India has chanced upon lithium reserves in Mandya, about 100 km from Bangalore. The Atomic Minerals Directorate, a unit of the Atomic Energy Commission, made the discovery. Scientists estimate that the patch of land being probed holds about 14,100 tonnes of this rare earth mineral. This is good news for Indian ambitions in the arena of electric vehicles (EVs), since lithium is the key input for the batteries that power these. As the country prepares to shift away from fossil-fuelled vehicles towards EVs, domestic battery-making would have to play a role. As of now, China is our chief source of lithium batteries.

The reserves just found look too small to reduce our dependence on lithium imports by much. Chile is reported to have 8.6 million tones of it, Australia 2.8 million tonnes and Argentina 1.7 million tonnes. China owns enough mines to make cheap batteries and take a shot at world leadership of the EV industry. India’s find pales in comparison, but at least 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 lithium batteries falling below a point that turns EVs attractive to car buyers. Chinese battery makers are said to be the most competitive on cost, though maybe not on other aspects such as how long a battery lasts and how quickly it runs out of juice on a single charge. It’s a field wide open. The existence of domestic reserves could make it easier for us to join the fray.