India’s lithium-ion battery imports increase fourfold in two years

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The number of lithium-ion batteries imported by India quadrupled to 713 million in the last fiscal year, from 175 million in 2016-17. In terms of value, imports more than tripled to $1.23 billion (Rs8,777 crore) in 2018-19 from $384 million two years earlier.

During the first eight months of this fiscal year – from April to the end of November – lithium battery imports touched 450 million units, worth $929 million, according to science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.

The minister said the 175 million lithium battery imports recorded in 2016-17 rose to 313 million the following fiscal year, with the latter figure worth $727 million.

China, Hong Kong and Vietnam were the leading sources of imports. China exported $773 million worth of lithium-ion batteries to India in the last fiscal year, according to Ministry of Commerce figures, with Hong Kong and Vietnam shipping $267 million and $114 million worth of product, respectively.

Make in India

Government thinktank NITI Aayog has sought cabinet approval for a proposal to subsidize investors setting up gigascale lithium-ion manufacturing facilities in India, with an eye on the electric vehicle market. If approved, the organization will invite bids to establish production lines over a decade which amount to 50 GWh of annual output capacity.

State-owned engineer Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and Tata Chemicals are among the front-runners in the market, having acquired the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) lithium-ion cell production technology for the manufacture of battery cells in India.

State-owned ISRO is providing the technology to Tata Chemicals on a non-exclusive basis, for the manufacture of cells of varying capacity, size and energy and power density.

While BHEL is establishing a lithium-ion production facility near Bangalore in Karnataka, Tata Chemicals has committed Rs400 crore to set up a 10 GW plant in the Dholera Special Investment Region of Gujarat.