Metal-air tech can emerge as a viable option for EVs
For electric vehicles (EVs) to gain momentum, India needs to promote R&D of alternative battery technologies to address issues such as range anxiety, total cost of ownership and the lack of proper charging infrastructure.
Cost has been one of the biggest hurdles towards growth of EVs. While it is expected that after BS-VI implementation the cost dynamics will shift in favour of EVs, the battery cost continues to be a major concern. New technologies that use locally-available minerals and metal-air batteries can emerge as a viable option for long-range EVs. Also, today, lithium is the most important element in an EV on account of its use in batteries, but India has no known sources of lithium and cobalt. So, in the absence of ready access to these minerals, the role of metal-air batteries can be considered.
Then there is range anxiety. India needs a better charging infrastructure. As of May 2018, India had about 222 charging stations, with 353 charging points. The current niche EV market is dominanted by lithium-ion batteries, which need to be charged every 200-odd-km. Here also metal-air technologies can lead the growth—EVs powered with these batteries can have a longer range.
As internal combustion engines exit the market over the decades, if not years, automotive OEMs’ value addition would shrink, limited to chassis, body and vehicle assembly, unless they adapt to the EV trend, which will see a rise in aluminium usage for light-weighting (to compensate for the heavy weight of batteries). Towards that, investments in R&D for advanced lightweight materials such as carbon fibre and graphene can bring down costs and commercialisation of these materials.
Lastly, streamlining GST rates on EVs and batteries and components is the need of the hour. As a first step, the increase in customs duty in the Union Budget 2018-19 can contribute towards increased localisation and promote local sourcing from OEMs. To keep the costs of EVs down, OEMs will have to invest and encourage local R&D and technology development. The reduction in corporate tax to 25% for MSMEs with a turnover of up to Rs 250 crore can help the medium and small Indian auto component manufacturers.
The government also needs to look seriously at non-fiscal support, such as providing better quality roads, special EV driving lanes, EV parking spots, exemption from odd-even schemes, etc. Increased investment in supportive infrastructure and improving roads can greatly contribute to the demand for EVs across segments.
The author is CEO & Founder, Log 9 Materials—a nanotechnology company specialising in graphene. Views are personal