MUMBAI: Tata Chemicals Ltd plans to set up a factory to make lithium-ion cells, said two persons directly aware of the matter, as it seeks to capitalize on the emerging electric vehicle (EV) industry in India.

The Tata group company, which recently demerged its fast-moving consumer goods business, also plans to undertake research and development on lithium-ion technology to develop suitable applications for the domestic market, especially the EV industry, said the two persons cited above, requesting anonymity.

According to the people mentioned above, Tata Chemicals will play a key role in the long-term plan of sister company Tata Motors Ltd to devise an EV ecosystem in India. They said Tata Chemicals has already acquired the land in Dholera town of Gujarat’s Ahmedabad district for the factory.

Details such as the investment towards the new factory and operational timelines could not be ascertained immediately.

“This (lithium-ion cell manufacturing) is a sector that we are exploring very actively," said a spokesperson for Tata Chemicals. The spokesperson however declined to comment on the proposed plant.

According to Tata Chemicals’ FY19 annual report, “the company intends to set up operations in li-ion batteries, battery actives and li-recycling, to cater to the growing EV revolution in India at the appropriate time".

The factory is expected to augment Tata Motors’ ambitions to build a sustainable EV ecosystem. The Mumbai-based automaker, which has set up a dedicated EV business unit, is also working closely with other group companies such as Tata Power, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Tata AutoComp Systems and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in this field.

In a 12 July interview, Shailesh Chandra, president, electric mobility business and corporate strategy, Tata Motors, said the intent of teaming up with group companies is to bank upon the specific individual strengths without losing focus on the core domain, ensuring faster time-to-market for the new generation EVs and building an ecosystem, which can support wider technology adoption in the domestic market.

“We are talking to Tata Chemicals on lithium-ion cell manufacturing, working with Tata Power on providing us with EV charging infrastructure. We have to localize EV parts and that’s where Tata AutoComp is helping us," Chandra said at the time.

Tata Motors is also working with Tata Motors Finance and Tata Capital to devise financing solutions, including vehicle leasing for the planned EV ecosystem. “We have this whole ecosystem of Tata companies working together to see if we can make it (EV ecosystem) work," Chandra said.

For the EV business, Tata Motors is working on identifying micro-markets such as the fleet segment across select cities to roll out its electric cars. It has supplied electric versions of its Tigor compact sedan to Mumbai’s Aaron Travels and Bengaluru’s Janani Tours. It is also in talks with Tata Power to build EV charging infrastructure across those select cities.

On the product side, it is capitalizing on the company’s Alpha and Omega passenger vehicle platforms. While the two modular platforms will spawn 12-14 vehicle models in three years, Tata Motors said both are also EV-ready. “These are electrification ready platforms and can accommodate higher range batteries into them," said Chandra, adding the company is also using the expertise of JLR in developing EVs.

Tata Motors is also leveraging TCS’ capabilities in developing BMS (battery management system) for EVs. “We have TCS helping us on BMS because they have been working on it with global manufacturers," Chandra had said.

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