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India has chanced upon lithium reserves in Mandya, about 100 km from Bengaluru. The Atomic Minerals Directorate, a unit of the Atomic Energy Commission, made the discovery. By early estimates, the area could hold about 14,100 tonnes of this rare earth mineral. This is good news for the country’s ambitious plan to adopt electric vehicles (EVs), since lithium is the key input for the batteries that power them. As India shifts away from fossil-fuelled vehicles towards EVs, local battery-making will have to play a role. As of now, China is our main source of lithium batteries.

The reserves look too small to lower our dependence on lithium imports by much. Still, the find opens up the prospect of fully indigenous EV production. Also, it could mean the country has more of the mineral lying undiscovered. Globally, traffic going electric en masse hinges on the cost of batteries falling to a point where EVs turn attractive to regular car buyers. Chinese battery makers are competitive on cost, though maybe not on how long a battery lasts on a single charge and its overall life. It’s an open market. Our domestic lithium reserves could make it easier for local players to join the fray.

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