in India begins and Tesla comes tomorrow and opens a plant, then most of the anodes will be used in the domestic market,” said Handa. “We are confident that the Indian market will continue to grow and we will have the first mover advantage.”