New-age mobility: Accelerating the transition to electric — three suggestions

June 22, 2020 4:15 AM

Our obligation to the Paris Agreement may fall short unless we make the transition to electric—big and swift.

New-generation electric cars in India have a real-world driving range of 275-375 km. And if your commute is largely within your city, you are sorted for the weekNew-generation electric cars in India have a real-world driving range of 275-375 km. And if your commute is largely within your city, you are sorted for the week

By Sandeep Bangia

The Covid-19 crisis has brought with it an opportunity to pause, think and approach the new era with a new lens. It also allows us to reset our vision in line with our long-term objectives—green objectives, for instance.

We have seen the benefits of the lockdown on our environment—blue skies, clean air, etc—a direct consequence of a sharp drop in vehicular pollution. Would we want to fritter it away and not enjoy cleaner air for the rest of our lives? Remember, India is home to seven of the top 10 most polluted megacities in the world.

Electric mobility is a definitive way to retain this pristine air without compromising functionality. Continuing with the ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles with the same alacrity as in the past may never enable us to see AQI of about 50 in Delhi and Mumbai. A shift to electric mobility is imminent and long overdue in India just as the trends show for Europe, the UK, China and other countries.

The good news is there were indications of this shift at the recently concluded Delhi Auto Expo 2020. Electric vehicles were the most photographed or Instagrammed stars of the show. A range of electric buses, commercial vehicles, cars, e-scooters and e-bikes were on display.

Mahindra launched the electric version its KUV100 SUV, called the eKUV100. Mahindra Funster Electric, Mahindra Udo and Mahindra Atom concepts also caught the fancy of auto enthusiasts. Renault displayed its Zoe and City KZ-E. The other head-turners were Niro EV and Soul EV from Kia. Also displayed were the cute-looking GWM R1 and iQ from another auto major entering India soon, Great Wall Motors. Tata Motors had the largest pavilion showcasing everything from the sprightly Nexon EV to the Tata Sierra concept in an electric avatar.

Electric buses are making an appearance in large cities, stimulated by the incentives available to municipal bodies. People find the idea of an electric bus sans noise and pollution almost magical. Even the newer generation electric cars are very promising—the ZS EV from MG Motor, Hyundai’s Kona Electric and Tata Motors’ Nexon EV. More EVs are expected to be launched in India soon.

So, what is preventing electric cars from becoming the preferred option? Well, the most cited reason is the lack of charging infrastructure. The government is driving a lot of focus to change this and seems committed to make it happen. Our obligation to the Paris Agreement may fall short unless we make the transition to electric—big and swift.

Incidentally, we do have public chargers in most large cities in India, if you need them. If? Yes, that’s because worldwide everyone charges their electric cars at home. Recharging an electric vehicle is unlike refuelling an ICE car. It’s a fundamental behavioural change that needs to sink in.

The electric cars we buy come bundled with a home charging kit. It’s like your own private petrol pump. The charger is installed next to the location where you park your car, whether your apartment is in a high-rise or an independent house. When you come back from work, plug the charger into your car and relax. Your car will be charged in a few hours. New-generation electric cars in India have a real-world driving range of 275-375 km. And if your commute is largely within your city, you are completely sorted for the week.

A smart home charger can be controlled through a mobile app. This means you can switch the charger on and off from your living room and don’t need to physically reach out to the charging spot or the car. The app also gives you the current state of charge, cost, range, ability to charge with discounted off-peak rates (if offered by your discom), total monthly consumption, etc.

Public chargers are typically required for emergency top-ups or intercity journeys. So, when you travel from, say, Delhi to Chandigarh and want to take a break along the highway for a coffee or for scrumptious parathas at Murthal, you may as well top-up your car. This is to prevent ‘range anxiety’ and to drive on with peace of mind.

Similarly, if you run low on charge within the city, you may find a public charger at a mall, a municipal public parking lot, a supermarket or even your workplace.

Operators like Tata Power, Fortum, etc, are putting up rapid chargers along highways, at malls, residential complexes, public parking lots, commercial complexes, etc. However, setting up ubiquitous charging infrastructure needs collaboration between the automakers, utilities, end-users or the community and government agencies—supported by a policy framework.

What can we do to make a difference now? There are some suggestions:

Take an electric cab or bus: Electric buses are being deployed on many routes these days by almost all city transport bodies. Similarly, there are a lot of options for e-cabs in all the big cities—Evera Cabs, BluSmart, Glyd, Lithium, Ryds, Meru and others. You will be comfortable, cocooned in silence and, more importantly, emission-free and guilt-free.

Encourage charging infrastructure: Ask your municipality, organisation or RWA to put an EV charger in your premises. Have conversations with people who matter, the corporators, municipal officials, the society/RWA committee, etc. A potential buyer will be comforted to see a charger in the vicinity and this can swing her buying decision.

Drive an EV: We have some gorgeous EVs in India, and more are waiting in the wings. Promise to buy an electric car as your next purchase. There are a lot of incentives like deeply discounted or free registration, free toll, free parking or similar such. Furthermore, an electric car is so much fun to drive—thrilling linear torque, no gears, noiseless operation, etc. Top that with low cost of running, low maintenance, low cost of ownership, and you have a winner on your hands.

And finally, when you do buy an electric car—smile. You’ve made a responsible choice. You’re driving with the ultimate badge of honour—a green number plate. If the people around don’t thank you enough, Mother Nature will.

The author is the business head for New Business Services at Tata Power. Views are personal

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