India needs to increase focus on electric vehicles

Summary:The country has an electric mobility mission in place, and manufacturers like Toyota, Mahindra & Mahindra and Nissan are enthusiastic about electric vehicles. But there is a lot India needs to do to achieve its goals.

Globally, the auto industry sold 79.4 million units in 2012. This year, the industry will sell more than 80 million units and by 2020, that number maybe more than 100 million.

While giving out these numbers to a news channel during his visit to India in February this year, Toshiyuki Shiga, COO of Nissan Motor, said there was considerable environmental damage being done by increased use of fossil fuel, which could lead to the shortage of energy.

The only way out is to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy with zero-emission vehicles such as electric vehicles that utilize natural or renewable energies.

India, China and Brazil are witnessing increased production as well as demand for automobiles (due to both economic growth as well as high population). So it's these markets that need to shift their focus to renewable sources of energy. 

India, on its part, adopted the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (NEMMP 2020) in August last year.  The NEMMP 2020 lays the vision, sets the targets and provides the roadmap for achieving significant penetration of electric vehicles (including hybrids) in India by 2020.

The NEMMP 2020 has set a target of 6 to 7 million units of new vehicle sales of full range of electrified vehicles, along with resultant savings of liquid fuel of 2.2 to 2.5 million tones to be achieved in 2020. This will also result in substantial lowering of vehicular emissions and a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions by 1.3 percent to 1.5 percent in 2020 as compared to a status quo scenario.

Manufacturers keen on EVs

Last week, Japanese auto giant Toyota announced its plans to introduce new hybrid vehicles in India, encouraged by gradual increase in sales of its only such model 'Prius' in the country.

In an agency report, a Toyota spokesperson from Tokyo said: "We have already introduced the Prius in the Indian market and we will continue to study the Indian market to introduce new hybrid models in India at appropriate times."

The company, which is present in India through a joint venture with the Kirloskar Group, may also consider assembly of hybrid cars if demand for such vehicles increases in future. "Depending on the future market dynamics, we will study and take a decision accordingly," the spokesperson said.

As part of a global initiative to develop fuel-efficient and environment-friendly vehicles, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) will launch 18 new hybrid models by 2015. Out of these, 13 are new vehicles and five are model changes of existing hybrid vehicles.

The company currently sells only one hybrid model in India--Prius--as a fully-imported vehicle. The sales of the model increased over 70 percent to 12 units in 2012-13 from 7 units in the previous financial year. Even Nissan has shown its keenness to launch green vehicles in India. So has Tata Motors, which has showcased several electric vehicle prototypes in the past at various auto expositions.

Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles has an electric car for the Indian market--e2o--that can clock 100km per one full recharge of five hours. The e2o is powered by lithium-ion batteries and runs on a three-phase electric motor on auto-drive mode.

Besides regular recharge of batteries through a 15A socket either at home or office, the battery can be recharged though solar panels too. The car is available for about 600,000 rupees (US$11,094) on road in Delhi, thanks to subsidies there, but costs over 700,000 rupees (US$12,944) in Bangalore. The cost of electricity, according to the company, is around 600 rupees (US$11.09) a month.

Huge investments needed for electrification

Today, there are huge barriers to the adoption of newer technologies, especially electric vehicles. First is the higher cost of acquisition. Second, is the consumer acceptance of the newer technology. And third is the lack of charging infrastructure.

As per the national mission, the government will provide the initial impetus through demand support measures to facilitate faster consumer acceptance of these newer technologies which have a higher cost of acquisition. In addition, government will also facilitate automotive R&D and put in place charging infrastructure.

It is estimated that the total investment required will be in the range of 200-230 billion rupees (US$3.6–US$4.1 billion), of which the support required to be provided by the government will be to the tune of 122.5–138.5 billion rupees (US$2.2–US$2.5 billion) over the next five to six years.

Aside from the benefits by way of liquid fuel savings , lowering of carbon emissions, lowering of other emissions, and job creation, the intervention is projected to also encourage the Indian industry to shift to newer, cleaner technologies so that it builds its future competitive advantage around environmentally sustainable products, high-end technologies, and innovation, thereby helping to improve the competitiveness of domestic automotive industry.

The government of India has also set up a high-level apex structures--National Council for Electric Mobility (NCEM) and the National Board for Electric Mobility (NBEM)--for faster adoption of electric vehicles and their manufacture in India.

Now, it's the turn of the auto industry to spend on R&D and come up with newer electric vehicles suited for the Indian conditions. The industry needs to partner the government and make large investments for developing the products and creating the manufacturing eco-system.

Topics: Travel Tech, Government : Asia, India

About

Swati Prasad is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist who spent much of the mid-1990s and 2000s covering brick-and-mortar industries for some of India's leading publications. Seven years back when she took to freelancing, India was at the peak of its "outsourcing hub" glory and the world of Indian IT, telecom and Internet fascinated her.... Full Bio

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