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Is India ready for EVs? Date: May 30, 2019

Do Electric Vehicles Have a Future in India?

Every 90’s kid has grown up watching cartoons like The Simpsons, Dexter’s Laboratory, and The Flintstones, etc. But the one show which stood out in the crowd was The Jetsons.

The sitcom was aired in 1962, but the show itself was set in 2062. The Jetsons displayed a highly positive view of technology in the future which was neither utopian nor dystopian. Among other things, it was the flying cars that caught my attention the most, always wondering when I’ll sit in a flying car.

We’re in 2019 now, and there is no sight of flying cars, so let’s just skip the Jetsons viewpoint of technology and stick to our probable future, i.e. Electric Vehicles (EVs).

Instead of beginning with a history of the EV market in India, let’s begin by jumping into the future and what’s in store for us. The Indian Government is planning to promote the mass production of EVs, so by 2030, one can expect to enter the “Electric Era.”

In September 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was set to inaugurate India’s first Global Mobility Summit, aka MOVE. The GOI is short-listing 9 of the most polluted and densely populated cities, having a large vehicular base, to push and promote the adoption of EVs.

India is slowly but steadily paving a path for leadership as it is en route to becoming the third largest automotive market by volume in the world by 2020, after China and the USA. Clubbing this with India’s plan to push other schemes such as FAME and NEMMP to promote electric cars is a big game changer for automakers as they have been ramping up investments in India to cater to growing demands, and set up export-oriented production hubs.

Looking beyond expectations and plans, let’s take a look into the ground reality and how far we are from getting our very own Tesla on the roads of India.

Considering the fact that India has 22 out of 30 of the most polluted cities in the world, one would imagine that India would be a frontrunner in the EV market. But unfortunately, there are not many manufacturers who are dabbling in this field yet. Unlike the Chinese government, the GOI has provided little financial support or incentives to automakers.

EVs use electric motors as its primary source of propulsion unlike traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, which run on petrol and diesel. EVs use electrical energy which is stored in rechargeable batteries. The primary benefit of an EV is the lack of tailpipe emissions. But other than this, a few of the other advantages of driving an EV in comparison to traditional cars are:

  • Cheaper to operate – since an EV runs on electrical power, the money spent on petrol and diesel will be foregone.
  • Requires less maintenance – an EV has less moveable parts compared to an internal combustion engine used in traditional cars. The Idaho National Laboratory compares the gasoline and EVs.
  • EVs are safer – all passenger vehicles are required to pass safety and crash tests. Statistically speaking, gas cars have 1 fire to every 20 million miles, whereas EVs have 1 fire to every 120 miles driven.
  • Reduction in the bill for oil imports – India imports approximately 80% of its crude oil requirements, so a shift to usage of EVs can help India save $330 billion on oil imports by 2030.

However, keeping these benefits aside, there are several requirements to make EVs possible in India.

Since our country has different environmental conditions and unique driving patterns, Bosch, the world’s leading supplier of automotive components, states that it is challenging but opportunistic.

For starters, in a country like India where a majority of consumers and buyers are cost and value conscious, EVs are on the high-end of that spectrum and will only be attractive to consumers when they are introduced at lower costs, via government subsidies or incentives, if any.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of data on EVs in India, it is difficult to calculate the cost of owning and maintaining one, but it is important to remember that refueling cost, and maintenance cost (primarily of the battery) are relatively low in comparison to gasoline based vehicles.

But other than cost, one of the biggest challenges will be the infrastructure requirement, i.e. a supply of power, since EVs are completely reliant on the battery performance. For India to proceed within this field, an adequate and excess supply of power is a prerequisite which can be fed to charging stations throughout the country.

Besides the adequacy, another issue related to electricity is that its fluctuation, i.e. there cannot be any power outage. In most rural areas, there is a lack of electricity distribution; limiting the distance EVs can travel in India, which can prove to be a deal breaker for several buyers.

There are already a few EVs in the market currently, and to make consumers more excited there are several cars which will be available soon. But without the necessary infrastructure and a governmental push, for both automakers as well as buyers, it seems difficult for India to achieve their Jetsons ride.
In my opinion, India does not seem to be prepared for the Electric Era just yet.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of any agency, organization, employer, or any company. Fintuned Co. LLP shall not be held responsible in any manner whatsover, for any decision/action taken by readers on the basis of the content mentioned in the article. Readers are requested to exercise their best judgement before taking any decision/action. Fintuned Co. LLP shall also not be held responsible for any copyright infringement committed by the author in the process of writing and/or publishing this article and in the event any such offence is found, cooperate with necessary authorities to take remedial action

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