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Indian e-waste recycling company Attero Recycling has reached out to electric vehicle maker Tesla to supply battery materials for its Gigafactories, according to Attero’s chief executive Nitin Gupta.

“We have explored the possibility of exporting our recycled output to Tesla, and it is happy to purchase it from us. However, due to Covid-19, the deal could not be finalized. No agreement has been signed yet, but we held initial conversation with Tesla for such an arrangement," he added.

The Gigafactory will be the largest building in the world, entirely powered by renewable energy. According to the Tesla website, “materials in a Tesla lithium-ion battery are recoverable and recyclable".

“The battery materials that are refined and put into a cell will still remain in the cell at the end of their life, when they can be recycled to recover its valuable materials for reuse over and over again. None of the scrapped lithium-ion batteries will go to landfills, and will be 100% recycled," it said.

Gupta said that his talks with Tesla do not hint at the possibility of the company setting up a battery assembling or cell manufacturing plant in India.

“In my opinion, to start with, Tesla may look to import its fully-made cars to India. In phase two, it may start assembling cars in India, and in the third and final step, it could set up a Gigafactory in India. But, that is still far away," he said. Tesla spokespersons could not be reached for comment till press time.

Tesla currently sources its batteries from major producers such as Panasonic, China’s CATL and South Korea’s LG Chem. It will start manufacturing its own batteries once the Gigafactory is operational.

Tesla’s wholly-owned subsidiary Tesla India Motors and Energy Pvt. Ltd has received approval from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to roll out four EV models for the domestic market. It has also reportedly held talks with the government to ease import duties on completely built units, which are taxed at 60-100%. However, no formal decision has been reached yet.

Gupta said while cell manufacturers have not invested in India as yet, the government’s production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for advanced chemistry cell manufacturing may attract firms. “I expect global cell manufacturers to consider India as a market. It would allow us to close the circular economy loop of supplying recycled key components back to the industry in India."

Amperex Technology Ltd, a subsidiary of Japan’s TDK Corp., had acquired 180 acres near Gurugram in 2020 to set up a cell manufacturing unit. It is expected to start operations by the end of 2022.

Gupta expects the draft policy by the ministry of electronics and information technology, labelled ‘Circular Economy in Electronics and Electrical Sector’, to be formally adopted by the end of the fiscal year. The draft says that despite India being the third highest e-waste generator behind China and the US, it collects only 10% of the waste.

The draft says in the short term, the aim is to collect key components and secondary material from the e-waste generated in India. The PLI scheme must be extended to manufacturers using recycled battery materials, complying with recyclability standards, and establishing a sustainable product policy.

Ravi Neeladri, CEO of Bengaluru-based Cerebra Green, says initial steps to enforce e-waste compliance by the government are already underway. "Original equipment manufacturers are being asked to recover 50 percent of devices that each of them manufactured a certain number of years ago, and recycle them at end of their life cycle," he said.

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