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Chronicles Of EV-olution 9th September is recognized as World EV Day. Here are a few milestones that have shaped the sustainable mobility sector in India.

By Saptak Bardhan

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The biggest problem the world has been facing for the longest period of time has been carbon emissions, changing climate all over the world, global warming, pollution, a hole in the ozone layer, melting of polar ice-caps, etc. Residing 14 of the most polluted cities all over the world, India has taken a step towards adopting sustainable mobility. The government has been pro-electric vehicles for a while now introducing incentives like FAME-I and FAME-II.

The EV startup ecosystem has been proactive in solving the problems at large by introducing new EVs and new technologies in order to promote the adoption of EVs.

Here are the milestones that shaped the EV ecosystem in India:


The First EV Launched in India

Vikram SAFA, an all-electric three wheeler, developed by Scooter's India in 1996 was the first EV to be ever produced in India. Around 400 vehicles were produced and sold. The SAFA was powered by lead-acid batteries that ran for 41,250 kilometers which drove up the cost of ownership. Four years later, BHEL launched an 18-seater electric bus powered by the same lead-acid battery. Around 200 buses were produced and were deployed in Delhi and were supported by Ministry of New and Renewable energy (erstwhile Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources). However, the high-running cost, short life and poor consistency were the shortcomings that decreased the time the vehicles had on the road.

"Commercial EVs have gained inroads in markets, and are being deployed excessively- across regions, delivery hubs and even rural areas today. This momentum gives us encouragement, as the ecosystem along with vehicles is also coming up. Euler Motors is driven by passion to make EVs mainstream and solving the economic and environmental problems every day. The right commercial vehicle policy push with expansion of charging infra, financing ecosystem and battery standardization will help us reach that EV tipping point for the Indian market," said Saurav Kumar, founder and CEO, Euler Motors


The Introduction of REVA

REVA was an all-electric car produced the Reva Electric Car Company (RECC) which was founded in 1994 by Chetan Maini (co-founder and vice chairman, Sun Mobility) as part of a joint venture between the Maini Group and Amerigon Electric Vehicle Technologies (AEVT Inc.) of the United States. The company aimed at developing and launching affordable compact electric cars.

Mahindra and Mahindra acquired a majority stake of 55.2 per cent in REVA. The company was renamed Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles Private Limited. The acquisition was a result of Reva's two new launches Reva NXR and Reva NXG in 2009. The cars performed well at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Despite being the perfect city car, the Reva could not take off in India as compared to its internal combustion engine competitors like the Maruti 800, Maruti Zen, Hyundai Santro.


The Rise of Electric Mobility

The ICE-powered vehicles had been in the market for a very long time and had a good grip on the automotive market. However, this proved to be detrimental for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles were neglected due to the higher cost of ownership and longer charging time. However, there was a storm about to hit the Indian automotive sector in India. The launch of Ampere electric in 2007 and Ather in 2013 changed the scenario of the ecosystem. Suddenly, the ecosystem had burst into life. The total number of vehicles increased from 52.37 million in 2000 to 159.5 million in 2012, an average growth rate of 10.5 per cent between 2002 to 2012. The transport sector emitted an estimated 261Tg of Co2 of which 94.5 per cent was contributed by road transport, according to a report by ResearchGate.

The number of adopters of sustainable mobility was really small. However, the companies had already turned to making EVs and providing a cleaner, sustainable future to the sector.

Different players started emerging from the dark. Ride-hailing company Ola also decided to venture into the sustainable mobility space after announcing its E2W (Electric 2-wheeler).

India has been one of the leaders in adopting electric vehicles as last-mile mobility solution. E-rickshaws became the choice of last-mile mobility. There were other options like the Yulu bikes that proved to be the self-ride last-mile mobility option.

"Even though there has been an increased penetration of EVs globally, a lot of consumers in India are in a conundrum to adopt EVs. This is due to the battery combustion and high prices of batteries which can take a toll on the pockets of the consumers. We believe that educating the consumers about electric vehicles and its benefits along with making economical vehicles will eventually result in the growth of the EV industry," said Rahul Sharma, founder, Revolt Motors.


The effect of COVID on EV ecosystem

2020 was one of the toughest periods the EV ecosystem had to endure. The entire supply chain for manufacturing electric vehicles was affected. Many Indian OEM's were dependent on products made by China and a few companies even imported e-rickshaw kits and assembled them in India. The heavy reliance raised a need to democratize the Indian EV sector. Localisation of certain products was achieved while diversifying the supply chain. The market witnessed a significant dip in investments by Indian OEM's in the sector.

"Supply chain issues have always been part and parcel of manufacturing industry. The first step we have taken in the face of these challenges is to learn to be patient and not panic. We at Etriohave surrounded ourselves with a mature team that understands these challenges and is prepared to handle these challenges. Secondly, we have been working on establishing long-term relationships with top-tier suppliers who are more resilient than others. Finally, we have been transparent with our suppliers, customers and other stakeholders so that we plan better," said Kalyan C Korimerla, managing director, Etrio

However, a lot of EV start-ups came to life during this period as Ola announced to launch its E2W. Ather, Ampere, PureEV, Hero Electric, Okinawa Electric, Omega Seiki, etc. come to the forefront in the post-COVID era. These companies started expanding into tier-II and tier-III cities in an attempt to solve the sustainable mobility issue.


2022: A year full of ups and downs

The big boys of the automotive market in India, Tata entered the EV market with the electric rendition of its Nexon. Tata has plans to electrify its entire fleet. MG did not stay back and was prompt to launch its ZS-EV that is built on the same platform as of Astor. Mahindra also announced to launch e-KUV.

Despite going electric, 2022 has posed a lot of problems for the EV ecosystem. People witnessed EVs combust into flames which posed a serious question for all EVs: Are consumers trading a sustainable solution with their life? A lot of research has gone into these problems and the companies are figuring out a safer solution for EV owners and potential EV consumers.

"Yes, there were multiple fire incidences which were attributed to the batteries; some were attributed to the vehicles too, but at the core of it lies the key problem viz. that none of these technologies were designed for Indian customers keeping the Indian operating conditions in mind. So, post the initial incidences of fire, it was but a validation of what we at Log9 truly believed, that if there must be a sustainable and responsible EV battery technology, it must come from India, designed in India, for India.," said Pankaj Sharma, co-founder, Log9 Materials

India has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 2050 and to go carbon neutral by 2070. India is also working on its target of 30 per cent of all vehicles being sold in 2020-2030 to be electric. Food delivery start-ups Zomato and Swiggy have also taken up the mantle to be environmental conscious by adopting EV as last-mile delivery vehicles.

"The Indian last-mile delivery segment is directly proportional to the e-commerce penetration. The Indian e-commerce market which is valued at $30 billion today and expected to be $50 billion in the next three to four years and hence, the logistics will also see a five times growth. In order to meet this growing demand, we need a robust, and organised green logistics solution. However, the biggest problem is that the entire supply chain is running heavily on petrol vehicles. Zypp Electric bridges this gap with electric two-wheelers. With 7,000 electric fleet on ground and 5 years of experience, today Zypp Electric is the largest two-wheeler EV logistics company in the country," said Aakash Gupta, co-founder and CEO, Zypp

The future of the electric mobility looks bright especially with EVs becoming all the rage and India's pledge to reduce carbon emissions working in synergy. The EV ecosystem has gone through a tumultuous time but wishes to see better days in the future.
Saptak Bardhan

Former Trainee Writer

Former Trainee Writer
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