Electric vehicles will increase India’s dependence on China: Report

  • China is still the biggest supplier of raw materials like lithium-ion cells that is used to make batteries for electric cars.
As electric vehicle sales continue to rise in India exponentially, the demand for raw material like lithium and EV batteries are increasing in the industry.
As electric vehicle sales continue to rise in India exponentially, the demand for raw material like lithium and EV batteries are increasing in the industry.

Manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs) in India will increase its dependence on China for raw materials, mineral processing, and battery production, according to a report of by economic think tank GTRI. The Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) also said that there is a need for life cycle impact evaluation for the EVs sector. EVs result in the release of pollutants during battery making, disposal, and charging and about 70 per cent of materials used to manufacture EVs in India are imported from China and a few other countries, it said. "EVs will increase India's dependence on China for raw materials, mineral processing, and battery production," it said.

China has bought the largest lithium mines in Australia and South America. It processes more than 60 per cent of the lithium produced globally. It also processes 65 per cent of cobalt and 93 per cent of manganese.

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China makes three out of four batteries produced globally, it said, adding over 100 Chinese battery units make 60 per cent of the cathodes and 80 per cent of the anodes used in lithium-ion cells.

The report pointed out that EVs have implications on jobs and pollution and it identified 13 issues related to interests of consumers, industry, and the government for an evaluation.

The issues include high prices of these vehicles, fitness of EVs for a long journey, performance under extreme weather, increase in power demand, less fit for public transport, increased dependence on China, no reduction in pollution, disruption of the auto component sector, and inadequate availability of lithium.

"EVs with lithium-ion batteries are at best a work-in-progress innovation. We must understand the long term impact of EVs on jobs, pollution levels, imports, and economic growth," GTRI co-founder Ajay Srivastava said.

On the pollution issue, it explained that a typical 500 kilogram lithium car battery uses 12 kg of lithium, 15 kg of cobalt, 30 kg of nickel, 44 kg of copper, and 50 kg of graphite.

It also uses about 200 kg of steel, aluminium, and plastics. Mining extraction, transport, and processing of these materials release pollutants and CO2, leading to air and water pollution, it added.

"The battery's life is 6-7 years; after which it needs to be recycled. Recycling is complex as the battery contains many toxic materials that are challenging to dispose of. Firms promoting EVs talk about zero tail-pipe emissions but are silent on mining and disposal costs," the report said.

Further, it said that EVs will only increase pollution as the batteries are charged from coal-generated electricity.

India generates 60 per cent of electricity from fossil fuels like coal and petroleum, and of this, coal accounts for 50 per cent.

"Electric cars only make sense when most power comes from renewable energy," it said, adding that EVs will disrupt India's auto-component industry with 700 organised and 10,000 unorganised manufacturers.

It also said that EVs will end the existence of lakhs of shops/garages selling spare parts, changing oil, and servicing vehicles.

Further, it said that EV is not a global phenomenon and the push for it is coming from Europe, which is introducing the Carbon Border Adjustment mechanism to protect their polluting industry and disrupt global trade.

"There is no standardisation in the charging port for electric scooters. Each firm issues its charging port model. Unless the charging ports are standardised, each maker has to set up separate charging infra across the country," it added.

First Published Date: 08 Mar 2023, 08:03 AM IST

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