Societal shift, technology and business model innovation are what will fuel India’s EV drive

Technological developments have undergone a paradigm shift and played a key role in the significant interest in electric vehicles in India. The government’s push via different initiatives, lower running costs, and surging fossil fuel prices have also helped in rising demand. However, the teething troubles are widespread — range anxiety, high initial price of electric vehicles, buy back price and a range of reported mishaps of e-two wheelers. Then there are infrastructural constraints like battery production capabilities, storage facilities, charging infra and a yet to be responsive grid, can all be potential roadblocks to the mass adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in India.

The government envisions replacing 30 percent of its four-wheeler fleet with electric vehicles by 2030, a step towards lowering carbon emissions. To achieve this goal the country should focus on creating an impactful, safe, and sustainable framework and ecosystem for e-mobility in India.

Growing a safe ecosystem for EVs

We are at an inflection point in the EV adoption curve. The direction of inflection is dependent on how we tackle safety, reliability and performance by implementing standards across the value chain.

An environment where land surface temperatures is pushing 50°C in summers, alleys get water-logged during monsoons, dust and vibrations are prevalent demands any technology indigenization will ensure flawless operations in the realities of India.

In addition to developing a governing body for establishing and implementing qualifications across the development stage, there are inroads in this burgeoning industry for manufacturing oversight. For example, higher linkage to complying with manufacturing standards while disbursing PLIs (for battery manufacturing, recycling and EV) to companies. Workforce too has to be reskilled to think of safety standards differently.

Power equipment typically undergoes thousands of hours of rigorous testing before commercial use. In some cases they are recorded operating for several months and seasons to take care of actual physical conditions, as the impact of failure is consequential. The same applies to EVs, lives are at stake.

The next step is building trust through ownership. Electric Mobility as a Service is a model that not only helps overcome the initial costs of EVs but can also focus the accountability of maintaining standards. Under FAME II program, the government plans to promote eBus adoption through disbursal of subsidies to such asset-light opex based models. The responsibility of ensuring quality can be added to the review of these new business models.

As with all technologies, how it is deployed, used and abused equally influences the experience and the outcome. Just as we cannot imagine replacing petrol with diesel or vice versa in combustion engine vehicles, the end consumer has the responsibility to understand the requirements of their specific EV model, its charging mechanism, the charge curve and how weather conditions will impact performance, where to charge the batteries etc Companies, manufacturers, and new players too benefit from a sustainable market by shining a spotlight on the technological aspect of electric vehicles for the value-conscious customers in our country.

A flexible and secure grid for charging EVs

Any intermittency in providing users with clean reliable energy on-demand by the charging infrastructure and the electric grid is going to add to hesitancy in adoption. India has affirmed support for cutting-edge technologies in grid-to-plug EV charging systems, alternative batteries, battery swapping, wireless charging, fast charging, improving battery range and life, and adoption by fleets. The seeming profusion has led to some users delaying purchase decisions to see what technologies prevail. We must balance these wide-ranging options with some standardization and inter-operability to help build a critical mass.

With ~400GW of generation capacity, India has enough power for EVs to become mainstream in the immediate future. However, for EVs to make their contribution to carbon neutrality, the nation will have to meet and surpass its renewable energy goals and then smoothen the intermittency. Widespread use of EVs would put more load on the national grid with sharp demand fluctuations. We will have to invest in modernizing the grid with flexible power technologies today – at national, state and distribution levels – to ensure faster adoption of EVs.

Drive towards EV

India is electrifying its vehicles but is it enough to reach the target of 30% by 2030? As the EV market continues to grow, companies and the government need to increase their support for the electrification of transportation. Driving pure EV innovation and technology alone is not enough. Stabilizing the current policy environment, creating a more collaborative ecosystem, driving awareness on the technology used in designing EV products amongst consumers, improving the existing infrastructure, and enabling a flexible, secure and sustainable power grid are all critical to driving EVs in India.



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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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