India's EV Race Begins Again; After Ola, Bounce To Launch Electric Scooter

From the launch of 'E-Amrit' web portal by the Indian government to startups gearing up to resolve the issue of charging infrastructure, the transition to EV has restarted

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After the pandemic-induced slowdown, electric vehicle (EV) players are back in business. This time, with a lot more vigor, as there is an increased realization today about the horrifying consequences of climate change. 

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Scooter rental startup Bounce is all set to launch its EV scooters called Bounce Infinity. “The most unique thing about our EV is that it comes with removable batteries, so you can remove them, carry them and charge. You can also decide not to buy battery and use our swapping network,” said Vivekananda Hallekere, CEO and co-founder, Bounce in a tweet

Hallekere also said that back in 2018, the company realized the importance of EVs for Bounce fleet and started working on understanding EVs. It decided to solve for two things- build a scooter that works for India and uses Indian two-wheeler ecosystem parts for supply chain. “And second, a battery swapping infrastructure so that there is no downtime for charging, unlimited range ;) and you don’t have to search for a charger,” he said. 

The Bengaluru-based startup’s upcoming electric scooter will have a swappable battery system. “Scooter will come without battery means, you pay for the battery whenever you swap an empty battery with charged battery in our network and pay for the swap. This makes scooters 40 percent lesser than petrol scooters and also solves for range issues since you can have infinite range,” he said. 

Since last month, there have been various such announcements across the EV ecosystem. 

EVs Back In Business 

Ola Electric’s invite-only test rides for its S1 and S1 Pro electric scooters began yesterday in four cities, including Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Delhi and Bengaluru, for the customers who had booked it online. It was launched in August this year.  To strengthen its leadership position in India's EV segment, Mahindra & Mahindra announced yesterday its plans to launch 16 EVs by 2027 across SUV and light commercial vehicle categories.

The Indian government is also back with multiple plans to speed up the EV transition as mentioned in FAME 2 (faster adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles). Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari has announced that the cost of EVs in India will drop to the level of petrol vehicles in the next two years.

On Wednesday, India also launched the ‘E-Amrit’ web portal on electric vehicles (EVs) at the ongoing COP26 Summit in Glasgow. The website contains information related to burst myths around the adoption of EVs, their purchase, investment opportunities, policies, subsidies, among others. Developed and hosted by NITI Aayog, under a collaborative knowledge exchange program with the UK government and as part of the UK-India Joint Roadmap 2030, E-Amrit portal intends to complement initiatives of the government on raising awareness around EVs and sensitizing consumers on the benefits of switching to electric mobility, NITI Aayog said. EV policies have so far been implemented in 14 states including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Uttarakhand and are in the draft stage in four states including Chandigarh, Haryana, Assam, Himachal Pradesh.

Additionally, international players are also eyeing India market. Taiwan tech giant Foxconn’s chairman Liu Young-way recently said that the company is looking at making EVs in Europe, India and Latin America, including "indirectly" cooperating with German automakers.

However, one major hurdle in India’s EV transition is the need for charging infrastructure. According to Grant Thornton Bharat-Ficci’ report, India needs about 4,00,000 charging stations to meet the requirement for two million EVs that could ply on its roads by 2026. According to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles, as of March 2021, India has 1,800 charging stations for around 16,200 electric cars, including the fleet segment.

Thus, efforts are being taken to resolve the same. Last month, Reliance Industries' mobility joint venture with BP also launched its first mobility retail outlet in Maharashtra. This will also provide customers with EV charging and battery swapping options. Moreover, the Mukesh Ambani-led company also finalized an agreement with startup BluSmart to set up EV charging infrastructure in India. In September 2021, Hero Electric also said that it had joined hands with EV startup Massive Mobility to set up 10,000 charging stations across the country next year.

The Indian Oil Corporation also recently announced its plans to set up 10,000 charging stations in three years. The announcement came two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged that India will reach its net-zero carbon emission target by 2070. 

Overall, the slowdown scenario seems to be changing and there is a positive momentum towards EV transition.