Auto companies creating hysteria over electric vehicles; here is a reality check

Published: September 14, 2017 4:55 AM

The government’s intent to convert all of India’s vehicles to electric has now been known for a year. Several auto-companies have however been in denial mode.

electric vehicles, electric vehicles situation in india, india electric vehiclesA recent tender by a public-sector company to procure some 10,000 electric cars and a programme to launch 50,000 electric 3-wheelers and 10,000 buses have suddenly shaken them. (Reuters)

By-Ashok Jhunjhunwala

The government’s intent to convert all of India’s vehicles to electric has now been known for a year. Several auto-companies have however been in denial mode. A recent tender by a public-sector company to procure some 10,000 electric cars and a programme to launch 50,000 electric 3-wheelers and 10,000 buses have suddenly shaken them. They are crying foul and creating a hysteria that the Electric Vehicles (EVs) will have huge socio-economic costs for the country and will contribute to loss of millions of jobs in India. Let us do some reality check.

The energy efficiency of an internal combustion engine using petrol (or diesel) is between 16-21%; that of electric motors is above 90%. A petrol car has over 2,000 moving parts, whereas EVs have some 25, making it far-more reliable. The prices of batteries are falling rapidly—a 75%-drop in last six years. In the next five-six years, an electric vehicle with acceptable range will cost less than a petrol vehicle, and will have five-six times lower running cost. Sheer economics will make Indians prefer and purchase EVs.

The only problem is that if India waits now, other nations acquire a definite technology-edge and India will end up importing most of the EV sub-systems or pay massive royalties. This will in fact result in the collapse of many auto and auto-parts manufacturers in India, leading to massive job-losses.

If this perilous state is to be avoided, India has to act now and move rapidly to EVs, innovating upon every aspect so as to attain leadership in at least some aspects of technologies involved. It has to start making motors, drives, batteries, battery-cells, chargers and control systems for EVs today. It has to carry out lithium battery recycling and make electric power-steering, brakes, air-conditioners and every subsystem required to further drive efficiencies in entire supply chain for small as well as large electric vehicles. It has to start making electric autos, electric rickshaws, electric load carriers, electric cars and electric buses today, instead of waiting.

India has to innovate to overcome high costs of several EV sub-systems today and optimise the technologies for the higher ambient temperature in our country. It has to optimise the design of these vehicles to give high performance even at the lower average speeds in our congested cities. India has to try out innovative techniques to overcome range anxiety, including battery-swapping and top-up charging and find solutions most suitable for our conditions.

There has been a significant number of Indian companies, which have taken the initiative and been doing precisely this. They have been working over the last one year, engaging in dialogue with the government and partnering with R&D institutes to take up these challenges. A combination of existing and new industry players are taking up such tasks, confident that as EV replaces IC-engine vehicles in the coming years, the contribution of the auto-industry to India’s economy and jobs will not just remain intact, but actually grow.

There are however, other companies, which believe that the coming EV revolution is just a bad dream and will simply disappear. Some of them go out of the way to be critical of the modest efforts made by the government to promote EVs. They believe that technology should be proven and worked out elsewhere in the world and then only India should adopt it; they believe that we should adopt hybrids at present, which were introduced in the world some 20 years ago. After all, they believe that India can only follow and never lead.

They, however, are not aware that a new generation of leadership has emerged in industry, in academia and amongst the youngsters and start-ups, who believe that India can lead; and they are working towards India becoming a fully-EV nation by 2030 and making India a leader in EVs, in spite of all the fears and negativity around. They are the future of India.

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