What India needs to do to boost the e-mobility sector

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Transportation is getting revolutionised with the demand for electric vehicles (EVs) growing over the past couple of years. Global experts feel that EVs will not only lower costs but also save the environment from the polluting effects of petrol and diesel. So, the auto sector is set to change completely, with 150 year old technologies being phased out to make way for e-mobility.

By Nijhum Rudra

With the arrival of autonomous EVs, personal car ownership is expected to drop as people start opting for ride-hailing services. This will not only save time and expenses, but also decrease greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

Challenges faced in the Indian EV industry
One of the biggest challenges faced by the electric vehicle industry, in India and globally, is the lack of retail financing options. All potential buyers of electric vehicles should get support from the nationalised banks. “Customers should be able to avail income tax benefits on loans taken to buy EVs. The second challenge is the lack of an appropriate charging infrastructure. Third, is ensuring sustainable power resources for the rapid growth of the electric vehicle market. By overcoming these major challenges, we can definitely ensure significant growth in e-mobility,” says Pankaj Tiwari, business development head, Avan Motors.

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Another challenge in the EV industry is the lack of clear policies from the government. Apart from this, consumers are also not too aware about this sector and the performance of EVs. “Before people can become consumers of EVs, the government sector should take the lead by becoming large scale buyers,” says Jeetender Sharma, managing director, Okinawa Scooters.

Digitising transport
Currently, many aspects of our everyday lives are getting digitised. Digitalisation in mobility has made the concept of autonomous cars and e-cars a reality, states Bernd Mangler, senior vice president, automotive solutions at Siemens AG. In a recent interview with a leading Indian news portal, Mangler said, “To bring out a new car or put a new derivative of an older model into production is a painful and time-consuming process. It is a big investment. Now, ‘virtual commissioning’ means that before you put any piece of steel into your plant, you simulate the entire chemical solution and the electrical solution in the virtual world. In that way, you can experiment and decide what finally works. That will speed up the commissioning time by cutting down the planning-to-production period tremendously.”
Continuous digitisation is optimising automobile plants. Automotive factories already have huge production capacities that carry out sophisticated functions. There is also no real requirement to alter them in the coming years to craft new variants, because the manufacturing solutions are constantly evolving. Siemens has developed a unique product that has the potential to test e-cars and e-mobility products virtually.

Are overhead contact lines (OCL) the answer?
It has been reported that Siemens has new IoT solutions and software with the ability to amalgamate analytics, data and transparency to optimise operations in factories. Most of these new developments are happening in the automobile industry. Recently, Siemens got into an agreement with Volkswagen to digitise 122 factories around the world. Edge-based computing and digital solutions like the cloud have massive prospects both in China and India, and global IT companies are going to play a pivotal role in the manufacturing of electric vehicles.

Siemens has also formed a partnership with Alibaba to sell its Mindsphere industrial IoT solutions in China.

Benjamin Wickert, head of business development for eHighway Solutions in Siemens Mobility, says, “Typically, a one-kilogram battery is needed per tonne-kilometre to run a truck electrically with current technologies. This implies that for a 40 tonne truck travelling 500km, a 20 tonne battery would be needed, which seems to be senseless. To meet these constraints, an electric road system (ERS) based on an overhead contact line (OCL) has been developed by Siemens, using a hybrid heavy-duty vehicle (HDV). It can be used both for shuttle transport at ports and mines, and for highways.”

Expert view: What the government can do to promote EVs
—Jeetender Sharma, managing director, Okinawa Scooters

“The EV industry is currently witnessing many new entrants, yet there is still a lack of localisation. So the government needs to further promote Make in India. The future is clearly electric. Considering the depleting natural resources, it has become imperative for the present generation to save the environment for the future. The most important work that the government needs to do is focus on defining a clear policy for the EV industry, provide support in building a charging infrastructure, and promote Made in India products.”

—Pankaj Tiwari, business development head, Avan Motors

“The government of India has launched some good initiatives like NEMMP and FAME to support the electric vehicle industry in India. Reiterating its commitment to the Paris Agreement, the government has plans to shift entirely to electric vehicles by 2030. For this to happen, the government must study the actual challenges and constraints in the EV industry—customer financing, charging infrastructure, adequate power resources, and awareness among people. By addressing these, the government can contribute a lot towards the success and growth of the EV industry.”


Ride-hailing transport to take on personal cars

At an automobile show in Shanghai, China, the vision for the future of automobiles was on display—hyper-connected, autonomous, and shared transport. The popularity of on-demand transportation is increasing on a large scale. The Shanghai auto show displayed how ride-hailing services are flourishing along with car-sharing. China is unique in that it has exceptional manufacturing capabilities when it comes to any technology-based product, and its population is noted for embracing these high-tech new services or products. To grab this advantage, auto manufacturers are now in a race to sell their electric vehicles in the world’s biggest auto market.

Zhao Guoqing, vice president of Chinese auto giant, Great Wall Motors, says, “We cannot just develop electric cars. They will have to be smart, interconnected and of course, shared.” Stephan Wollenstein, director of Volkswagen China also shared a similar view with the TOI: “We can no longer be a conventional manufacturer; we must offer mobility solutions and connectivity.”

In the future, automobiles will be run more on fuel cells and electricity than on diesel or petrol. Car companies have to change to suit consumer preferences and government emission regulations. When cars move to being driverless, automobile manufacturers will focus on providing more amenities and conveniences to passengers. Car manufacturers will evolve into companies offering mobility solutions, says Mangler of Siemens.

E-mobility in India: An overview
The Indian scenario is a bit different. Government surveys and experts claim that the future of e-mobility in India is in public transport and two-wheelers, and not in personal cars. And to boost the EV market in India, the government plans to set up charging stations at petrol pumps.

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report released in 2016, about 11 per cent of India’s carbon emissions are from transportation, which is the primary cause of air pollution in several cities. Also, 14 of the world’s most polluted cities are in India, as of now. In terms of percentages, about 20-25 per cent of the overall air pollution during winters in Delhi is due to the polluting vehicles plying in the city. The Indian government’s records state that the Indian auto industry sold around 900,000 EVs in 2017, which is a mere 4 per cent of the diesel and petrol vehicles sold that year.

To address this issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expected to announce the second phase of the ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles’ (FAME-II), as a follow-up to the first phase of the policy that was launched in 2015.

But the launch was deferred as further rework on the policy was required to decrease the price of EV batteries, while the earlier focus had been to reduce the price of the entire vehicle.
A year back, a government survey claimed India will reach an EV sales volume of more than 1.6 million vehicles in FY23, mainly driven by government procurement and three-wheeler EV sales. Also, a major investment in this sector by ride-hailing companies as well as food delivery operators is expected to push growth in electric four-wheelers and two-wheelers.
Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog, says that 76 per cent of the vehicles on the road in India are two-wheelers, which use around 64 per cent of the fuel sold in the nation. To save costs and the environment, the government should offer more incentives to electric two-wheeler makers and buyers, rather than only to the public transport and three-wheeler EV market segment.

A year back, R.K. Singh, Minister of Power and New & Renewable Energy, had said that the government would introduce the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure policy, which will enable companies in the energy storage domain to begin rolling out commercial charging stations to boost e-mobility.

At the International Symposium to Promote Innovation & Research in Energy Efficiency (INSPIRE) in 2018, Singh concluded, “We have circulated the EV Charging Policy for comments (among other departments and ministries). The second line of the policy says that everybody is free to set up an EV charging station.”

What’s the future of EVs in India?
The Indian government has set a target of manufacturing 1 million 2W electric vehicles in the country by 2022. While that promises a bright future for EVs in India, industry experts feel the government will need to do much more to create a real impact. Manufacturers need to be encouraged with easy financing schemes from nationalised banks, and the people of India must be made aware of the benefits of using EVs. The entire ecosystem for localising production also has to be built up.

A couple of months back, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) published a report that concluded India had made good progress on e-mobility and electric vehicles such as electric buses, e-rickshaws and electric two-wheelers.

The report further states:

  • By 2040, about 13 per cent of the passenger vehicles plying on Indian roads will be electric.
  • The annual sales of EVs is expected to reach 30,000 units in 2022, compared to 2,000 units in 2017.
  • At the end of 2017, there were just 6,000 highway-capable electric cars plying on Indian roads, which is a minuscule number when compared to the overall number of cars on Indian roads.
  • And if the sale of EVs grows as the study has predicted, they will constitute about 6.6 per cent of annual vehicle sales by 2030 and go up to 27 per cent by 2040.
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