Analysis Of India’s Electric Vehicle Transition Over The Years And The Present Scenario

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India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Among the industries that have contributed to this growth has been the automotive industry. The support received from government and welfare schemes have given a boost to the industry and hence the growth.

With the evolution of electric vehicles, India is at the cusp of an e-mobility revolution. Though the path of reaching till here has not been an easy one and we still have a long way to go. But being a global frontrunner in promoting and developing an e-mobility ecosystem, there are many reasons which make this shift inevitable. A transition to electric mobility has the potential to reduce oil imports, address air pollution in cities, and help meet India’s climate commitments by reducing the energy intensity of the gross domestic product (GDP). 

Electric vehicles promise zero tailpipe emissions and a reduction in air pollution in cities. The Indian government has created momentum through its Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles schemes that encourage, and in some segments mandates the adoption of electric vehicles (EV), with a goal of reaching 30% EV penetration by 2030.

Let’s have a closer look at how the Electric vehicles have evolved and transitioned over the years in India. For this, read on as our experts talk about the same…


‘Lovebird’, the first electric vehicle (EV) in India, was launched in 1993 by Eddy Current Controls. Equipped with a lead–acid battery, which took eight hours to charge fully, the two-seater car had a driving range of 60 km per charge. Zero subsidies, lack of electric power and networks, and inability of the car to climb a gradient above 15 degrees were some major drawbacks back then. The technology, infrastructure, and policy support for EVs is much better today, but the price is still higher when compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

EV Policy Landscape in India

Almost two decades later, India started framing policies—such as the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP), and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) schemes—for promoting EVs. Given their high upfront cost, most of the policies focus on purchase-price subsidies, but have been unable to bridge the price gap between EVs and their ICE equivalents. The FAME-2 scheme, however, focusses on charging infrastructure along with subsidy. This encourages private players to set up public charging stations. As a result, we see a network of public chargers (government and private) in major Indian cities today. We need more such pragmatic policies to encourage EV adoption in India.

Current Market Scenario 

According to a Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV) report, though the share of EVs in the Indian market is still 1%–2%, the last financial year (2019–20) saw a 20% increase in sales when compared to 2018–19. This includes sales of 3,400 cars and 1.52 lakh e-scooters. In addition to this, there was an estimated sale of 90,000 e-rickshaws as well. 

Challenges 

Upfront cost, range anxiety, and inconvenience of charging are some of the issues that make people shy away from EVs. Though their upfront-cost is higher, the lifetime cost of EVs is lesser than ICEs. A study by Datalabs revealed that in a span of 6–8 years, the cost of ownership of e-scooters, e-cars, and e-buses would be lesser than their ICE equivalents. E-rickshaws are projected to achieve this within a couple of years. When it comes to range, the current battery capacity (Table 1) is sufficient for intra-city travel in most cities in India, but intercity travel remains a challenge. 

Table 1: Category-wise battery range for EVs

Sl. No.Vehicle CategoryRange (km)
1Two-wheelers60–100
2Three-wheelers100–150
3Cars120–300
4Buses100–300
(Based on technical specifications of EVs in India)

Charging infrastructure issues can be solved by introducing one universal charger and battery type for one vehicle category.  This would ensure that people can recharge or replace batteries during their inter-city travels according to their need and availability, thereby achieving the ease of refuelling associated with ICE vehicles.

As the world recovers slowly from the pandemic, people have become more aware of the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions. With the right initiatives, this could be the moment when EVs take-off in India.

By Trupti Deshpande – Research Analyst, Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP)


EV sector still at a nascent stage in India

The demand for EVs has been fast increasing in India. There is almost a jump of 20% in demand for EVs in the e2W segment. This is a piece of good news for EVs manufacturers in India. As per this data, it is presumed that the main player for EVs in India will be 2Ws, especially scooters. Presently, in India majority of the e2W which are available for consumers are slow-speed scooter models, with a maximum speed of 25kmph. Most of these products are manufactured using Chinese parts and this is one of the main reasons that the end product reliability is always questionable. The concern here is that as these are basically assembled products with little or no engineering there is little or no differentiation and more importantly is not near the performance of the current IC engine scooters.

A major step forward taken by some Indian companies is by evolving and slowly moving towards higher-end products by R&D in India which gives confidence to consumers. This shift in having better, reliable and engineered vehicles will definitely boost consumer confidence and acceptance thus allowing higher penetration of EV’s. Some Notable vehicles or announcements are:

OLA has announced the world’s largest EV scooter manufacturing facility. With their acquisition of Etergo and then making in India it is something to look forward to. Ampere Electric vehicles is another one, with model Zeal, an electric scooter that can touch a top speed of 50-55 km/h. Revolt Motors has created an electric motorcycle. The company announced its arrival with an RV 400 motorcycle, with a top speed of 85 km/h and up to a range of 80 kilometers in one charge. Similarly we have Ather Energy which is changing the landscape with a well engineered product at high speeds.

It is predicted that the e3W segment of the EVs will have the fastest market growth that will be closely followed by electric buses and 2W. The e3W market is seeing a lot of experimentation and development specifically in the L5 category. The L5 Category is expected to become the workhorse for E-commerce and Last mile deliveries. Here again the key issue is the product reliability. In an effort to reduce costs the reliability and most importantly uptime for vehicles is not being given the importance it deserves. Such vehicles require strong engineering capabilities from ground up with extremely reliable battery solutions to offer maximum uptime. There is a lot of experimentation going on here to find the right market- product fit. However this commercial vehicle category becomes the obvious choice for electrification because it is economically viable already.

It is our opinion that a reliable and safe TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) product is the one that will make an impact and long-lasting brand in the highly volatile automotive market of India. EV manufacturers must market the product in terms of TCO. The market will only move towards EVs when the probable consumer will realize that the TCO of EVs is less as compared to vehicles driven by petroleum products.  

The Indian EV market will move forward at a faster pace than ever, with the consumer belief in the product. The availability of more reliable products in e2W and e3W segments, with higher speed options, will surely boost the EV sector in India. To meet the challenges thrown by the customers, in terms of reliability companies using cheap Chinese kits will fall behind in near future. 

By Akshay Kashyap – Managing Director, Greenfuel Energy Solutions


For more articles and perspectives click here: https://emobilityplus.com/2021/05/17/emobility-india-march-2021-magazine/

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