Lohum, which makes and recycles sustainable critical minerals, is getting into the production of cathode active materials, the most critical component of a battery cell, that will be ‘manganese-based’ lithium-ion batteries. It has roped in Tesla veteran Chaitanya Sharma for this project.

The company is investing $75 million on this project, which is coming up in Tamil Nadu, Lohum’s founder and CEO Rajat Verma told businessline. The company is also spending another $100 million to expand its recycling capacity. The plan as currently envisaged, will involve setting up a capacity of over 20 GWh over the next three years. For the future it is also exploring other manufacturing sites in Gujarat and Telangana.

The next-generation lithium manganese iron phosphate (LMFP) batteries are safer and give electric vehicles a longer range compared to conventional technologies. They are also significantly cheaper. Some of the world’s largest EV manufacturers, including Tesla, BYD, and CATL, have bet big on LMFP.

An R&D grant from India’s Ministry of Mines will support the technology’s development. The grant was awarded after a rigorous scrutiny of over 100 applicants.

Talking about the company’s foray into this forward integration project, Verma explained that currently, this product would fill a gap in the supply chain. “We decided to invest in this capacity to ensure there is a complete supply chain localised in India.

Chaitanya has worked at two of North America’s first gigafactories, Tesla and IM3NY, and led the latter as CEO.

Chaitanya is the co-founder of Nascent Materials, a US-based cathode technology company focused on developing next-generation iron- and sodium-based cathode materials tailored for end applications.

Lohum is the only producer of conventional Nickel Manganese Cobalt-based cathode active materials.

Energy transition

The company said that India has one of the largest reserves of manganese, so this move will help de-risk the lithium-ion battery supply chain from external shocks and, therefore, have implications for the country’s energy security.

“Developing LMFP technology will enable Lohum to accelerate the energy transition by making available higher energy densities, increased cost-effectiveness, higher safety, sustainability and thermal adaptability of batteries to climate change,” said Verma.