After years of India being negligent in managing its electronic waste (e-waste), it seems recycling entrepreneurs will professionalise the process. The trend is gaining momentum because of the push towards electric vehicles (EV) by the central government; helped by the rising prices of fossil fuels and an expected reduction in lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery costs, used in EV, in the future.

Sector players are also acting in response to the government’s FAME policy—Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles scheme.

Several large original electronics manufacturers (OEMs) are seeing an upside in localising critical components for li-ion batteries and taking steps to meet the future EV disruption.

India is the largest producer of e-waste after China and the U.S., according to a Central Pollution Control Board report. From FY2019 to 2020, India generated 1,014,961.2 tonnes of e-waste (DowntoEarth, August 2021).

Attero Recycling Pvt Ltd is a Noida-based recycler of e-waste. The demand for Li-ion batteries is directing the company’s future strategy. The business claims to recover 99% of all metals present in their waste collections and return them where they can find a new life “in a circular-economy fashion,” says the firm's co-founder, Nitin Gupta.

“As the government is trying to drive the EV ecosystem, Attero Recycling is going to scale up to expand rapidly and ramp up the collection infrastructure in India,” says Gupta.

Attero says it will scale via franchises and by licensing its technology to small players in Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra to encourage micro-entrepreneurship in the country.

Gupta also aims to formalise the informal sector, which handles a major portion of e-waste in India, through training and establishing a consumer e-waste collection channel, which will divert e-waste to the formal sector for recycling.

The franchisees will enable Attero to enhance its capacity by over 30,000 metric tonnes of e-waste annually, the company says.

There is a high growth potential for the charging infrastructure in India also.

Ather Energy, which makes two models of EV scooters (but has more planned), says India will meet its tech and raw materials need as global suppliers eye the sector strategically.

Ather has been building a charging ecosystem to drive faster adoption of EVs in the country. Their charging network known as Ather Grid is designed and built in India with more than 220 charging stations across 22 cities in India. They say, in addition, they will aim to set up 500 fast-charging points by March 2022.

The Ather Grid is supported by an app that allows EV owners—including 4-wheeler owners—to ascertain the availability of charging points, free and paid parking, closing times, etc.

Though they have no infrastructure for recycling degraded battery packs, after two or three complete life-cycles of a li-ion battery, they will “work with government accredited partners to recycle them responsibly,” a company spokesperson says.

MG Motors are working with MSMEs in the charging infrastructure space, and this is where they feel tech entrepreneurs could get a slice of the EV action. They also work with MSMEs such as Aterro, Umicore and TES AMM for battery recycling.

“There are more opportunities in the second life and after-life usage for Li-ion batteries as well,” says Gaurav Gupta, CCO, MG Motors.

E-Charge Bays is a Delhi-based battery installation firm run by Rajesh Singh, who says they have installed 4,000 wall charging units mostly in people’s homes, and mostly for MG Motors. MG Motors also plans to set up an EV battery assembly plant in the future and set up roadside assistance in the form of top-up services, which MG Motors is working on providing with Bajaj Allianz.

Tata and MG Motors are leading the EV disruption.

Launched in January 2020, by August, Tata had sold 1000 Nexon EVs, a compact SUV. Sales picked up a little after that, touching 2000 by December and, then, 4000 by March 2021.

Given the inherent advantages of better drivability, performance, and operational cost advantage, the customer base is now shifting from early adopters to early majority,” says a Tata spokesperson.

Tata Motors plans to launch 10 new electric vehicles while investing and leveraging the charging infrastructure and says it is a leader in the sector with a market share of 75.3% in the EV passenger car segment (YTD).

“We have a well-planned strategy going forward in this space. In the last three months, Tata Motors’ 60% EV bookings are coming from seven cities—Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad where some fast-charging points have been installed in various public spaces,” says the TML spokesperson.

Tata Motors has teamed up with Tata Power to set up more than 1000 charging points in 180 cities, in car owners' homes and workplaces and key intercity highways, Tata Motors dealerships and other public locations. In addition, Tata offers free home-charging solutions with every Nexon EV sold.

A key element for fast EV adoption is the battery-recharging infrastructure which is growing in India. Though the Economic Survey says less than 1% of passenger cars are electric, the future for the segment looks promising and seems to be coming together rapidly for sales to increase.

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