Reflections on World EV Day

Highlights :

  • September 9, World EV Day, was a day to assess progress made, and the news is good.
  • All that’s missing perhaps is stronger support from legacy automotive firms in India.

September 9, or World EV day, went by with a flurry of activities to commemorate the same. This writer too spent time moderating panelists at an event to commemorate progress, followed up by ‘fireside chat’ with an Electric Bus specialist for India.

What came out really strongly was the overall optimism across the EV space, and not because of specific government moves, or other such actions, but because of the universal belief that the EV transition is finally looking inevitable.

That word needs to be used carefully, as we have repeatedly seen, when it came to the same ‘inevitable’ need to use less coal for power, or less fertilisers for agriculture and so on. But a few things stand out in the electric vehicle (EV) driven transition that is well and truly underway, even though speed bumps abound.

For one, it is noticeable that we have a slew of startups and truly smart founders trying to find answers to the challenges in front of us. Be it about range anxiety, costs, accessibility, actual usage, or battery chemistry for the long term, the sheer range of firms and talent behind these problems is impressive.

It’s The Future, Accept it 

What is even better is that vindication has come from investors willing to back these founders vision, and support a period when little may move, but much would have been achieved.

This quote from Awadhesh Jha, Vice President, Fortum Charge & Drive India Pvt. Ltd, captures it well.

India is pushing to encourage the use of EVs to reduce the country’s dependence on diesel and petrol as part of a larger effort to cut vehicular emissions in line with commitments it has made under the global climate change pact. The demand for electric vehicles has grown substantially during last one year despite general, economy getting affected by Covid-19. It is fair to say that a transition from petrol and diesel-powered cars to EVs has commenced. EVs in India have now become more relevant than ever and this is evident by the addition of new electric cars. To accelerate the uptake of EVs further, the central government must offer a subsidy to individual buyers of 4-W Passenger Electric Vehicles, making EVs affordable and their manufacturing a viable business for automobile companies. The future of e-mobility in India lies at the convergence of robust charging infrastructure, increased participation by automakers, and successful consumer use cases. The shift to EV mobility is inevitable, and we should do all to hasten its adoption.”

Cooperation Before Competition?

Similarly, what has stood out in the EV transition, and the startups pushing it, is the degree of cooperation we see, as firms realise that going it alone will not move things fast enough for them and the sector. So be it modular batteries that can be used interchangeably, shared charging networks , opening up the source code for key functionalities, we are seeing it all.  Frankly, the most noticeable example that one can think off for this level of cooperation from the legacy automotive sector is Volvo’s decision in 1959 to share the invention of the seat belt with the broader sector.

Or hear what Samarth Kholkar & Sandeep Mukherjee, Co-founders BLive, say- “2021 will go down as the year of the EV revolution in history. There’s massive growth in the Indian EV market, led by Electric 2 Wheeler. There are several promising brands in the market that are working on E2W models that withstand all the mobility challenges in India. Companies are also collaborating to address all the pain points in the EV segment. For instance, we recently partnered with Ather Energy to facilitate charging infrastructure in tourist destinations, starting with Goa. These ‘BLive EV Zones’ were launched with complete support from the GTDC to further the adoption of EVs in the state. Moreover, key hospitality players like Club Mahindra, IHCL have also further our efforts to drive EV adoption by leveraging popular tourist spots. As India’s first electric vehicle (EV) experiential platform, we see tremendous potential in the growth of newer formats of retail like multi-brand EV retail platforms. The market will see great demand and action in the upcoming months on the back of supportive government policies that promote clean mobility.”

A Government Agency To Help Them All

In all this, the role for a government backed agency to start with a clean slate and push the cause has also been highlighted, something that has been done by both EESL earlier, and now CESL. A CESL can hurdle over the issues at state government entities, be it legacy issues or financial limitations due to weak balance sheets.

Mahua Acharya, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Convergence Energy Services Limited said  “Having an “EV day” says a lot about the changing times, needs, priorities and ambitions of the new generation. While some countries are the largest manufacturers, others such as India present the potential to become the largest users of electric vehicles. The Government has announced several incentives and offered all possible help to foster greater penetration of EVs – and CESL being a central Government entity has the advantage, enthusiasm and commitment to implement these ambitions for the country.”

The New Business Models 

We finally end with what Amit Gupta, Co-Founder and CEO at Yulu Bikes, one of the most enthusiastic and aggressive proponent for a shared mobility future powered by  EV’s has to say.

“The electric vehicle (EV) industry has gone through various stages in India, it is now growing due to many factors like the increased government policies supporting battery-powered vehicles, increasing petrol prices, the growing awareness toward the environment and stringent emission norms. The electric vehicle (EV) market in India is expected to hit over 63 lakh unit mark per annum by 2025-27. Considering the average Indian purchasing power, India is full to its brim with EV two-wheelers adoption and is fast growing as one of the top markets in the EV ecosystem. Shared mobility is the future of last-mile mobility in India. We plan on expanding our Yulu Miracle fleet from 10,000 to 50,000 units and adding 10,000 more units of recently launched Yulu DEX a custom-designed Electric 2-Wheeler for “short mile” delivery to empower the gig economy by providing affordable lease options is under the pipeline by the end of this year.”

While all this was happening, comes the news that EV’s in the past two months have actually overtaken sales of CNG vehicles in one of the largest automotive markets, Delhi. While that trend needs to play out over a far longer period, it’s a welcome sign that strong, pro-EV policies can make an impact, and as the economy recovers, will play out even better in the coming months and years.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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