EV Is the Future But Not the Near Future: A Realistic Roadmap

With population, pollution and congestion racing each other to the finish line, it is fundamental that we make some substantial changes to our mobility and manufacturing sectors before it's too late

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As India is accelerating down the road of development, there is a slew of roadblocks we need to tackle tactfully: the rocketing fuel prices, the intensifying congestion and the growing carbon footprint.

  • Currently, there are about 300 million internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles on our roads, with an estimated annual addition of 30 million every year.
  • We are expected to overtake China as the most populous country in the world by 2027.
  • India is third on the list of countries with the largest carbon footprint, with 25 per cent of the pollution contributed by ICE vehicles .

With population, pollution and congestion racing each other to the finish line, it is fundamental that we make some substantial changes to our mobility and manufacturing sectors before it’s too late. Though the problems are many, the solution is single and straightforward: going electric.

For the last couple of years, the central government has been aggressively investing in this ‘spark of hope’ with the primary objective of growing responsibly. The FAME I and II schemes were introduced to speed up the set-up of charging stations and extend buyer subsidies that will give EV OEMs the right push to bridge the sales gap with their ICE counterparts. Close to 13 states have approved/notified dedicated policies in terms of registration fee waivers, road tax exemptions to promote electric vehicle (EV) adoption.

While it is a no-brainer that electrification is the much-needed game-changer to revolutionize urban mobility, we must not get blindsided by unrealistic timelines or unachievable targets. Our target of 30 per cent EV adoption by 2030 is not an impossible one but it isn’t an easy one either.

To fully charge up our nation’s EV ambition, we need to step back and identify the major gaps in our game plan. Only then can we level up the transition process and catch up with the global EV leaders. Let’s take a look at the prominent hurdles in our EV roadmap which we need to address on priority:

Rigid Consumer Psyche

It is typical human nature to be averse to change, especially when it involves something as substantial as investing in a personal vehicle. In India, buying a vehicle is considered a luxury, especially if it is a car. Petrol and diesel-driven vehicles have been dominating the Indian roads for more than seven decades, so a sudden transition to electric vehicles might be difficult to pull off due to the following factors:

Lack of awareness: While the millennials and Gen Z members in tier I and tier II cities are aware of the looming climate change and understand the urgency behind the need to switch to sustainable modes of transportation, the concept of an EV is still alien to the majority of Indians in the rural pockets of our country.

Hesitation to invest: Even the consumers who are fully aware of how EVs can contribute to curbing pollution and congestion are on the fence about actually investing. A survey by Deloitte Global has revealed that 68%3 of Indians will prefer to purchase the “tried and tested” ICE vehicles. This hesitation is attributed to numerous customer concerns including range anxiety, sporadic charging infra, higher price margins, long charging hours, safety concerns and lack of choice.

Lack Of Charging Infra

Inadequate charging infrastructure is one of the major concerns that deters potential buyers from committing to an EV. Given our EV ambition, India would require an investment of $180 billion and a network of $2.9 million public charging points by 2030. Currently, we only have about 1,000-plus points across the whole country, which is almost negligible.

Dependency On Imports

When it comes to manufacturing, we are heavily reliant on parts and materials made in other countries. The battery and power electronics alone cost about two-thirds of the cost of an EV. Experimenting with new battery technology and localising all the manufacturing processes are key to make a dent in the sales figures.

Managing Old Batteries

End-of-life management of batteries is another challenge we would eventually grapple with, once the number of EVs shoots up. The average lifespan of a lithium-ion battery ranges from 6-8 years, after which it needs to be replaced and recycled. This is another loose end that the government and OEMs require to tie up by establishing a viable and mandatory recycling/repurposing process.

Though we are off to a good start, the government, OEMs and shared mobilities players have to be constantly in sync to spread awareness, double down on pro-EV policies and establish a pan-Indian charging infrastructure network. Time and strategy are of essence right now as we are at an inflection point that could deconstruct our entire economy. I am confident that with efficient delegation, persistent innovation and liable accountability, we can lay the groundwork for a robust mobility network that is sustainable, connected and convenient.

Though the journey ahead is an arduous one, our destination is definitely worth it. Let’s cross this pivotal milestone together.