India to secure rare earth metals, technology to make electric vehicles

01, Feb. 2019

Scientific Secretary Arabinda Mitra addresses a conference hosted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, in New Delhi on Jan. 28.
Scientific Secretary Arabinda Mitra addresses a conference hosted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, in New Delhi on Jan. 28.

By Atul Ranjan

NEW DELHI, NNA – India will start extracting its own rare-earth resources and seek foreign technology to accelerate its drive to produce electric vehicles domestically, a senior government scientific adviser said, while urging the private sector to help.

“India has enough rare earth resources, and the government is separately launching a major mission to extract rare earths,” Scientific Secretary Arabinda Mitra told a conference hosted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India on Monday.

“We are looking for high-efficiency motors using rare earth materials.”

The country’s rare earths reserves are the fourth largest in the world at 6.9 million metric tons, though that lags far behind those in China, Brazil and Russia, according to a report by Investing News Network issued last November. Most of India’s reserves are beach and sand mineral deposits and rare earths output was just 1,700 metric tons in 2017, the report said.

The government will lead the extraction and purification process, while partnerships between the government and the private sector will be necessary to develop rare earth materials-based permanent magnets and produce EV motors.

EV manufacturing is likely to pick up “in the near future,” when there will be demand for at least 2,000 tons of rare earth materials in India, Mitra said, without defining the timeframe.

India has to import most of the rare earth materials essential for manufacturing EVs.

In a report last year, the European Union’s Resource Efficiency Initiative Project said demand for rare-earth magnets in India was likely to outstrip the amount the country currently imports by 150 times in little more than a decade.

“The estimated demand of rare earth magnets for manufacturing motors in electric cars (hatchback), assuming no change in technology and efficiency of motors, will be approximately 9,000 tons by 2030,” the report said. “This is approximately 150 times the current import of the rare earths by India.”

Mitra said that India will also explore the possibility of forming international collaborations in some of the critical EV-related technologies to facilitate the growth of e-mobility in the country.

To support research and development in EV technologies, India has allocated 3.5 billion rupees ($49 million) in the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles scheme to be launched next month, Mitra said.

“We are looking to promote a consortia approach as far as R&D in the EV sector is concerned, and expect the matching investment to come from the industry as well,” he told NNA on the sidelines of the conference.

India has set an ambitious goal to increase the share of EVs on the country’s roads from its current share of around 1 percent to nearly 30 percent by 2030.

Some automakers, including India’s largest passenger-car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, a subsidiary of Suzuki Motor Corp., are working to launch their EV products in the country.

Photo caption: Scientific Secretary Arabinda Mitra addresses a conference hosted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, in New Delhi on Jan. 28.