India lacks manufacturing capacity; is world’s largest importer
India has quadrupled its imports of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and more than tripled its import bill on the product, vital for powering a range of devices from cellphones to electric vehicles, from 2016-2018, the Union Science Ministry said in the Lok Sabha last Friday.
Responding to a query, the Ministry said 175 million such batteries were imported in 2016, 313 million in 2017, 712 million in 2018 and 450 million from January 1, 2019, till November 30 of that year. The cost of these imports rose from $383 million (₹2,600 crore approx) in 2016 to $727.24 million (₹5,000 crore approx.) in 2017, $1254.94 million (₹8,700 crore) in 2018 and $929 million (₹6,500 crore) in 2019.
Indian manufacturers source Li-ion batteries from China, Japan and South Korea and the country among the largest importers in the world.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) manufactures such batteries but volumes are limited and they are restricted for use in space applications.
In June 2018, Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI) in Tamil Nadu’s Karaikudi, under the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and RAASI Solar Power Pvt Ltd signed a Memorandum of Agreement for transfer of technology for India’s first lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery project.
To promote indigenous development of such batteries, the Union Cabinet in 2019 approved a programme, called a National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage in the NITI Aayog to “drive clean, connected, shared, sustainable and holistic mobility initiatives.”
China dominates the Li-ion battery market. According to a report by BloombergNEF “… Around three-quarters of battery cell manufacturing capacity is in China, and Chinese companies have unparalleled control of required domestic and foreign battery raw materials and processing facilities.”
Electric vehicles are expected to account for a significant share in the growth of the Li-ion battery demand in India though reports say this is unlikely at least until 2025, because electric cars are still significantly costlier than their combustion-engine counterparts. The government has announced investments worth $1.4 billion to make India one of the largest manufacturing hubs for electric vehicles by 2040.