The single act of Russia invading Ukraine didn’t only destabilize eastern Europe but had repercussions the world over. In India, people can feel it in their pockets as the war pushed the global oil prices to spike, which was eventually passed on to the consumers.
Petrol prices across major Indian cities have breached the Rs100-mark, with diesel prices not far behind. To prevent gasoline from burning a hole in their pockets, what choice do the consumers have? Electric vehicles, or EVs, can be an answer. A study by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) has claimed that soaring fuel prices can fuel EVs’ sales, saving India Rs 1 lakh crore on oil imports. Not just that, these vehicles should contribute about 30% to the total vehicle sales in the country by 2030, it further claims. The study paints a rosy picture, but is the reality equally promising? For instance, last year, 2.3 lakh units of electric scooters were sold in India compared to 1.2 crores of their petrol-guzzling counterparts. Similarly, the sale of four-wheeler electric passenger vehicles stood at 17,802 the previous financial year. Although the sector is making strides, it’s still a shadow of its ICE counterpart. So, what are the reasons? Let’s explore the prominent ones.
Lack of infrastructure
Just like phones and laptops, electric vehicles need to be charged at regular intervals. Among the primary bottlenecks before this sector is the lack of a robust charging network. Not just that, the scarcity of green alternatives for electricity generation pushes consumers towards the coal-powered electricity grid. Although the Centre and several state governments have unveiled multiple policies in this regard, the sector lacks the infrastructure for EVs to be feasible for the masses.
The lack of charging infrastructure further fuels consumer anxiety as they are left worried about whether they would reach their destination before the EV runs out of power. Evidently, it is a discouraging factor for the adoption of green vehicles.
Yes, the running cost of an EV is significantly lower than its oil-run counterpart. Still, the acquisition cost remains considerably high. For example, you can purchase a TATA Nexon at the starting price of Rs 7.42 lakh. Compare it to TATA Nexon EV, which costs Rs 14.5 lakh. It is despite the government subsidies and EV attracting GST of 5% compared to up to 28% on other cars. Not just that, several states have exempted road tax and registration costs on these. Also, their insurance cost is much higher than ICE vehicles.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha earlier this year, minister of road, transport, and highways Nitin Gadkari had said the cost of green vehicles will be reduced considerably to bring them on a par with the oil-run ones. In another statement, he said, about 600 charging stations will come up across major highways by 2023.
Faint product line-up
Despite the EVs’ presence in the market for quite some time, it’s significantly fainter when compared to conventional vehicles. A stark difference in product line-up can be another factor.
Vehicles catching fire
A major development that has shook the EV industry is that of electric scooters abruptly catching fire. In one such case in Vellore, a father-daughter duo was killed. In another in Andhra Pradesh, a 40-year-old man was killed when his brand new electric bike exploded in his bedroom. An 80-year-old man was killed in another such incident in Telangana. Several fire cases have been reported involving electric scooters of Pure EV, Ola, Okinawa, and Jitendra EV. In the wake of these incidents, Okinawa Autotech recalled over 3,000 of its scooters, Pure EV 2,000 and Ola Electric pulled back 1,441 of its scooters. Pure EV has also issued safety guidelines, which includes not leaving the battery on charge overnight or unattended for long hours. The Centre has also reportedly asked the manufacturers to call the faulty batches, or face consequences. An investigation has also been launched. Although the probe is on, these will undoubtedly fuel further consumer anxiety over Evs.
Switching to green alternatives can go a long way in reducing our dependence on oil, as well as checking pollution. However, to boost consumers’ interest, these roadblocks need to be removed. The manufacturers and policymakers can maybe start with addressing consumers’ safety.