Nelvi David never really thought about buying an electric bike until gasoline hit Rs 100 per liter earlier this year.
A bunch of other factors also prompted the Chennai-based academician to make this decision.
“We get electricity at a subsidized rate, and with high fuel prices, it will be a win-win situation for me. In addition, the government places restrictions on the loans of electric vehicles. Why not use it? Nelvi asks.
While Nelvi planned to book her first electric bike soon, she worried that she could take it wherever she went, especially outside the city limits.
“The nearest charging station would be at least a few 100 km from my home,” she explains.
Nelvi is not alone.
Jopu John Tharappel bought an electric car a year ago to beat soaring fuel prices. The Kerala resident complained about the difficulties in recharging his battery.
“I have traveled all over the south, to states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but the problem is that there is no uniformity in the rates. Government chargers and private chargers have different prices depending on the application, ”explains Tharappel.
Their stories show why electric vehicles have yet to become mainstream in India despite obtaining its first electric vehicle in 2001.
Driven by incentives
For many Indians, the decision to buy an EV is driven entirely by external factors.
“The push for electric vehicles is inorganic and is driven by high fuel prices and government incentives,” said Kartik Hajela, co-founder of advanced battery technology startup Log 9 Materials, which recently launched its first InstaCharge station in its Bengaluru office and plans to partner with charging station operators to bring the technology to Indian cities.
In 2019, the Indian government announced an additional tax deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh on interest paid on loans taken to purchase electric vehicles.
The Union government has also tried to lead by example. For example, the Ministry of Finance urged all other government ministries and departments to replace the gasoline and diesel cars rented by them in their secretariats and side offices with electric cars for mobility in Delhi.
But some believe that these measures are not enough.
“There is no retention of electric vehicles and these subsidies will not help in the long run,” said Hajela, stressing how much the sector needs a better ecosystem, including charging stations and a more realistic battery charging time, to make real progress.
Also read: Longer EV trips are possible with more charging stations
True, India has seen an increase in the number of electric vehicles sold, according to an analysis by the Center for Energy Finance based on data from the Vahan Dashboard.
Over 57,000 electric two-wheeled vehicles have been sold so far in the current fiscal year, more than 40,000 in the previous year period and 24,000 in the previous fiscal year. Almost 5,000 four-wheel electric vehicles have been sold so far in the current fiscal year, the highest in four years.
But electric vehicle sales made up just 1.3% of total vehicle sales in India during the 20-2021 period, according to a report by consultancy firm RBSA Advisors. The RBSA expects it to grow at a 90% CAGR over this decade to reach $ 150 billion by 2030.
While India’s electric vehicle market is currently in its ‘early stages’, electric vehicles are expected to account for more than half of new vehicle sales in the United States and China by 2030, according to a recent survey by KPMG from leaders of the global automotive industry.
Running out of battery
If India is serious about participating in the global electric vehicle revolution and meeting its other goals of reducing emissions and improving air quality, it will need to do more.
For starters, the second most populous country in the world needs to build more charging stations and battery exchange facilities in its big and small towns, and make them easier for people to use.
“There is no unified app for charging and unlike gas pumps where there is someone to help you, here it has to be done through an app that causes inconvenience to people like my dad who are not tech-savvy, “Tharappel lamented.
More and more companies are trying to build the infrastructure to charge the batteries of electric vehicles.
Last week, Ola Electric Mobility CEO Bhavish Aggarwal said the company had started rolling out its Hypercharger points in BPCL gas pumps and residential spaces across the country. Meanwhile, Ather Energy has extended its free fast-charging program to customers until June 30, 2022.
India’s largest electric vehicle maker Tata Motors and its rival Mahindra & Mahindra are also doing their part to boost the adoption of electric vehicles in India. For example, while Tata plans to reduce the cost of owning an electric vehicle to that of a gasoline or diesel vehicle by 2023, M&M has partnered with a joint venture of Reliance and BP to develop solutions for recharge for its EVs.
Some have said that much of the upgrading of charging infrastructure in India was largely gradual in nature.
For example, while Log9 has the battery technology to power fast electric vehicle chargers, it needs to build on existing charging point operators to make it accessible to electric vehicle owners across the country.
“Our technology opens up the possibility of recharging vehicles from the last mile. We are looking to facilitate 100 new fast chargers in major cities over the next year, ”Log9 Materials told DH.
As its technology is compatible with Bharat DC chargers (a government standard for charging electric vehicles), it has “a critical mass of such stations already installed in the market,” the company added.
While more than 7.5 lakh of electric vehicles have been registered in India since fiscal 2012, a response from Energy Minister RK Singh to Parliament shows that it has a total of 1,028 vehicle charging stations. electric. Delhi, Telangana, Karnataka and Chandigarh are among the leaders in terms of number of resorts.
The government seems to know that this is not enough. In a notification, he asked more petrol pumps to install facilities for other forms of energy.
Lack of infrastructure is not the only obstacle to India’s ambitions for electric vehicles.
A bumpy ride
Consumer awareness is also an issue, according to people who run electric vehicle garages.
“Most people don’t know how to operate their vehicle. Unlike an ordinary vehicle, electric vehicles cannot carry weight. But when they come to us, we realize that they have kept some weight, ”said the founder of a Bengaluru-based electric vehicle garage aggregator who did not want to be named.
Most of his customers tend to have their electric vehicles serviced once every two months, complaining of issues with their brakes and other hardware, the person said. Ideally, if the vehicle is well maintained, it should require service every six months.
Others, like Deepak MV, CEO and co-founder of Etrio, are less concerned with consumer awareness and more with developing a sustainable business model.
The founder of Etrio, a start-up that makes new products for electric vehicles and converts existing internal combustion engine vehicles into electric vehicles, said the road ahead for electric vehicle manufacturers is going to be bumpy and that he was busy finding reliable partners for the trip. It has now partnered with e-commerce giants such as BigBasket, Amazon, and Flipkart.
“Our wish is to electrify logistics. With the boom in e-commerce, there is a lot of business out there, but the best way to do that and have a sustainable business model is to target the logistics players who will take care of the infrastructure. . These logistics players will help create parking spaces and charging stations and consumers will not have to worry about them, ”he said.
Until then, potential customers like Nelvi David will continue to look for an offer they cannot refuse.
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