Is EV the future of India and who is leading them into the future?

Circa 2012. A new series of campaigns by Maruti Suzuki hit the screens of Indian consumers. The campaigns were centered around one question “Kitna Deti hai” translating into “what’s the mileage”, effectively summing up Indian consumer’s obsession with automobile fuel efficiency in choosing their cars.

The ads were a result of market research that showed 28% of vehicle buyers focused on mileage as being the only parameter deciding the selection of a car.

Enter 2021. Petrol Price has reached Rs 99 per liter and Diesel Price is hovering at Rs 90. The unsustainability of the conventional modes of transport is staring us into the face.

But is this reason enough to make the EV the future of India?

The short answer is No, this is a good reason but not enough. And that’s why let’s understand the real answer to whether EV is the future of transport and commute in India.

The Real Price?

Let us do some math to understand how much does EV vehicles cost operationally. The numbers are subject to change and shall be considered temporary but is expected to be good enough to give an idea.

The battery size multiplied by unit price can give us the cost of running an EV. In Delhi, assuming Rs 6.25 per unit for home charge, and at least 6-8 hours to charge a 40 KwH battery (using a 7 KwH charger), means a cost of Rs 250 for a full charge. Now, depending on the electric vehicle, the total number of kilometers in a fully charged battery may vary. But let us take 300-400 km on a single charge as a safe assumption, based on existing data of various 4- wheeler vehicles.

This means an average running cost of Re 0.75 for 1 km.

A 4-wheeler running on petrol can have mileage varying from 12 km per liter to 22 km per liter, depending on the type and make of vehicle. Let us take 14 km per liter for the purpose of this calculation, considering the good case real world scenario. With 16 km per liter and Rs 100 per liter cost, one km will cost Rs 7.14 (which is effectively a conservative assumption, as actual costs may be higher). Diesel may cost Rs 5.63 (assuming 16 kmpl and Rs 90), while CNG costs around Rs 2.5 per km.

So, at least from the perspective of running costs, EV clearly wins. But is it enough?

No.

Of course, the capital costs need to be taken into consideration. But more importantly, ease of servicing, better and more available infrastructure, and minimum hassles become even more important. More on that later.

Future is sustainable

“The future is sustainable, because what’s unsustainable cannot be the future”- this quote by a leader supporting us sums up the predictions of where the future will move towards. It’s not a choice anymore, but a known fact that the future of all aspects of our existence will move towards sustainable replacements to ensure that we remain existent.

Even if we think only of our own lifetimes and not that of our upcoming generations, we will find that the need of sustainable adoption is already here, because its linked to increasing prices for unsustainable products.

But are EVs really better for our sustainable existence than the other alternatives?

Manufacturing of EVs and the batteries may not be the most environment-friendly exercise. And the process of manufacturing, though improving over time, is expected to emit about two-thirds of the total lifecycle carbon emission by an electric vehicle.

But when in use, the real benefits of an electric vehicle come across. Again, let’s look at the Math, using similar assumptions as used earlier. For a petrol vehicle running at 14 km per liter fuel efficiency, our calculations show that this would lead to an emission of 253 gms of CO2 per kilometer averaged over its lifetime. While, if we take the emissions for EVs based on the above-mentioned efficiency, the number comes to be somewhere around 163 gms of CO2.

But the numbers are not as simple as this. Some changes in efficiency can significantly change the numbers. Regions where electricity is more reliant on coal energy will see a much higher emission even for EVs. So, a lot is dependent on the grid dependency of the region as well. And that’s why it becomes important to see the numbers based on regional distribution of usage of coal and then compare the data with petrol vehicles.

Region wise distribution of states of India showing % of coal in energy mix, which becomes an
important factor in deciding the COs emissions by EVs

Comparison of emissions from EV across different regions of India with that of Petrol vehicles (at the expected efficiency in India)

Hence, even if we consider the high emissions during the manufacturing of batteries and vehicles, electric vehicles lead to a saving of more than 30% over a lifetime of 15 years of the vehicle, while considering the limited efficiency its working with, at the moment.

The fast pace with which we are seeing an improvement in EV infrastructure and innovations in the manufacturing of batteries, clearly mean that the level of efficiency in environment sustainability is expected to improve with time.

When it comes to the sustainable future, EV clearly seems a winner.

So, finally, is EV the future?

Well, it should be. But it will be, only if the following aspects are taken care of:

  • Better infrastructure making the usage of EV much more efficient and easier
  • Unique solutions that optimize the usage of batteries (such as, battery swapping, community chargers, etc.)
  • Support by the governments in incentivizing the usage with the context of a sustainable future
  • Intelligence to create more contextualized innovations that make EVs more lucrative
  • Wide-spread acceptance of the future

Now, most importantly, just like its true for every revolution, the future of EV needs players who can lead India into a future of EVs.

Players consisting not only of the traditional vehicle manufacturers, but also the battery manufacturers, the EV service providers, EV skill training providers, and every stakeholder, being guided with the goal of a common revolution despite the high degree of competition.

Who’s leading India into the EV future?

Having established that EV is bound to be the future if guided in the right direction, let me share the traits of the entity that can lead India into the EV future:

  • Someone who can take along governments at all levels: local, state and central; because such deep infrastructural improvements cannot be executed without involving all layers of governance, going well beyond political lines and extending into data-driven intelligence around government’s policy making
  • Someone who can create an environment of learning the required skills in managing electrical vehicles and be at the center of making EV skill learning an integral part of vocational education in India
  • Someone who can create an army of service providers in even the rural regions of India, focused on EVs. The deep rural reach of servicing EVs is critical to its success as the future.
  • Someone who can bring together all stakeholders on a single platform and present them to the world of consumers in the right way, while helping to introduce them to each other wherever needed
  • Someone who can appreciate the power of data in driving contextualized and localized intelligence that can improve the innovations in the context of Indian consumers
  • Someone who can understand the behavior of consumers in India, and work with them to create potential EV buyers from amongst those who are unaware- we cannot wait for organic reach and we need to start creating the market with a deeply researched understanding of Indian consumers across demographics.
  • Someone who is in the thick of things with various stakeholders, undergoing the process that they are going through, and being aware of every need of the ecosystem in the process.

Now, an entity that can do all of the above, becomes the entity that can drive the future of EVs in India.

By Ashwin Srivastava

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