Electric Cars are becoming a reality sooner than later. They’ll soon be seen on the roads near you, and that will spell the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine (ICE).
Electric Vehicles (EVs) are undoubtedly the next big things that are going to change the face of the automobile industry. Almost all the major car auto manufacturers have already hopped onto the bandwagon as can be inferred from their recent wave of announcements prioritizing xEVs. This in fact, is a very welcome trend, as EVs have multifarious advantages over ICE vehicles (internal combustion engine vehicles, or in other words, the regular vehicles that run on petrol or diesel). The greatest benefit is of course, in terms of the environment. The Paris Climate Summit has re-emphasised the looming threat of Global warming, and almost all the countries are working towards measures to reduce pollution drastically. At this juncture, EVs, with the promise of being environment-friendly, seem like a smart choice to most countries of the world.
Nevertheless, the high initial acquisition cost for EVs, coupled with the lack of widely available charging infrastructure, has meant that ICE vehicles still dominate the roads. However, with the recent technical innovations and a resurgence in interest, the global automotive landscape is rapidly undergoing a paradigm shift: EVs are expected to be more efficient than ICEs in the near future. They are also expected to be more cost-effective than ICEs with the Bloomberg report estimating year 2025 as the inflection point when xEvs will go cheaper than ICEs . As for the charging infrastructure, governments all over the world, in partnership with industry leaders like Tesla, are putting in place appropriate measures to remedy the situation.
India is one of the forerunners among the proponents of this technology. Being one of the most polluted countries of the world, (Ten Indian cities are among the 25 most polluted cities of the world), the Indian government has acknowledged the need for change. Several key policy initiatives were launched viz. National Electric Mobility Mission Plan with a target to put 6- 7 million xEVs on road by 2020 with total incentives of USD 7-8 billion for promoting xEV infra and R&D initiatives over the 2 year period i.e. Fy 2015-16 & FY 2016-17 commencing from 1stn April 2015. Recently in keeping with the recommendations from the country’s think tank “Niti Aayog” the scheme was further extended uptill 31st March 2018 and the roadmap for FAME-II is also under progress. Under this scheme, the government allocated a budget of USD 123 million (FY 15-17) and plans to lay stress primarily on the demand side incentives for buyers, charging infra and technology platform.
Due to these reforms, Indian companies like Mahindra are increasingly turning towards EVs. The consequent increase in the demand for Lithium - Ion batteries will in turn, reduces its cost of production via the economies of scale. Moreover, this manufacturing niche has seen several new players entering the fray. All these changes make it highly probable that the next 2 decades will see EVs gradually come to dominate the Indian roads. This means that the transport infrastructure urgently needs to test and adopt the appropriate technology to support xEVs.
Infrastructure always comes before innovation. Examples abound: telecommunication infrastructure has to be there for mass adoption of Internet, Internet had to exist for web services to become popular, 3G telecom towers are required for rapid adoption of smartphones. The case is similar when talking about xEV popularity. Inevitably the next step in this regard, would be a good charging infrastructure across the country. In other words, just like petrol or gas stations, we need charging points across the country for electric vehicles. This would not only make the travel anxiety free, but would also contribute in a large way to popularize electric vehicles, which in turn contributes to climate change mitigation.
There is no doubt that the future of the automobile industry belongs to the EVs. In such a scenario, the question is how do we adapt ourselves to such a phenomenon? How do we contribute to this step towards a less-polluted India? As things stand today, the commonly available EVs can be very well suited for intra city transport. In the absence of a charging infra, hybrid vehicles can be preferred over the standard ICEs and charging points can be setup in homes and office parkings or similar. As per an estimate, the typical charging station in USA costs an average of 700$. As the number of EVs and hybrids increase, it will start making sense for city businesses to start setting up common charging station as well. It will not be long before you can take your car out for the whole day without needing a drop of petrol or diesel! Then truly our buildings, cities and the country will have taken a big leap on the path to a greener, cleaner, healthier future.