Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.

India to explore Lithium reserves in Argentina

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Lithium production

Mains level : Lithium ion batteries and their significance

India has inked a pact with an Argentine firm to jointly prospect lithium in the South American country.

Why such a move?

  • Currently, India is heavily dependent on import of these cells and the move to ink sourcing pacts for lithium is seen as another salvo in the front against China, a key source of both the raw material and cells.
  • India is seen as a late mover as it attempts to enter the lithium value chain, coming at a time when EVs are predicted to be a sector ripe for disruption.
  • And 2021 is likely to be an inflexion point for battery technology, with several potential improvements to the Li-ion technology.

About Lithium

  • Lithium is a chemical element with the symbol Li and atomic number 3.
  • It is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal. Under standard conditions, it is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element.
  • Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable and must be stored in mineral oil.
  • When cut, it exhibits a metallic lustre, but moist air corrodes it quickly to a dull silvery grey, then black tarnish.
  • Lithium metal is isolated electrolytically from a mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride.
  • It is a crucial building block of the lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs), laptops and mobile phones.

Global producers of lithium

  • Australia and Chile have swapped positions as the world’s leading lithium-producing country over the past decade. In 2019, the world’s Top 5 lithium producers were:
  1. Australia – 52.9% of global production
  2. Chile – 21.5%
  3. China – 9.7%
  4. Argentina – 8.3%
  5. Zimbabwe – 2.1%
  • The U.S. ranked 7th with 1.2% of the world’s lithium production.
  • In 2019, the world’s Top 5 lithium reserves by country were:
  1. Chile – 55.5% of the world’s total
  2. Australia – 18.1%
  3. Argentina – 11.0%
  4. China – 6.5%
  5. U.S. – 4.1%

Lithium-ion batteries

  • A lithium-ion battery or Li-ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery.
  • They are commonly used for portable electronics and electric vehicles and are growing in popularity for military and aerospace applications.
  • A prototype Li-ion battery was developed by Akira Yoshino in 1985, based on earlier research by John Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, Rachid Yazami and Koichi Mizushima during the 1970s–1980s.
  • In 2019, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was given to this trio “for the development of lithium-ion batteries”.

How does it work?

  • In the batteries, lithium ions move from the negative electrode through an electrolyte to the positive electrode during discharge, and back when charging.
  • Li-ion batteries use an intercalated lithium compound as the material at the positive electrode and typically graphite at the negative electrode.
  • The batteries have a high energy density, no memory effect and low self-discharge.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles produce one of the following as “exhaust”:

(a) NH3

(b) CH4

(c) H2O

(d) H2O2

Limitations

  • Despite the improvements in lithium-ion batteries over the last decade, long charging times and weak energy density are still barriers.
  • The Li-ion batteries are seen as sufficiently efficient for applications such as phones and laptops, in case of EVs.
  • They still lack the range that would make them a viable alternative to internal combustion engines.
  • A number of alternatives are being fostered to achieve more optimal options.
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