This week, Tesla announced it plans to construct a manufacturing plant in India which will produce a car that sells for under $25,000. And why not? India is the largest country in the world by population and has the fourth largest new car market. It also has recently discovered large lithium deposits that could make it possible for India to become a major player in the EV revolution. BYD, which is currently the second largest manufacturer of pure electric vehicles in the world behind Tesla and the largest manufacturer of plugin vehicles, also announced this week it intends to build a battery factory in India.

According to Reuters, BYD has submitted a $1 billion investment proposal to build electric cars and batteries in India in partnership with a local company, three people with direct knowledge of the plan said. Its partner is Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering and Infrastructures.

BYD already has a presence in India where it sells the Atto 3 SUV and the e6 sedan to corporate fleets. It plans to launch its Seal luxury electric sedan there later this year. In the longer term, BYD expects to manufacture a lineup of electric cars in India, from hatchbacks to luxury models, one of the three people said.

The production capacity of the new BYD factory in India is unknown at this time, but sources say the company intends to scale up production to 100,000 EVs annually in India over the next few years, but will likely begin by importing vehicle components that will be assembled in the country while it establishes a supply chain within India. The investment proposal also includes a plan by BYD and Megha Engineering to set up charging stations in India and build research and development and training centers, according to the sources Reuters spoke with.

BYD In India

India, like China before it, is unwilling to simply open its doors to foreign-made vehicles and has imposed import duties of up to 100%. It encourages companies to set up joint ventures with local businesses instead. BYD is following that guidance, but Tesla apparently has avoided that requirement, just as it did in China when it decided to build a factory in Shanghai.

India’s investment controls forced China’s Great Wall Motor to abandon a plan to invest $1 billion in the Indian market and pushed Chinese state-owned automaker SAIC’s MG Motor division to look for a local partner. The MG Comet, which is basically a rebadged version of the Wuling Air, is currently one of the least expensive electric cars available in India. It can sell for less than $10,000 depending on options.

Electric cars account for only 1% of automobile sales in India. The Tata Nexon EV, which lists for around $18,000, is the best selling EV in the country at the present time.

BYD entered the Indian market in 2007 by producing batteries and components for mobile phone makers. In 2013, it started building electric buses with Megha Engineering, under a joint venture company called Olectra Greentech.

If the India investment is approved, it would give BYD a presence in all major global car markets with the exception of the United States. Think about the implications of that for a minute.

BYD Begins Sodium-Ion Battery Production In China

CNEvPost reports that BYD is moving forward with its plans to begin producing sodium-ion batteries. It has formed a joint venture between its FinDreams battery manufacturing subsidiary and Huaihai Holding Group that will build sodium-ion batteries in the Xuzhou Economic and Technological Development Zone in the Jiangsu province.

In a joint press release, the two companies said the joint venture will be the world’s largest supplier of sodium-ion batteries for mini and micro vehicles. Does that mean they will find their way into automobiles or be used for electric mopeds, scooters, and such? We simply don’t know the answer to that question.

Sodium batteries use materials that are abundant and inexpensive, but they do not have the energy density of conventional lithium-ion batteries. That makes them suitable for short-range urban transportation but less so for larger or more expensive cars. There have been rumors in the Chinese press that BYD would fit its Seagull small electric SUV with sodium batteries by the end of this year, but BYD has vigorously denied that speculation. The Seagull is now in production, but there has been no mention of it being fitted with sodium batteries.

Huaihai will provide its resources, including marketing and application scenarios, and FinDreams will provide products and services, the release said. Huaihai said it sees the tremendous economic and social value of sodium batteries and began its involvement in the industry years ago with a strategic investment in sodium-ion battery startup Natrium.

Sodium Batteries In China

In February, battery maker Hina Battery unveiled three sodium-ion battery products and announced a partnership with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Corp, otherwise known as  JAC. Hina Battery and Sehol — a joint venture brand between JAC and Volkswagen Anhui — jointly built a test vehicle with sodium-ion batteries based on the latter’s Sehol E10X model.

On April 16, CATL announced that its sodium-ion batteries will first be used in various models of cars produced by Chery. CATL unveiled its first-generation sodium-ion batteries in July 2021, saying that the energy density of the cells had reached 160 Wh/kg.

In April 20, Chinese media source 36kr reported that CATL and BYD would use a mixture of lithium-ion and sodium-ion batteries in production vehicles this year. The sodium batteries have better cold weather performance and are cheaper, even after the price of lithium declined significantly since early this year. That, in turn, has blunted some of the low cost advantage of sodium-ion batteries.

The China Passenger Car Association said in a report on May 22 that even with the low cost of materials, sodium-ion batteries may struggle to find acceptance in EVs. Cost of materials is just one factor in the total cost of production of a modern battery cell.

The Takeaway

BYD clearly sees a role for sodium-ion batteries in some vehicles, but the big news here is that the company has the US surrounded. How much longer will it be before it begins manufacturing and selling cars in America? It already has a large electric truck and bus factory in Southern California, so it is no stranger to doing business in the United States.

Here’s a prediction and it’s worth precisely what you paid for: BYD will begin selling cars manufactured in Mexico in America by 2027. Mark that on your calendar. We are either fools or prescient for saying so, but no one at the latte station at CleanTechnica’s employee lounge thinks that claim is far of the mark. We shall see, eh?


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