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Experts call for cost optimisation to drive the adoption of electric commercial vehicles

The experts debated that the electric commercial vehicle industry will need to focus on cost optimisation without compromising on quality.

FE CV1
L-R: Uday Narang, Founder & Chairman, Omega Seiki Mobility; Anurag Agarwal, Vice-Chairman, PMI Electro Mobility; Abhinav Srivastava, CIO & Head of IT Services, DICV; Devndra Chawla, CEO, Greencell Mobility and Nilesh Wadhwa, Principal Correspondent, FinancialExpress.com.

The commercial vehicle segment has consistently seen more challenges than any other vehicle segment, thanks to the stringent policies in terms of safety, emissions or the need for higher uptime and total cost of ownership. As part of our endevaour to bring forth the topic of disruptions in the automotive industry, The Financial Express Commercial Vehicle Conclave 2023, hosted a panel discussion on ‘Electrification and Connectivity in the CV Segment’.

The panelist for the session included:

  • Abhinav Srivastava, CIO & Head of IT Services, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles
  • Anurag Agarwal, Vice-Chairman, PMI Electro Mobility
  • Uday Narang, Founder & Chairman, Omega Seiki Mobility
  • Devndra Chawla, CEO, Greencell Mobility

Narang started his thoughts that when it comes to electrification in the CV space, one should not look at competition as such, but look at working together to embrace the latest technologies in the space.

PMI’s Agarwal spoke about how electric buses were seeing adoption not just in cities but also even in tier-2 cities. There are challenges as well, as the infrastructure needs to pick up.

“OEMs need to pick up on this.” He said cost is a challenge that has to be overcome without compromising on quality.

Adding to his thoughts, Chawla spoke on there were new opportunities in the EV space.

“We are one of the first companies to start inter-city EV buses, like Bengaluru to Tirupathi or Hyderabad to Vijayawada, which are really high-end buses. This takes a lot of investment to create the infrastructure for this kind of facility. The routes are around 400km, which needs a charging stop in between when the buses stop,” he said.

Representing, Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) Srivastava said that CVs right now is a bundle of software on wheels. The telematics data provides a lot of new use cases for CVs. “New technologies of connectivity like 5G will complement this whole ecosystem. With telematics we can improve profitability, drivability, and safety”, he says.

Talking about numbers, he mentioned that at present a truck can generate around 60 million data points every single second. “This data needs to be churned and it can give a huge amount of insights on driver behaviour, which is a goldmine for many organisations,” Srivastava said.

Coming to 5G technology, he said that the speed of telematics and telemetry in a vehicle will be far more effective. It is a game changer for software on wheels. ADAS, driver monitoring systems, etc, will all work much better with 5G.

Affordability and autonomous

It comes as no surprise that when it comes to the Indian market, any fruitful discussion cannot be complete without the mention of ‘cost’, which makes up a very important factor.

Narang stated that “price sensitivity is very high in this country, so while we can talk about high-end products, at the end of the day it needs to be affordable.”

He says there’s a huge opportunity for electrification in the 1-tonne truck, but this is a very cost-sensitive segment that looks at the total cost of ownership. We need to look at scale and volume and look at how to reduce costs.

In response to the question on when does one see autonomous vehicles become a reality in India? All the panelists say that it’s quite a while away. Regulations are needed first for autonomous vehicles, which India doesn’t have. Also, the infrastructure is lacking, and the roads are not conducive to autonomous vehicles in India.

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First published on: 21-03-2023 at 10:30 IST