SoftBank-backed Indian e-scooter maker Ola Electric is considering bidding for mining rights for lithium blocks being auctioned by the Indian government, sources said, in a move that could boost its EV battery manufacturing plans.
As part of plans to secure supplies of minerals such as lithium – a raw material used to make electric vehicle batteries – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government late last year launched the first part of its critical minerals auctions.
Amid growing energy needs, India is trying to encourage electric vehicle production to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce reliance on fossil fuel imports.
Electric vehicles made up about 2% of total car sales in India of 3.9 million last fiscal year, but the government wants to grow this to 30% by 2030.
“Ola has shown interest and has put forward lots of queries around land acquisition and discovery of other minerals alongside lithium in the blocks,” one of the sources said.
Ola executives have attended the auction meetings, the second source said. But the company is yet to take a final call, which depends on factors such as global prices of lithium and the viability of mining it, the second source said.
Lithium is important for Ola, as it plans to locally produce lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. This would help the company vertically integrate the supply chain, the second source said.
Both sources declined to be identified as they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Ola Electric declined to comment.
Founded in 2017 in India’s tech hub of Bengaluru, Ola Electric launched its e-scooters two years ago and has risen to become the market leader with over 30% market share.
In the ongoing auction, the government is likely to generate around 450 billion rupees ($5.4 billion) by auctioning 20 blocks across eight states.
Other potential bidders for lithium include Adani Enterprises, Vedanta Ltd, Reliance Industries, Himadri Chemicals, Reuters previously reported.
Dalmia Cement, UltraTech Cement and NLC India have also shown interest in the lithium blocks, one of the sources said.
The companies did not respond to emails from Reuters seeking comments.
(By Neha Arora, Aditi Shah and M. Sriram; Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj and David Evans)