Progressive innovation can facilitate mass adoption of EVs in India; here’s why

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As India emerges from the pandemic, we all have had time to reflect on our lifestyle choices. Whether it is promoting vocal-for-local, taking more responsibility for household waste, or limiting household energy consumption, many aspire to adopt an environment-friendly approach to our everyday routines.

Governments and businesses are prioritising sustainability at the heart of the nation’s recovery from the pandemic, and transportation has been a prominent theme of the discussion.

A year-on-year rise in CO2 emissions from the fossil fuel industry, one of the major polluters, has led to a tremendous uproar to reduce emissions. The result is that governments worldwide are working towards a more sustainable and clean future, using greener and emission-free modes of transportation and business practices. The Indian government is also introducing several policies and incentive schemes to improve EV infrastructure, production, and consumption.

Top automobile manufacturers have joined the EV bandwagon and are fostering the production of EVs across personal and commercial segments. According to the India Electric Vehicle Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis, in 2030, India’s market for electric vehicles will be worth $152.21 billion. The market will likely grow at a CAGR of 94.4% in the next ten years.

Adoption of EVs by personal and commercial sectors

Mass-scale adoption of EVs as a substitute for Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles has seen exponential growth in personal and commercial sectors. Major credit goes to the extensive research and development of batteries and the technology used to power them.

EVs in the personal sector in India

As a result of high demand in India, all major manufacturers are bringing electric cars and bikes to the market at record rates. Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, MG Hector, Hyundai, Renault, and Mahindra, among other large-scale manufacturers, have launched EV versions of their popular offerings. Even in the two-wheeler segment, electric bikes have experienced a resurgence following the initial entries by manufacturers like LML and Yo Bikes in the past decade.

EVs in commercial sector in India

EV adoption in the commercial space is not easy. There are many challenges in this space unique to commercial and business sectors. As we think about commercial EVs, we need to consider not just a few vehicles but entire fleets that need to replace existing Internal Combustion Engine vehicles to improve efficiency and bring down costs. However, the right combination of policies, incentives, and innovation can make adoption in the commercial sector a great success. We have success stories of companies implementing large-scale EV fleets, improving operations, and reducing emissions despite many challenges. There are countless stories about state-run public transport corporations incorporating EV buses into their fleets across major cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Surat, and Pune.

Challenges to adopting EVs in commercial sector

Despite experiencing a massive spike in demand, the EV segment still faces many challenges in mass acceptance. Some of the fundamental challenges faced while replacing conventional fleets with EV fleets are:

● Lack of charging infrastructure: The lack of charging infrastructure, long-distance travel and frequency of use make it much more difficult for logistics companies to adopt EVs. In contrast, petrol or diesel refuelling stations are abundantly available across states and remote areas.

● Low mileage makes long-haul logistics carriers hesitant: EV manufacturers are attempting to work on mileage, and there has been a significant improvement in battery range statistics in recent times. In addition, new age batteries and fast-charging practices are revolutionising EVs; however, they fall short when we factor in the truckload and long-haul vehicles in the logistics sector.

● Training of workforce and availability of maintenance professionals: Vehicles in the logistics industry tend to deteriorate over time. The challenge becomes more complex when we consider Indian roads and heavy loads. Sometimes, drivers go to local mechanic shops or resolve these issues independently due to the unavailability of garages and service centres. However, switching to EVs would require training and reskilling drivers to understand their complex mechanisms.

● Cost Concerns: Another challenge in adopting EVs is bearing the investment cost and low ROI. Since the logistics industry works on smaller margins, generating ROI with high investment costs becomes difficult. The higher price of EVs does not help the situation either.

Possibilities of innovations to facilitate mass adoption

While there are many challenges, progressive innovation can facilitate the mass adoption of EVs in India. Some of the possibilities are:

1. EVs and Telematics: Several obstacles, the most notable of which is range anxiety, impede EV adoption in India. Data scientists are gradually building machine learning workflows based on physics-informed algorithms to improve telematics. These range prediction solutions linked with ‘Fully Networked Vehicles’ use multi-parametric forecasts to interpret physics and cloud-based forecasts. They consistently examine the weather, traffic, road and other ambient conditions to deliver 94-96% accuracy. Electric vehicles generate a large amount of data that can be used for various purposes. For products to leverage this data and build innovative solutions would be groundbreaking.

2. Creating robust Charging/Swapping Infrastructure: There lie great opportunities in building tech-first charging platforms or networks that are form-factor and brand-agnostic to support regular and fast charging. Swapping could enhance user experience if implemented meticulously. One need not wait for hours to charge the battery; instead, the battery can be swapped with a fully-charged one in a few minutes. The future can see the rise of hybrid models with an amalgam of charging and swapping infrastructure.

3. Battery Technology and Management: EV batteries can be more user-friendly and easy to charge. The battery management system can be improved by manufacturing batteries with a compact design that facilitates less energy loss and high performance. However, EV batteries become unusable when they hit less than 80% of initial battery capacity, so battery recycling is also an area with much scope for innovation.

4. Electric Mobility as a Service: Electric Mobility-as-a-Service (eMaaS) is a new outgrowth in the mobility ecosystem. The premise behind it is to increase the demand and usage of public transport, promote eco-friendly alternatives to private vehicles and facilitate the adoption of EVs. It employs data aggregation and analysis to expedite everything from planning, booking and payments related to transport services. MaaS is a sector which is slowly but steadily gaining traction across the globe and holds excellent prospects in the Indian market.

With legacy players emerging to bring the change, electric mobility’s future is here, paving the way for several innovations to take shape. Now is the right time for the entire ecosystem to jump on the EV bandwagon to propel its mass adoption. While four-wheelers have some challenges regarding the upfront costs and total cost of ownership, the two-wheelers will set mass adoption in motion. The future of India’s electric mobility promises to make the earth a better place to live.

(Mudassirkhan Pathan is Lead, Data Engineering and Co-Founder, Intangles Lab Pvt. Ltd)

Source: Free Press Journal

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