Can India Serve as the Global Export Hub of New Age Mobility Technologies?

The Indian automobile industry has the experience and the know-how to pull off a transformative transition

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By Chetan Maini • Dec 29, 2017


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India is at the cusp of a transformative disruption brought about by impactful developments in the energy and transportation sectors. While developments in the field of Electric Vehicles (EV) ushered in the concept of clean mobility a couple of decades ago, it was a long and lonely haul for the sector to gain a foothold and dispel concerns about a radically different mobility paradigm. The last several years have brought about substantial changes in perspectives, greatly aided by synergistic and visionary efforts by the government in these sectors. The foundation of this new ecosystem is built as a response to reduce the dependence on imported oil that fuels the traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. This has set the stage for the government's announcement regarding the electrification of the mobility space earlier this year — specifically aiming to have all vehicles sold by 2030 to be electric. This would help the nation save on its forex reserves by cutting the import bills of oil used for land transportation. Further, as our electricity generation mix adds more and more renewable sources, the overall energy and transportation related emissions will come down drastically.

Urban Indians, with their willingness and shift in mindset to adopt shared transportation services have added momentum to the shared mobility drive which helps to reduce traffic congestion. The new age shared transportation companies, like Ola, Uber and Smart E, are also looking to invest in EVs to create sustainable, smart and connected transportation systems. Given that threewheelers, taxis and buses compose the largest segment of public transport and are also the heaviest polluters, switching to electric versions will go a long way in reducing emissions.

A range of auto-manufacturers, component manufacturers, infrastructure players and service providers have to come together to form a cohesive ecosystem critical to the success of this massive endeavor. The government aims to support them with favorable policies, demand support and incentive programs. However, it is not without its challenges. Cost parity with internal combustible engine vehicles, range anxiety and a lack of convenient and quick recharging options have long been stumbling blocks in winning consumer confidence. High battery costs made the EVs uncompetitive, hence separating the battery from an EV can help offset this financially. The concern over lengthy charging times for EVs can also be tackled by a different approach. If the EV industry, through its "EV-refueling' stations, can mimic the familiar petrol/diesel refueling process, consumers are more likely to develop confidence. An extensive network of swapping stations equipped to quickly "refuel' EVs from multiple OEMs will go a long way. Further, vehicle performance is a critical aspect that defines consumer purchase patterns. Unwilling to sacrifice on this aspect, a consumer is very likely to consider an EV option, only if it is at par or outperforms a gasoline vehicle. Globally, EVs which are far better in performance than their gasoline counterparts but there is a premium attached to their costs making them unviable for mass adoption. In India, it is necessary to bring down the prices.

India as a nation has a huge opportunity to become a global export hub of new-generation mobility technologies. The Indian automobile industry has the experience and the know-how to pull off this transformative transition. Recognizing the writing on the wall, most leading car manufacturers are making plans to go electric, which mean that they will be engaging with OEMs, vendors and technology providers. As the elements fall into place, it promises to be an exciting and fulfilling journey towards selfsufficiency and a cleaner, greener environment.

(This article was first published in the December issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

Chetan Maini

Vice Chairman, SUN Mobility

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