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Why is India planning to fit Li-ion batteries in the future Indian Navy submarines?

Arfa Javaid

The Indian Navy has issued a request for information, seeking details of Li-ion batteries as they will be fitted in all the future submarines in the Indian Navy. 

In 2019, President of India, Ram Nath Kovind visited two out of the three ‘Lithium Triangle’ nations focussing on joint manufacturing and facilitating the process of acquiring Lithium as India plans to meet the target of having Electric Vehicles by the year 2030. 

In light of this vision, the Government of India formed 'KABIL’ consortium comprising of three state-owned companies-- National Aluminum Company (NALCO), Hindustan Copper (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corp Ltd., (MECL).

Why is India looking at lithium reserves in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia?

India to manufacture Li-ion batteries

Amid the ongoing standoff between India and China, the Government of India is planning to manufacture the Li-ion batteries and cells in the country. Earlier, India 100% imported Li-ion batteries and cells due to their huge demand. 

In light of this, India and Bolivia are in talks about having a joint manufacturing base for the batteries, while Chile and Argentina are in talks about exploration and exports of Lithium.

Usage of Li-ion batteries

As per Indian Navy veteran Commodore Anil Jai Singh, "Li-ion batteries are already being used to power practice torpedoes and unmanned underwater vehicles but there had been a hesitation to incorporate these onboard submarines because of lingering safety concerns. The exploding Samsung -7 Note mobile telephones and the frequent fires on board the Boeing 787 aircraft were both attributed to lithium-ion batteries."

Earlier, the traditional lead-acid batteries were used on submarines and required frequent charging-- once in 48-72 hours. 

Why there's a need for Li-ion batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries have a longer life and higher energy as compared to traditional acid-lead batteries. This will improve the endurance at higher speeds thereby facilitating the submarine commander with a wider range of tactical options and integration of the submarine into a network-centric force deployment over a larger area of the ocean. Thus, there's a need for Li-ion batteries. 

What is 'Lithium Triangle'?

The 'Lithium Triangle' is a region of the Andes which is rich in lithium reserves around the borders of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. This area is thought to hold around 54% of the world's lithium reserves.

Map: Lithium Triangle nations

 

Why 'KABIL' consortium was formed?

'KABIL' consortium was set up by the Government of India to acquire the most strategic mineral globally. The said mineral is not only required for electric vehicles but is also used in space launchers solar panels, mobile phones and laptops and hi-tech military platforms. 

Do you know?

In March 2020, Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) became world's first Navy to operationalise lithium-ion battery technology on submarines onboard its newest submarine-- JS Ouryo. 

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