If you think that your next vehicle could be an electric one, think again. India is not ready for electric vehicles and electric vehicles are not ready for India yet. A recent Bloomberg NEF report states that only about 6.6 percent of the total vehicles sold in the country would be electric by 2030.
That’s a far cry from Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari’s call for a 100 percent electric vehicle fleet by 2030. Heck, it’s even lower than the government’s revised target of 15 percent in five years.
While there have been multiple debates over charging infrastructure and subsidies under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles (FAME-II) scheme, the thing is as long as affordable petrol and diesel vehicles continue to roll out, electric vehicles will have to wait. However, some segments are already moving - like the three-wheeler segment.
There’s plenty to debate on. But here are five primary reasons why electric vehicles won’t take off at least until 2025. We’ve spoken to electric vehicle entrepreneurs, infrastructure experts and pored through EV outlook reports for this one.
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It’s a kind of chicken and egg situation. Should the charging infrastructure be set up first or should enough electric vehicles roll out to demand a charging network? Companies like Panasonic are trying to figure out the solution to this one. It is deploying a network of chargers that can cater to two-wheelers and three-wheelers.
"“We aim to expand that in the near future to other vehicles. We have currently deployed our solutions in Delhi NCR and aim to expand the offerings to Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Amaravati in the next three years and 25 more cities in the next five years.” " - Atul Arya, Head - Energy Systems Division, Panasonic India
However, the issue is different vehicles require different types of chargers and voltages. In December the government sent out a circular saying setting up charging stations is a de-licenced activity. Priority would be given to setting up charging stations at petrol pumps.
The government aims to have one electric vehicle charging station for every 3 Km in cities and every 25 Km on the highway.
The other issue is the type of connectors and plugs.
Each charging station will have to have three types of fast-charging plugs: A combined charging system, a ChadeMo plug and a Type 2 AC fast charger. The Type 2 plug has to have a 22 Kw connection putting out 380-480 volts. The other two will have a 50 Kw connection with 200-1000 volts of DC power.
There also need to be two slow charge points – Bharat AC 001 and Bharat DC 001, with 10Kw, 230 volts and 15Kw 72 volts respectively. It’s going to take a while to establish these multiple connectivity options, which need to cater to scooters, rickshaws and four-wheelers.
Lithium-ion battery technology is improving and that is improving the range of vehicles. But vehicles in India are still not at a point where the range makes it viable or convenient. The Mahindra e-Verito and Tata Tigor electric sedans, for instance, can only do between 80 Km to 130 Km on a charge depending on the model, which isn’t enough for all applications.
Charging time is a big issue – as quick chargers don’t exist and it takes a few hours to charge the batteries of these cars.
On the other hand, electric scooters like the Okinawa i-Praise claim a range of 150 Km on a charge. This will work for commuters in cities, but isn’t a highway application. Electric three-wheelers that have a range of about 80 Km work for small localities, and that is what is expected to be the fastest growing segment.
Another big issue is price. Electric vehicles cost almost twice as much as their petrol counterparts - be it cars or two-wheelers. The Okinawa i-Praise for instance costs Rs 1.15 lakh, while the Honda Activa 110 costs only about Rs 50,000.
Tata’s Tigor petrol sedan costs Rs 5.2 lakh, while its electric variant costs Rs 13 lakh. This upfront cost and lack of range is what is preventing electric vehicles from taking off.
However, there are some companies that think the solution is in the ride-sharing model. Take qQuick, for instance, a Delhi-based startup that’s rolling out a fleet of electric scooters for last-mile connectivity from metro stations.
"“The service is completely keyless. All that a customer needs is a mobile, digital payment account and a driving licence. We charge by the minute, so customers can take our scooters for short errands. This works out cheaper than taking a cab or an auto-rickshaw.” " - Aishwarya Kachhal, Founder, qQuick Shared Mobility
According to the Bloomberg NEF report, the shared mobility segment (Uber and Ola like services) would adopt electric vehicles faster. By 2040, it’s expected that nearly 80 percent of shared mobility services globally would be electric.
However, this is again a chicken-and-egg situation for India. The high cost of purchasing electric cabs with limited range at the moment, does not work in favour of electric vehicles. Diesel and CNG continue to be cheaper alternatives in terms of running cost, range and time saving.
Some startups like Lithium Cabs, though, do offer electric cabs for limited distances on fixed routes, but the segment is still too small. Shared mobility services today account for less than 5 percent of total distance travelled by passenger vehicles. It is expected to reach about 20 percent by 2040.
Growth in electric vehicles isn’t going to come from four-wheelers for now. Two-wheelers and three-wheelers will drive initial growth as seen in the 7.5 lakh unit sales this year, of which four-wheelers was only 3,600 units.
With swappable batteries and more electric two-wheelers makers coming into the market, short range two-wheelers are expected to pick up. The subsidies being offered under the FAME II policy as well as shared mobility services for last mile connectivity will help.
"“Since the initial cost of buying an electric two-wheeler is high, we see a use case where users won’t mind renting them for short periods of time. As the convenience value grows, we expect electric two-wheeler mobility to pick up.”" - Aishwarya Kachhal, Founder, qQuick
For cars, though, it’s a lot more capital intensive. The number of personal use electric vehicles are expected to be minuscule, but shared-mobility and commercial vehicles will drive growth, albeit slowly.
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