The debate and discussion around the growth of electric vehicles being directly dependent on government subsidies have seen mixed views. For Dr Amitabh Saran, Founder & CEO, Altigreen Propulsion Labs, an electric three-wheeler makes a lot of business sense for end-customers even if government subsidies are not available.
He says that even without the incentive, an e-three-wheeler owner will still have 20-30 percent better TCO over its IC-vehicle counterparts. This is just taking out the cost, and not taking into account the other benefits that the user gets. The other advantage of electric three-wheelers includes better driveability, which means less driver fatigue and hence more productivity. With the integrated sensors and data, the vehicle’s performance can be further optimised.
In India, the FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles in India) scheme was introduced to help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, primarily focusing on the two-, three- and four-wheeler segments. The government earmarked a budget outlay of Rs 10,000 crore to support electrification. Since its introduction, it has supported a total of 962,133 vehicles, and incurred expenditure of Rs 4,633 crore in incentives.
But over the last few months, there have been discussions and controversy about alleged malpractices by some automakers in terms of meeting the localisation norms set in by the FAME 2 Scheme. And there are possibilities that the government may not look to extend the subsidies beyond March 2024, which could hurt EV sales.
Saran says if the government decides to do away with subsidies, on one hand, it will bring a “level playing field for everyone. At that point, I will have to still prove that economically it is still a viable solution.”
“We have done that math. Even if you compare the results (without FAME 2 subsidy) the electric three-wheeler will have a cost advantage over a diesel or CNG four-wheeler. It is very clear without subsidy also, but that push reduces that because instead of making 50 percent TCO benefit you will be making only 20-30 percent. You will still make a benefit, but is it big enough for you to take that decision to electrify? That is the only thing that we will have to see. My hope is that by then the penetration of electric vehicles at least in the three-wheeler segment has reached a place where people are finding it attractive.”
Fast-charge a need or luxury in the electric three-wheeler segment
The topic of fast-charging has been at the forefront since the introduction of EVs. While on one hand, the concept of fast-charging is all about dealing with range anxiety, the fact of the matter for the most segment remains, that not all usage requires fast charging.
Altigreen has tied up with Exponent Energy and is working to introduce an electric three-wheeler that can be charged in under 15-minutes, Dr Saran believes that not all customers have such requirements and the need for fast-charge is completely dependent on use cases.
“Today if you look at a diesel three-wheeler, we have spoken to around 1,600 drivers across India over 10 years. Each of them on cargo segment and at least a subset of them are in the cargo segment. They drive 80-90 kilometres on a daily basis. We are almost certain that our products can deliver more than 110-120km per charge in city drive conditions. It is more than what they were driving today. Though most of our vehicles are B2B applications, which means that they are charged at the hubs itself. But there are enough and more drivers who are today charging them at homes without any issues,” he adds.
Going forward, the company is gearing up to launch an electric three-wheeler in the L5 category and an electric four-wheeler in the SCV category. Till date, Altigreen has sold around 1,200 vehicles, and Saran says the idea is to achieve sustainable sales than just overproduce and dump products in the market.