Move over fuel-based and smoke-emitting vehicles. Electric vehicles (EVs) have captured the imagination of policy-makers and automobile manufacturers globally. These machines not only help users save money, but also promote a safe and clean environment. Although the adoption of EVs in India has witnessed a number of bottlenecks, the government is aiming to make India a 100% EV nation by 2030.
India’s automobile industry is the sixth largest in the world and accounts for 22% of the country’s total manufacturing output. EVs can play an important role in increasing the share of manufacturing in India’s GDP from the current 15% to 25% by 2022. Several automotive companies are slowly venturing into the EV space and are expanding their portfolio. Strategies for adopting zero-emission vehicles—which emit no tailpipe pollutants from the onboard source of power—are gaining momentum amid hike in fuel prices, rise in carbon footprint and the need for sustainable transportation. Promoting EVs through innovative ways can also help reduce fossil fuel dependence and pollution, and prove beneficial for both consumers and the nation in the long run.
The future of EVs, in fact, looks quite promising. However, while there are electric cars, electric bikes and e-rickshaws plying on Indian roads, the lack of infrastructure and the high initial costs are major challenges. The good news is automobile companies are trying to find ways for making EVs an affordable and convenient option for the common man.
One of the major hurdles is charging. It is not feasible to take an EV for a long-distance journey due to lack of sufficient charging stations; also, some EVs are not as fast as conventional fuel-powered vehicles. Companies are working to resolve these issues.
Research for developing quick-charging batteries is going on globally. In India, the number of charging stations is increasing slowly. Now, if more and more people shift towards buying EVs, then there is a high probability of power distribution companies setting up charging ports on, say, highways, with all such ports connected to the electricity grid. This again will facilitate quicker charging and people will look at buying an EV as a viable option. The use of lithium-ion batteries can be looked at as a reliable alternative and higher charging speed can be achieved through special charging points. Similarly, driving range can be obtained by opting for batteries with higher specific energy or through a well-distributed infrastructure for charging and supply of replacement batteries.
In January 2016, India’s EV development programme gained prominence after three of the country’s biggest car-makers signed a pact to jointly develop critical parts for an all-electric hybrid car. The companies are working towards developing sustainable solutions in this space. The Supreme Court recently extended the ban on registration of diesel cars with an engine capacity of 2000cc and above in the capital city. This, and the threat of running out of fossil fuels, have led to the gradual rise in the demand of EVs in the country.
The government is working on initiatives that would help boost the EV industry. In April 2015, the government formulated a scheme for Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India, under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, to encourage the progressive induction of reliable, affordable and efficient electric and hybrid vehicles. If the government works out a feasible plan to woo prospective buyers of EVs, the day is not far when the pollution levels in Indian cities will get reduced and the country will have a cleaner atmosphere without compromising on its transportation infrastructure.
The author is CEO, Global, Hero Electric