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The technical sector is now at the forefront of economic progress around the globe. This fact can further be proved by looking at the indices of various stock exchanges across the world including the NSE, BSE and NASDAQ and observing how the technology companies are generating huge returns for their investors. We are living in an era where innovation is the god and science is the most practiced and respected religion, both of which have contributed to the advancement of the status of ‘LITHIUM.’’

From the wide range of rechargeable batteries found in our smartphones and in electric cars to being used in medical equipment like pacemakers, lithium is fortunate enough to capture the market and mark its position as one of the highly priced elements in the foreseeable future, since the demand for newer and contemporary models will be reaching higher levels in the near future.

Energy storage, which is the most discussed topic worldwide and is predicted to help in mitigating the issue of pollution, global warming, and Li-on batteries are the solution for renewable energy technology. The demand for Lithium is increasing with each passing day and the largest contributor for this increase in demand is electric vehicles, as every country strives to develop a sustainable economy. All these factors lead to controversial debates about the available reserves and their anticipated demand; if all the cars become electric within the next 40 years, there will be a crunch in lithium resources, causing a staggering price increase of lithium such as that faced today with fossil fuels. This alarming global situation is a major concern and hopefully, the researchers shall investigate and come up with new battery technologies to reduce our reliance on lithium. Fortunately, the situation improves if we start to consider the concept of recycling, which will make it much easier to recover lithium batteries. Furthermore, by combining brine exploitation with an efficient recycling process, we can meet the demands of a ‘propulsion revolution’ which would solely rely on Li-ion cells and reduce the related geopolitical risks. Apart from lithium batteries, lithium niobate is used as an important material in nonlinear optics. Engineers usually use lithium in high-temperature lubricants, for heat transfer application and strengthening alloys. Owing to high reactivity, lithium is only present in compounds in nature and must be stored in an anhydrous atmosphere.

China, one of the largest importers of lithium, is expected to benefit the most from the Lithium boom. The Red Dragon will lead the demand for lithium in the foreseeable future, facilitated by an increase in the manufacturing facilities. In the Platts survey, a total 80% of the respondents expected that China’s average battery-grade lithium carbonate prices in 2022 would be higher than Yuan 250,000/mt ($39,354/mt), about 316% higher from what it was at the start of 2021. On the other hand, Tesla is gearing up to introduce higher levels of innovation in its automobile segment by increasing the lifespan of batteries and using them in their electric vehicles.

So, after taking into account two of the largest economies against the same backdrop, with one being rushed forward by private ventures and the other being led by the multi-pronged approach of the state itself, in what position does it leave India in the context of renewable energy consumption? As of January 2022, the number of registered EVs in India stood at a mere 100,000, with the EV industry in its nascent stage. With the sharp rise in the prices of petrol and diesel, switching towards EVs is the most feasible option. India will need to pump in a lot of investment to increase infrastructure and improve demand for EVs to promote a much more sustainable economy. In order to promote electric vehicles, the government has come up with a battery swapping policy, in view of space constraints, for setting up power stations in its budget 2022-2023 and has also launched a massive mission to counter Chinese dominance in the market of lithium by focusing on three major angles:

1) Developing key infrastructure such as Lithium refineries. To facilitate development of refineries, a state-owned company shall invest a total of 1000 crores into a factory that will help in extracting lithium from the ores.

2) Production of Lithium to make India self-reliant. India has gained access to the Lithium Triangle, a region in Andes rich in lithium, to acquire lithium. Furthermore, India has developed good relations with Australia, which is the largest producer of Lithium in the world.

3) Leverage given to Multinational companies to emerge as one of the largest producers of Lithium in the world.

However, Lithium only has a minor part in the Earth’s deposit of minerals, and that too is dominated by the countries that are geographically spread out for India’s reach. Furthermore, the strive to combat and succeed over the Chinese economy will need a significant amount of investment over the next two decades. Lithium is clearly important in the near future and the progress and growth of countries are likely to be directly related to economies’ access to the ‘present day gold’.

By Devansh Mittal


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