Four-fold jump in Li-ion batteries imports

GS Paper III

Topic: indigenization of technology and developing new technology

Prelims: Types of electric vehicles

Mains: E-mobility plan, 2020

Why in the News?

India has become world’s largest importer of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries as India lacks manufacturing capacity.

Reasons why Battery Cells are gaining importance:

  • Transport vehicles are currently one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and more than 99.9% of transport vehicles in India are based on fossil fuels.
  • Electric vehicles are more viable since the combustion process in compressed natural gas (CNG) enabled vehicles also causes global warming.
  • 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.

Lithium and the China overhang-security issues:

  • India does not have enough lithium reserves for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries and China dominates the Li-ion battery market.
  • Chinese firms are already acquiring assets in countries such as Bolivia, Australia and Chile, which have substantive lithium reserves, trying to establish a monopoly on lithium reserves.
  • With China overtaking the US last year as the world’s biggest electric car market, there have been concerns about supply shocks.
  • This could lead to a substantial change in the country’s energy security priorities, with securing lithium supplies, a key raw material for EV batteries, becoming as important as buying oil and gas fields overseas.

TYPES of electric vehicles:

Battery Electric Vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S, which have no internal combustion engine or fuel tank, and run on a fully electric drivetrain powered by rechargeable batteries.

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are widely considered to be the next frontier in EV technology. FCEVs such as Toyota’s Mirai and Honda’s Clarity use hydrogen to power an onboard electric motor. Since they are powered entirely by electricity, FCEVs are considered EVs — but unlike BEVs, their range and refuelling processes are comparable to conventional cars and trucks.

Conventional hybrid electric vehicles or HEVs such as the Toyota Camry sold in the country combine a conventional internal combustion engine system with an electric propulsion system, resulting in a hybrid vehicle drivetrain that substantially reduces fuel use. The onboard battery in a conventional hybrid is charged when the IC engine is powering the drivetrain.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles or PHEVs, such as the Chevrolet Volt, too have a hybrid drivetrain that uses both an internal combustion engine and electric power for motive power, backed by rechargeable batteries that can be plugged into a power source.

Steps taken:

  • National E-Mobility Mission Plan, 2020 (NEMMP):
  • It came out in 2012 that made several recommendations for the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), including electric-powered government fleets and public transportation and subsidies for those who opt for electric and zero emission vehicles.
  • The government has announced investments worth $1.4 billion to make India one of the largest manufacturing hubs for electric vehicles by 2040.
  • FAME Scheme:
  • FAME India is Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid) and Electric Vehicles launched under National E-Mobility Mission Plan.
  • The objective of the scheme is to increase the use of electric and hybrid vehicles by offering incentives.
  • The scheme has four focus areas: technology development, pilot project, charging infrastructure and demand creation.
  • Different departments and ministries have stepped up their engagement with the electric vehicle industry.
  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited, a government firm, has put in motion plans to procure 10,000 e-vehicles and has already given out tenders to the likes of Tata Motors and M&M.
  • EESL aims to lease these vehicles out to government departments so as to replace their existing fleets of petrol and diesel vehicles.

Impacts of the Mission:

  • The Mission will drive mobility solutions that will bring in significant benefits to the industry, economy, and country.
  • These solutions will help improve air quality in cities along with reducing India’s oil import dependence and enhance the uptake of renewable energy and storage solutions.
  • The Mission will lay down the strategy and roadmap which will enable India to leverage upon its size and scale to develop a competitive domestic manufacturing ecosystem for electric mobility.
  • The actions in this regard will benefit all citizens as the aim is to promote ‘Ease of Living’ and enhance the quality of life of Indian citizens and also provide employment opportunities through ‘Make-in-India’ across a range of skillsets.

Issues:

  • EV technology in India is, in turn, highly dependent on innovation and government incentives. At the same time, the government has to tackle the slowdown and invest in future-ready technology at the same time.
  • This has led to a deep dichotomy in the Indian electric vehicles market which has put the future of EV technology in India in a bit of a muddle.
  • While there is no dearth of government incentives in India, the lack of adequate infrastructure and unaffordable price of EVs are felt by both industry and consumers alike.
  • Current tax structure:
  • Very few global carmakers have brought their electric variants into India. The government has also made a distinction between EVs and a hybrid vehicle under the GST regime is seen as a problem.
  • While EVs are to be taxed at 12%, hybrid vehicles are taxed at 28% plus a 15% cess.
  • People are still sceptical about the shift to all-electric vehicles since they fear the charge duration of the batteries.
  • As such, they are more likely to try hybrid vehicles, but that sector is not being encouraged by the current tax structure.

Challenges:

  • Inadequate charging infrastructure
  • Reliance on battery imports
  • Reliance on imported components and parts
  • Incentives linked to local manufacturing
  • Range anxiety among consumers
  • High price of EVs currently
  • Lack of options for high-performance EVs
  • Inadequate electricity supply in parts of India
  • Lack of quality maintenance and repair options
  • Affected by broader automobile industry downturn
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) manufactures such batteries but volumes are limited and they are restricted for use in space applications.
  • Battery technology is yet another aspect that needs to be looked into. While the cost of batteries has fallen over the years however, the cost of battery cells fell 48% between 2011 and 2015 — their capacity has not changed as drastically.

Way forward:

The three key stakeholders could play an integral role in India’s transition towards EVs.

  • The Government: By defining the regulations on emissions and fuel efficiency, clarifying aspirations, strategic intent and direction, exploring incentives and subsidies, it can support EV adoption and focus on developing a supportive ecosystem.
  • The power, fuel, and charging infrastructure companies: By laying down a foundation of support, innovating on business models (e.g., leasing of batteries, swapping infrastructure, deploying fast chargers), making the economics of (fast) charging infrastructure work, providing stable power supply and grid stability, they can enable easy and rapid charging and drive EV adoption.
  • The automotive industry: By changing the product and component mix bringing EV components and vehicles to life, building the right talent pool and skill set, improving the performance of batteries and electric vehicles and building scale, the industry can drive the EV disruption in India.
  • Promotion of research and development for localisation and indigenization of battery technology and an effective charging infrastructure is required.

Conclusion:

  • The rise of electric vehicles is inevitable around the world and India alike. So, an integrated policy on future of mobility with a focus on zero-emission mobility is the call of the hour.
  • However, such a policy should also consider financial health of the industry, revenue to the government and employment opportunities to millions and millions.
  • The future of electric mobility is here and is here to stay, evolve and widen its reach.

Mains question:

‘’The rise of electric vehicles is inevitable around the world and India alike. With India becoming world’s largest importer of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries discuss the challenges faced by India in building its manufacturing capacity.’’

 


Melting Antarctic glacier

Paper: III

For Prelims:

For Mains: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Context of News:

  • In the Antarctic floats a massive glacier, roughly the size of Britain, who’s melting has been a cause of alarm for scientists over the years. Now, a new study has pinned the cause of the melting to the presence of warm water at a vital point beneath the glacier.

About the Study:

  • A 2019 study had discovered a fast-growing cavity in the glacier sized roughly two-thirds the area of Manhattan. Then, in first week of February, 2020, researchers from New York University detected warm water at a vital point below the glacier.
  • The New York University study reported water at just two degrees above freezing point at Thwaites’s “grounding zone” or “grounding line”.

Why are glaciers melting?

  • Since the early 1900s, many glaciers around the world have been rapidly melting. Human activities are at the root of this phenomenon. Specifically, since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions have raised temperatures, even higher in the poles, and as a result, glaciers are rapidly melting, calving off into the sea and retreating on land.
  • Scientists project that if emissions continue to rise unchecked, the Arctic could be ice free in the summer as soon as the year 2040 as ocean and air temperatures continue to rise rapidly.

Why are glaciers important?

  • Ice acts like a protective cover over the Earth and our oceans. These bright white spots reflect excess heat back into space and keep the planet cooler. In theory, the Arctic remains colder than the equator because more of the heat from the sun is reflected off the ice, back into space.
  • Glaciers around the world can range from ice that is several hundred to several thousand years old and provide a scientific record of how climate has changed over time. Through their study, we gain valuable information about the extent to which the planet is rapidly warming. They provide scientists a record of how climate has changed over time.
  • Today, about 10% of land area on Earth is covered with glacial ice. Almost 90% is in Antarctica, while the remaining 10% is in the Greenland ice cap.
  • Rapid glacial melt in Antarctica and Greenland also influences ocean currents, as massive amounts of very cold glacial-melt water entering warmer ocean waters is slowing ocean currents. And as ice on land melts, sea levels will continue to rise.

Impact of Melting Antarctic Glacier:

  • Effects of melting glaciers on sea level rise:
  • Melting glaciers add to rising sea levels, which in turn increases coastal erosion and elevates storm surge as warming air and ocean temperatures create more frequent and intense coastal storms like hurricanes and typhoons. Specifically, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are the largest contributors of global sea level rise. Right now, the Greenland ice sheet is disappearing four times faster than in 2003 and already contributes 20% of current sea level rise.
  • Melting glaciers affect weather patterns:
  • Today, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere on earth, and the sea ice there is declining by more than 10% every 10 years.As this ice melts, darker patches of ocean start to emerge, eliminating the effect that previously cooled the poles, creating warmer air temperatures and in turn disrupting normal patterns of ocean circulation. Research shows the polar vortex is appearing outside of the Arctic more frequently because of changes to the jet stream, caused by a combination of warming air and ocean temperatures in the Arctic and the tropics.
  • Melting glaciers loss on humans and wildlife:
  • As sea ice and glaciers melt and oceans warm, ocean currents will continue to disrupt weather patterns worldwide. Industries that thrive on vibrant fisheries will be affected as warmer waters change where and when fish spawn. Coastal communities will continue to face billion-dollar disaster recovery bills as flooding becomes more frequent and storms become more intense. People are not the only ones impacted. In the Arctic, as sea ice melts, wildlife like walrus are losing their home and polar bears are spending more time on land, causing higher rates of conflict between people and bears.

Way Forward:

  • The good news is that individuals can play a big part on both fronts with just a few simple changes. Strong action on climate change means preparing communities for impacts that are happening now. But it also means looking to the future, focused on reducing the heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere that will bring damaging consequences as our planet warms.
  • The fact of matter that , effects of melting glaciers from the Greenland have so far not been considered and could lead to further changes in simulated future climate. Future work could look at the climate impacts of melting glacier from both Greenland and Antarctica in the same coupled climate models.