The son-in-law of India’s biggest steel tycoon is betting big on converting pitch into graphite anodes for electric-car batteries during a bid to check China’s monopoly within the sector.
Vikram Handa found out Epsilon Advanced Materials Pvt — India’s first manufacturer of lithium-ion battery parts — within the southern state of Karnataka in August, sourcing the staple from the most important steelworks within the country that’s owned by his father-in-law, Sajjan Jindal. Handa plans to take a position of 60 billion rupees ($807 million) to supply 100,000 plenty of synthetic graphite anode by 2030, or about 10% of estimated global demand.
Anode materials are the negative electrode in lithium-ion batteries and account for 1 / 4 of a cell’s components. China has been producing quite 80% of the world’s supply of those anodes, importing raw materials from countries including India. By producing the anodes in India, Handa aims to transition the South Asian country from A battery minerals center to A battery materials hub.
India has great scope for the assembly of electric-vehicle batteries locally because it’s access to the raw materials, a $20 billion manufacturing incentive plan, a proposed battery materials policy and improving prospects for demand, Handa, 40, said.
“I’m quite optimistic on the outlook for India’s battery space over subsequent decade,” he said. “It’s getting to take another two to 3 years for really serious money to travel into this space but after, you’ll see tons of cash pouring into it. India is such an enormous auto market that one cannot ignore it.”
Several Indian automakers have started producing or have announced plans to form EVs. the newest is Bhavish Aggarwal’s Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. Aggarwal has said he expects the startup are going to be making 15% of the world’s e-scooters by the summer of 2022. Then there’s Tesla Inc., which has picked Karnataka, an equivalent state where Epsilon has its factory, for its first plant, consistent with the state’s chief minister.
One prime motivator for this pivot toward new-energy vehicles: cleaning up India’s choking toxic air. The adoption of EVs has been slow, crippled by a scarcity of charging infrastructure and technology, higher costs of the cars and a delayed flow of funds into development and production of batteries and other technologies. India currently has some battery assembly plants but no cell manufacturers. EVs account for about 5% of China’s annual car sales, consistent with BloombergNEF, compared to but 1% in India.
“You’re so hooked in to cells from China that your cost structure can never really come down,” Handa said. India has the expertise needed to form the cells, and it’s plentiful raw materials like aluminum, copper, electrolytes and nickel, the key elements for batteries, he said, adding that “while everybody keeps talking about lithium, it’s a really small a part of the entire staple that goes into the cell.”
Epsilon’s parent company processes pitch , mainly sourced from JSW Steel Ltd., into thick black pellets or liquid to be utilized in everything from automobile tires to fuels and paints. The switch to battery materials would require the corporate to further process the pitch . additionally , Epsilon has secured a patent for the 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 also are getting a push from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal to lure manufacturers from China. India’s Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari in March promised to announce a comprehensive battery policy “soon”. Epsilon has been in talks with about eight firms that are getting to bid under the government’s project to provide the anode, Handa said.
That domestic supply will become critical with EV sales forecast to overtake gas guzzlers in India by the top of the last decade as prices become more aligned and infrastructure and technology improves, consistent with Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., one among the country’s biggest automakers.
“If adoption of EVs picks up in India and tomorrow Tesla comes and sets up a factory, then an enormous chunk of the anodes are going to be utilized within the domestic market,” Handa said. “We’re confident that the Indian market will develop and that we will have first mover advantage.”