It has been over a year since the COVID-19 crisis hit us from all sides—medically, economically and socially. While the lockdowns have served the purpose of minimising contact and exposure, they have also put our businesses in a slump, especially the automotive and mobility industries. As the vaccinations are underway and the people are recuperating, the mobility sector too is getting back on its feet (or wheels), reinventing itself every step of the way for the new normal.
The future of mobility can be summarised in a single acronym—ACES—Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared. Though these four disruptors have always been in the big picture of advanced mobility, in India, things are a bit more complex. On one hand, we have major cities that are 82%1 more congested than their Asian counterparts, and on the other, there are populous rural areas that still have limited access to seamless mobility.
With the newly surfaced demand for convenient and contactless transport, the responsibility of scaling up affordable mobility solutions falls upon the government, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and shared mobility providers. Fortunately for India, all three of these entities have already set the wheels of change in motion.
Let’s take a look at the key reforms that will reshape the mobility landscape in a post-pandemic India by shifting the focus to affordability, sustainability and continuous revenue generation.
Giving a Push to EV OEMs and Consumers
Low-emission EVs are vital for our economy to achieve enhanced mobility and our government is fully on board with bringing forth an EV revolution in the country. The 2019 Budget had cut down the GST on EVs from 12% to 5%2 and an additional income tax deduction of ₹1.5L on the interest paid on loans availed for EV purchase. With the recent FAME II subsidy, the leading EV manufacturers in India are slashing their prices substantially, giving consumers a fair chance to opt for a greener means to travel. Along with the subsidy, the government is also planning to waive off the registration fee for electric two-wheelers. With leading two-wheeler OEMs getting on board by pledging a 100% electric transition, India will become a global EV manufacturing hub shortly.
Empowering the Consumer with Shared Mobility
The pandemic era instigated multiple pattern shifts, one of them being the behavioural shift of consumers who prefer convenient mobility to financially-crippling vehicle ownership. Another major use case shift is based on the demand for last-mile delivery services for food and other essentials. These changes will not just drive forth the need for ride-hailing services but will place self-driving rentals and shared two-wheelers at the forefront of urban mobility, enabling users to move anywhere, anytime without being tied to vehicle loans or maintenance charges. Based on the prediction by P&S Intelligence, the Indian shared mobility market is expected to reach $3,952.8 million3 by 2025.
Re-imagining Urban Spaces
A city’s layout plays a vital role in shaping its mobility blueprint. Lack of infrastructure is a massive stumbling block that hinders last-mile delivery in India. One of the main reasons why EV usage in the country is negligible is because of the lack of charging stations. The 2019 GST slash on charging stations from 18% to 5%4 has helped resolve this pain point marginally. But the implementation of Battery Swapping Stations (BSS) across the country is what will truly accelerate EV adoption—just like how you go to a petrol station to refill fuel, you can get your drained battery swapped at a BSS with a fully charged one. It will be faster than the time taken to refuel a conventional vehicle, plus, the vehicle owners need not worry about the battery lifecycle or cost, as all expenses will be borne by the BSS owners.
The government is also planning for a “mega metro push”, with 1000 kms of metro rail spanning across 27 major Indian cities5. Major e-bike rental players are planning to tie up with the project by establishing scooter rental zones in metro stations for last-mile connectivity. Additionally, about 19 Indian states6 are planning to build their own smart cities with 100% electric mobility which would include two-wheelers, auto rickshaws, cars, buses and trucks.
Making Connectivity Key
It isn’t enough for mobility to be shareable and sustainable; it has to be smart too. With the right AI technology, vehicles can act as credible information networks that can help users track the technical status of the vehicle, assess risk profile, analyse rash driving habits and prevent driver fatigue. Many shared mobility players and OEMs already house a wealth of information extracted from the IoT to fine-tune their businesses, which can be used to serve this purpose.
It is perplexing to realise that it took a worldwide pandemic for us to rethink our lifestyle choices and push for low-emission, zero-waste mobility solutions. But this adversity also helped shape political, social and economic policies that are favourable to the consumers and the environment. Now that the government, OEMs, mobility providers and the citizens are on the same page, India is on the right track to become a global leader of cutting-edge, convenient and clean mobility.
Author: Anand Ayyadurai, Co-founder and CEO, VOGO
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.
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