Ever since the latest budget was announced, the curiosity around Battery Operated Vehicles has increased multifold. The announcements in the recent budget aim to promote Zero Emission vehicles, which is the reason for this sudden spike in general interest. The government plans to increase the share of three and four-wheeler fleet by the year 2025 and wants 100 percent adoption of electric vehicles in the below 150 CC in two-wheelers category.
Looking at the ever-growing level of noise and air pollution along with limited supply of fossil fuels, zero emission e-vehicles are an obvious choice. As per a recent data, most of the Indian metros fall under “critically polluted" and "severely polluted" categories. While the government is ambitious about the switch and committed towards green mobility, however, the targets set by the government look like a long shot at the moment.
As per a data the sale of electric vehicles in India has indeed doubled in 2018-19 in comparison to the previous year. However, the share of electric vehicles in India is still less than half-percent in the total automotive fleet. It is estimated that out of the 4 lakh electric vehicles currently operating in India, majority are e-rickshaws and carts which are used for public transport in the national capital Delhi and its neighbouring state UP.
Here are some of the main hurdles in the adoption of electric vehicles…
Charging infrastructure: Think this as a scenario when you bought a car but there are hardly any petrol stations. Similarly, battery operated vehicles need easily accessible charging station to tank up the battery. Unfortunately, this charging infrastructure is almost non-existent.
Most battery powered two or three wheelers have either removeable batteries or their need of a public charging station is minimal. However, bigger vehicles like cars, buses etc. need a widespread charging grid with fast charging capability. We would need participation from both, the government and private players to setup fast charging facilities across the country.
Upfront high cost: Compared to the regular vehicles, electric vehicles are priced higher. Since the technology is still in its nascent stages in India and most of the components are being imported, hence they do not get the relevant subsidies, resulting in a higher price.
The government has invited companies to setup their base in India and manufacture important parts like batteries and related tech in India, however, it will take time for things to get moving on that front. Since the recent budget has provided additional rebate for purchasing battery operated two wheelers and interest rebate for larger vehicles, further ongoing support from government will result in faster adoption of green vehicles.
Awareness: While people are getting serious about the after-effects of pollution and ever diminishing petrochemical resources, a lot of work still needs to be done to create awareness among the users. People need to be made aware about the benefits of these vehicles and the fact that electric vehicles are much cheaper in the long run.
Current scenario: Among the few brands which are actively in the two-wheeler segment are Hero Motors, Go GreenBOV, Okinawa Scooters, Revolt Motors and Ather Energy etc. Some of these companies are not dependent on the need of public charging infrastructure, as their vehicles come with a removable battery and can be easily charged anywhere.
Companies like Ather Energy, which has two different models of scooters available, follows a different route. Their scooters do not come with a removeable battery, instead the company installs a charging station at the consumer’s home and has setup a charging network in cities like Bangalore and Chennai already. Go GreenBOV is focusing on B2B segment and offers a unique vehicle as a service for businesses that have a delivery fleet.
Talking about four wheeler’s, Hyundai’s Kona was recently unveiled in India at a premium price of Rs. 25 lakh approximately. The company is said to be exploring opportunities for affordable electric vehicles and we may hear an announcement from them soon. Similarly, Suzuki, MG Motors, Mahindra, Renault, Nissan, Tata almost all manufacturers have announced their intent to launch electric and hybrid vehicles soon.
Industry quotes: Jeetendra Sharma, CEO of Okinawa feels that, “Government needs to actively promote e-vehicles for a faster adoption of the technology apart from offering more subsidies to early adopters.”
Ather’s CEO Tarun Mehta, feels charging stations are not a limitation for electric two wheelers as a city rider would charge the scooter mostly at his home. In fact, he claims, “The charging stations are meant to assist customers in case their scooters run out of power during the day.” Though he does feel the need of continuous government support to create awareness among buyers.
What customers say: A Bengaluru based techie, Vinay Gowda who recently got an Ather 450 delivered after a long waiting period, feels that zero emission vehicles are the future. Though he had a rude shock when the scooter, which cost him in excess of Rs.1.2 lakh, stopped charging second day itself.
“In order to make these vehicles available to masses, companies should focus on better testing mechanisms and ensure that the vehicles perform as advertised.” He also feels, “Ather should probably launch a stripped-down variant without any software gimmick where the user just has to worry about charging his vehicle and driving it whenever needed.”
Another user, a Chennai based optician Ramees Raja is one of the first few from his city to have booked his electronic marvel. He is very upbeat about his decision and states, “I’m happy that I won’t be adding anything to Chennai’s growing pollution.”
Summing it up
While China and Norway are global leaders when it comes to usage of e-vehicles, India is still lagging far behind. Looking at the current environmental conditions, zero emission vehicles have become a necessity for everyone. Companies also need to ensure enough R&D is done to bring down the costs as much as possible while increasing the efficiency of the vehicle.
Though apart from setting up infrastructure for battery operated vehicles, we also need to look at increasing the sources of renewable energy, else we would be just increasing the load on the electricity grid and in turn burning natural resources to run our vehicles.