The steep increase in pollution levels in Indian cities, a significant evolution of technology in e-mobility segment, India’s move towards renewable energy and a host of other factors are impelling all tiers of governments to create a viable ecosystem to promote e-vehicles in India. The nation that does not have a robust infrastructure for e-mobility has begun aligning its priorities in the transport sector to promote the use of e-vehicles
Most of the developing countries in the world have already decided to phase out petrol and diesel-run vehicles. As per the recent announcements, Norway aims to do this by 2025, Sweden and Scotland by 2032, France and UK by 2040. The world is shifting focus to electric cars. The Urban Electric Mobility Vehicles Initiative (UEMI) of UN-Habitat also targets to phase out conventionally fueled vehicles and aim at increasing the share of electric vehicles in cities to at least 30% by 2030. Following the global trend and to lower its dependence on crude oil and reduce pollution levels in cities, the Indian government is also eying to become 100 per cent e-vehicle nation by 2030. Under the National Mission for Electric Mobility, the government targets to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles year on year from 2020 onwards.
However the target seems far from reality as the nation does not have basic infrastructure for e-vehicles and seeing the sheer size and complex demography of the country, there is a lot of work needed to be done.
The electric vehicles industry is growing yet it is at a nascent stage in India. According to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), electric vehicles account for just 1% of the total vehicle sales at present but it is believed that the industry will grow to more than 5% in few years. Over four lakh electric two-wheelers and a few thousand electric cars are plying on Indian roads. The sale volume of e-vehicles has been fluctuating, depending on the incentives offered by the government.
The government has launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) in 2015 to popularize the use of e-vehicles. The Phase-I of the scheme expired in March last year but was extended till September this year. Recently, the government has also announced `5500 cr fund for its second phase. Under the scheme, depending on technology, battery-operated scooters and motorcycles are eligible for incentives ranging between `1,800 to `29,000, while in three-wheelers it is between `3,300 and `61,000. Such incentives would definitely help in boosting the industry. Recently Indian PM Narendra Modi said in Global Mobility Summit that India has a far fewer number of vehicles per capita than other countries which meant it does not have the baggage of other economies that were built on the back of private car ownership. “Our starting point is fresh. We have little of the legacy of resource-blind mobility. This gives us the window of opportunity to create an all-new, seamless mobility eco-system,” he said. He added that we will soon put in place a stable policy-regime around electric and other alternative fuel vehicles. Policies will be designed as a win-win for all, and enable huge opportunities in the automotive sector.
A business opportunity
With government backing the manufacturing and use of e-vehicles in India, there is a huge opportunity for Indian automakers and battery manufacturers to tap the potential. As internal combustion engine vehicles get replaced by electric vehicles, the demand for batteries will scale exponentially. Battery packs are the energy source for these vehicles. A report Research and Development in Electric Vehicle Technologies by IIT-Delhi says that the battery pack value consists of the following: materials and chemicals, which account for almost 40% of the value, cell manufacturing which accounts for almost 30% of the value and finally the battery pack assembly which accounts for an additional 30%. India needs to ensure that it is firmly established in the entire value chain of EV battery manufacturing in the coming years.
At present, most of the electric two-wheelers use lead batteries for keeping the cost low while the world has already moved to Lithium-ion batteries; the similar ones which are used in smartphones. These batteries can be charged fast, have comparatively low weight and are cost-effective. These batteries primarily use Lithium, Cobalt, Manganese, Nickel and Graphite. And, most of these natural resources are not available in India in abundance.
If the nation completely depends on the import, it will surely result in high pricing that could dampen the prospect of the success of e-vehicles. To avoid dependence on imports of these materials in the future, India should focus on recycling used Li-Ion batteries. It is possible to recover up to 95% of Lithium and Cobalt, as well as 93% of Nickel and Manganese and 90% of Graphite. For this, the country will have to develop a feasible technology in battery making and on which many Indian scientists are already working.
OP Kulkarni, a scientist and National Chairman Renewable Energy Cell, says that in near future the Li-based technology will be phased out and Na based technology will catch-up. Sodium-ion batteries would be 50% cheaper in cost; at par with all technical performances, in some case better than Li technology. Sodium being abundantly available in India we need not depend on supply from foreign country resulting into the further possibility of lower costs. The only drawback would be the weight having 10% more but with all other merits the small weight increase can be very easily accommodated in future
What future holds for personal mobility
It is also required that the government creates a standardized charging infrastructure and develop battery replacement and recycling mechanism. This is required to popularize the use of e-vehicles among masses because seeing is believing. People are still apprehensive how far they could go in a single charge and how would they be able to charge their batteries. The answers to these questions are not readily available to the public as of now because of lack of awareness and non-existing infrastructure. India has been expanding its road network every year and it is imperative now that all the related ministries work in cohesion and have provision for charging docks in the upcoming road network.
Electric cars do seem the future of mobility. From the perspective of car users, these vehicles suit the modern lifestyle in which all of have attuned to plugging in devices. This seems quite possible the internal combustion engine vehicles will soon become a thing of past. Visiting petrol pumps would become an old-fashioned and ‘plug-in and go’ culture will gradually enter into our lives. This indeed will be a major shift in the last 150 years since inter combustion engine came into existence; India should be prepared to be ahead in this game.