Starting afresh: Following the dismal response towards a tender in 2017, EESL is attempting to kickstart its plans again with fresh tender for 1,000 electric sedans | Photo: Saur Energy

EESL issues tenders for 1,000 new electric cars despite poor response to past round

India’s EESL has issued a fresh tender for 1,000 new electric sedans to electrify its entire fleet by 2030. The tender has been split into two categories: 750 new e-cars with a three-year maintenance and warranty contract, and 250 new units with a six-year contract. Tata Motors and the Mahindra Group are expected to meet the bulk of the order, but the entry criterion of three years’ experience in manufacturing cars means several smaller players may also get the opportunity to bid for the contract. 

The new tender comes despite the previous call for 10,000 cars (in 2017) having elicited a poor response towards the units that were supplied by Tata and Mahindra. Their electric sedans were criticised for poor driving range and operational efficiency.

14,000 tonnes of lithium reserves found outside Bangalore

14,100 tonnes of lithium have been discovered in Mandya, 100km outside of Bangalore, as reported by the Atomic Minerals Directorate. However, the find is part of a reserve of 30,000 tonnes of lithium dioxide (LiO2) and is quite small when compared to deposits in Lithium exporting nations, such as Chile (8.6 million tonnes), Australia (2.6 million tonnes) and Argentina (1.7 million tonnes), and may not make much of a difference to India’s dependence on imports of the metal. Yet, more such deposits would help India develop some level of self-sufficiency in manufacturing EV batteries.

As more confirmation of the same, India’s imports of li-ion batteries jumped by 4X in 2016-18, and its import bills swelled from $323 million in 2016 to $1,255 million in 2018, before falling to $929 million in 2019. Most of the batteries went to mobile phones and electric vehicles, although the percentage split between the two isn’t yet known.

Tesla exploring cobalt-free batteries with CATL

Tesla is reportedly in talks with its Chinese partner CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd.) to develop zero-cobalt batteries for the cars that come out of its Shanghai gigafactory. The strategy is to insulate itself from the steadily climbing prices of the mineral as more and more EV batteries are produced, and CATL will instead build lithium iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries. However, LFP batteries have lower energy density, but CATL may compensate with 15-20% higher volumetric efficiency.

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