In less than ten years, India could be a country with only electric vehicles (EVs) plying its roads. The government has laid out an ambitious plan to go fully electric by 2030.
In 2015, the government endorsed the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 to address issues of energy security and vehicular pollution. NITI Aayog has also set up a target to ban fossil-fuel-driven cars by 2030. Under NEMMP, the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises also launched the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME)-India scheme in 2015 with an aim to promote eco-friendly vehicles in the country. Its objective was to provide fiscal and monetary incentives for adoption and market creation of both hybrid and electric vehicles. The scheme has now been extended till March 31, 2018.
To support this, the government is pushing the industry to step up the creation of infrastructure for EVs in India, and is fast clearing the way for manufacturers to step into this area. Environmental issues are at the back of this and, in particular, the government wants to align with the Paris Accord to reduce carbon emissions. Also, India currently depends heavily on oil imports to run its car industry; electric cars could greatly reduce this dependence.
The NEMMP hopes to have about seven million electric cars in India by 2020 but, looking at the current state of affairs, it seems a tall order. At present, there is little EV manufacturing activity in the country, with only Mahindra & Mahindra, which acquired electric car maker Reva in 2010, and Tata Motors having made some progress. Mahindra has a successful model—the e2oPlus—and Tata is working on electric versions of some of its existing models which will be available soon. These include versions of passenger vehicles such as the Bolt, the Tiago and the Tigor. The company is also keeping pace when it comes to commercial vehicles, having successfully completed trials for its 9-metre electric bus in Chandigarh. Toyota, BMW, Mahindra and Maruti Suzuki also currently offer some hybrid vehicles which run on a combination of fossil fuels and electric power.
Hyundai Motors, which has a range of electric cars in South Korea under the name Ionic, told Outlook that they would be ready to launch electric cars in India once the required infrastructure is in place. Steelmaker JSW has also signed an agreement with the Gujarat government to promote the production of battery operated vehicles and charging infrastructure in the state. The company is planning to invest Rs 4,000 crore for this. Mahindra & Mahindra has also announced an investment of Rs 3,500- 4,000 crore in EVs in the next five years.
Earlier this year, Energy Efficiency Services Ltd floated a tender for 10,000 electric cars to be supplied by Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra. To enable this, the government has issued tenders for charging stations around the country, and is pushing for the infrastructure to be ready by the end of this month when the cars will be delivered. ABB India has also placed a bid to set up 4,500 charging stations for electric vehicles in response to a government tender.
“We are supportive of the government’s vision of electrification of vehicles by 2030. The achievement of this target will depend upon how the ecosystem develops in the country for supplier base of various components, batteries as well as how the charging infrastructure develops. While work towards the development of electric vehicles is currently underway, we are in the process of crafting a roadmap entailing specific short-term and long-term goals and are making all the right investments to enable this,” a Tata Motors spokesperson told Outlook.
However, electric cars have a lot of challenges to overcome. First, EVs in India average about 120 km on full charge, limiting their driving range and making them unsuitable for long drives. The vehicles also have low speed capabilities; most EVs currently available in India have a top speed of 80- 85 km an hour, which could leave users dissatisfied. Other limiting factors include high battery costs, the lack of adequate electric charging infrastructure and the high costs of electric drivetrain systems.