India’s largest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, plans to roll out one million ‘green vehicles’ on Indian roads in the next two years. Mahindra & Mahindra announced the country’s most affordable electric vehicle in February. MG Motor, Hyundai Motors and Tata have already launched battery-powered vehicles in the country, and it is most likely that luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz will follow suit.
With climate change and environmental consciousness at its peak, electric mobility or green mobility has become the need of the hour.
According to a study by the World Health Organization, out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world,14 are in India resulting in nearly 385K pollution related deaths since 2015 .
Keeping these alarming figures in view, India has committed to reduce its carbon intensity to 35% by 2030 under the Paris Accord.
Schemes like National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020, Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles (FAME), lowering of GST on EVs, and creation of a separate Tariff category for EV Charging are providing the required push for the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the country.
However Hybrid Vehicles are still commanding premium over Electric Vehicles. Let us find out why?
India’s EV ecosystem
As the name suggests, electric vehicles operate on an electric motor, unlike the usual internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles that burn petrol or diesel. With their low carbon footprint and environmental impact, EVs are clearly the future.
The ‘Make in India’ Electric Vehicle market has gained significant momentum post the implementation of the FAME India, GST reduction on EVs from 12% to 5% and customs duty increase on completely built units and SKD to 40% and 30%, respectively.
The total EV sales in 2018 hit 365,920 units and are expected to grow at a CAGR of 36% till 2026.
However, there are certain roadblocks.
Challenges in adoption of Electric Vehicles
Affordability is one of the biggest impediments for electric vehicles. As per studies, electric vehicles are expensive because they are powered by lithium-ion batteries. The cost of a battery amounts to 40 percent of the total vehicle cost. Lithium-ion batteries offer high energy density, relatively low self-discharge, and low maintenance but they have a limited life.
Lack of a robust charging infrastructure is another significant roadblock. According to a MarketWatch, at present, there are about 250 public charging stations operating in India.
At present, the electric vehicle charging infrastructure is predominantly categorised into two categories – slow chargers (3-4kW) and fast chargers (50-100 kW). To sustain the growth of one million electric vehicles, India will need about 4 Mn (100kW) fast-charging stations, which will charge the vehicle in 1-2 hours.
Various companies today have been devising multiple solutions for solving this issue, some of which include battery swapping, and “we believe that it’s only a matter of time that we see rapid development of our charging infrastructure,” says Chandrashekhar.
Hybrids – a good alternative?
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) are equipped with both batteries and ICE that run on fuel. These models command a premium over their petrol and diesel counterparts but that hasn’t deterred buyers.
Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM), the local arm of the Japanese maker has seen demand for its Camry hybrid outstrip the supply by a wide margin since its launch.
Volvo Cars India plans to start local assembly of its XC90 Excellence, a plug-in hybrid model, by the end of the year. Honda has been selling the Accord hybrid and plans to bring a Civic hybrid by 2021. Some of the popular two-wheeler hybrids include TVS iQube scooter, and Honda PCX 125 Hybrid. The former is India’s first hybrid scooter that has 110-cc petrol combustion engine and an electric hub motor.
“In terms of Total Cost of Ownership, the hybrid achieves a better footing when compared to IC engine vehicles owing to its high fuel efficiency and low maintenance, and this has exponentially led to the increasing popularity and sales of many hybrid vehicles in overseas nations,” says Chandrashekhar.
Awadhesh feels that “Though Hybrid vehicles can alleviate the range anxiety, it still emits emission. In the fight against climate change and local pollution, it is Battery EVs which holds the key.”
The road ahead
India won’t be shifting gears to electric vehicles (EVs) anytime soon. Only 6% of automobiles sold in the country by 2030 will be electric, according to the new global EV outlook by research firm BloombergNEF.
Organisations like TERI have also expressed their doubts on a complete overhaul of the transport industry towards electric by 2030. Until then, hybrids can be used as a temporary way to bridge the gap between traditional vehicles and EVs. And for a country like India where EV charging infrastructure is still not created, hybrid vehicles can make a difference in the short to medium term.
“Ultimately the market will move to technologies that are clean and run on renewables. Electric vehicles fit these two conditions very well. Hybrids, PHEVs and other similar configurations will only be technologies in transition that will be deployed till the time we are not able to find technically and financially feasible electric vehicle technology. ” says Megha*
*Views are personal
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