[This article has been co-authored by Rajendranath Goswami, Head of Electro-Mobility, Robert Bosch Engineering & Business Solutions Pvt. Ltd.]
India’s ambitious goals to electrify 30% of its entire vehicle fleets by 2030 promises an exciting albeit challenging journey ahead. The seriousness with which electrification of mobility is being pursued was made clear once more recently, with the government think tank NITI Aayog proposing that after 2030, only electric vehicles should be sold in India.
While a coherent policy by the central government continues to elude, states like Karnataka, Telangana and Delhi have rolled out their own State Electric Vehicle (EV) policies. In fact, many more states are in the process of developing either an action plan or a state-specific EV policy.
In order to promote EVs, the Government of India (GoI) rolled out FAME-I scheme in 2015 with a total outlay of Rs 895 crores, including electrification of public transport buses, cars, two-wheelers and three wheelers. It did create the required buzz and was followed up by the FAME-II scheme in March 2019 approved by GoI with an outlay package of Rs 10,000 crore to accelerate the adoption of EVs with more ambitious targets.
FAME II provides upfront purchase incentives, subsidies for setting-up of charging infrastructure and electrification of public transport. Through this scheme, the government plans to support 10 lakh electric two-wheelers, 5 lakh three-wheelers, 55,000 four-wheelers and 7,000 buses.
Over the last year several cities/state governments have focused on deploying electro-mobility on the ground, by running pilot initiatives in public transport and enabling fleet operators providing last mile connectivity and delivery services through partnerships and incentives. In addition, some start-ups and OEMs have rolled out new electric two- wheelers and three wheelers for the public as well as four wheelers for specific fleets.
While the value chain will evolve over the next few years for providing end-to-end comprehensive solutions — including vehicle models, smart battery pack, charging infrastructure, digital payment options, connected solutions and services, ‘Energy as a service’ and more — a seamless solution ecosystem is critical to scale up the adoption of EVs in India.
In spite of wide-ranging benefits, the accelerated adoption of electric mobility faces some challenges that need to be overcome. The more prominent among these challenges could be overcome by the following steps:
- Adopting a phased approach to localization
Fame-II policy calls for 50% localisation for availing incentives (implying 50% of the vehicle components should be domestically manufactured). Battery cells, controllers and many components are manufactured mostly outside India and this, coupled with other eligibility criteria (based on higher range and speed and improved battery technology), can make it very difficult to avail these incentives, especially in the two-wheeler segment.
A phased approach to localisation spread over 18 months, and linked to ramp-up of localization percentage goals, could be a better recipe for achieving the desired goals.
- Ensuring better performing vehicles
Currently, many fleet operators and companies offering ride-hailing services are shifting to electric fleets and are buying vehicles off the shelves from manufacturers. A good approach would be to start with 30 percent localisation to boost the market, as newer and better products become available in the market.
- Understanding the battery performance in real use case scenarios
Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery is one of the core elements of any electric vehicle and plays a major role in the economics of EV operation/usage and performance. Due to the nature of the li-ion chemistry and its susceptibility to degradation due to various conditions, the safe functioning and efficient performance of the battery is most critical.
Typically, a Li-ion battery is accompanied by a Battery Management System (BMS) the main function of which is to monitor, control and manage safe usage and operations of the battery. Moreover, the performance and longevity of a Li-ion battery are influenced by several factors including usage profile, charge & discharge patterns, temperature, etc. Hence, it will be critical for all fleet aggregators and operators to understand the battery performance assessment and derive the right economic models based on the same.
- Creating charging infrastructure and digital infrastructure
In the urban context, government agencies and private players like real estate developers and infrastructure operators should invest in building the initial charging infrastructure. A sub-area/corridor approach in a city based on Origin-Destination patterns would be essential to identify corridors/segments that are likely to witness greater adoption of EVs. Governments can then create and incentivize charging infrastructure and its maintenance in these areas.For example, in Bengaluru the authorities can look at Whitefield or Electronic City for setting up EV charging infrastructure, as many vehicles and fleet operators serve these areas and are idle for extended periods of time.
Utility companies should actively pursue this as a new business opportunity and through public-private partnerships set up some of the initial charging infrastructure. Terminals, depots, existing auto/taxi stands become natural choices for installing charging infrastructure and providing services.
In addition, it will be essential to encourage private/individual charging providers to list their services and make this information available in the public domain. This will create a network of charging infrastructure and services in the city.
- Encouraging shared mobility providers to move to EVs
The government should actively engage with shared mobility providers and encourage them to be the first movers to electric fleets and create incentives and regulations around this. For example, the city of Shenzhen in China achieved 100% electrification of about 17,000 buses and 20,000 taxis in five years. A focused approach would help the city to move towards its electrification objective.
- Creating visibility and awareness
City governments will need to run sustained campaigns to sensitize citizens and bring visibility to their electric mobility initiative(s).
- It can be mandated that all last mile connectivity services at major metro stations will be only electric.
- Corridors for electric mobility should be created that will increase awareness
- Incentives for citizens to move to electric should be enhanced by slashing registration charges, removal of motor vehicle taxes and more benefits.
- Corporates can encourage EV adoption among their employees through suitably designed commute programmes and travel allowances
- Setting up a special EV cell
To encourage, incentivise and drive the policy formulation and decision making at the state level and make many of the above actually happen, a special EV Cell could be of great significance. Its role would include:
- Regulations, incentive schemes and policies for EVs
- Planning the setting up of charging infrastructure (both physical and digital infra)
- Engaging with various stakeholders towards EV adoption
- Monitoring the deployment and steering the policies for the future
The journey of transition to electro-mobility has already started with great enthusiasm. It is however very important to sustain it and ensure that the right benefits are available to users, and the entire ecosystem in general, including the government, society and environment at large. This requires higher participation from all involved parties to steer our actions in the right direction and ensure that the reality on the ground begins to reflect the vision.