Thirty one-year-old Rimple Deepak drives her car between her Faridabad home and Nehru Place office in Delhi five days a week. She drives 30 km each day but her fuel costs is Rs 10 a day. “My Reva gives me 30 paise per kilometre. I don’t remember the last time I went to a petrol pump,” she says.
For this marketing executive, tanking up means plugging the car battery into an electric socket every day after work. By midnight, the battery is fully charged and the car is ready for yet another day’s travel. On days she needs to travel through the day, she charges the battery in her office parking lot.
Over the past couple of years, electric vehicles have caught the imagination of thousands of young Indians looking for smart and low-cost driving options. With almost zero emission as compared to their petrol and diesel-run counterparts, these new-gen cars and two-wheelers have an ecological benefit that environmentalists cannot stop raving about.
Gurgaon resident Kuldeep Singh says his fuel bill went down by almost 80 per cent since he bought an electric mobike for Rs 34,000. “My electricity bill has increased a bit but not much. Charging the battery is easy and can be done using a plug like the one you use for a television set,” says Singh. With a career in sales, Singh spends a lot of time on the road but with his mobike giving him 70 km on one charge, he has no complaints. <b1>
A quick scan through the list of buyers of electric vehicles shows the majority are either young women professionals or college students looking for an economic travel option. “Office-going executives, mostly women who don’t mind driving within a speed limit of 40-45 km/hr, and college students account for our biggest chunk in sales,” says Avinash Bhandari, director (operations), Yo Bykes.
The sales are slowly but surely picking up. “Of the total 10 lakh scooter sales in India last year, electric scooters account for 10 per cent sales,” says Deba Ghosal, Director at Ultra Motors, one of the companies manufacturing electric bikes in India. Naveen Munjal, Managing Director of Hero Electric, expects the share to shoot up further with better electric bikes hitting the market by end of this year. “We expect that share of electric bikes to increase by 20 to 30 per cent of the total sales in the next few years,” he says.
The sale of electric cars is picking at a slower pace and manufacturers are expected to closely track the response to the launch of the hybrid version of the Honda Civic – running on both petrol and battery – in India at the end of this year. Mahindra, too, has plans to launch a Scorpio hybrid. The high cost of hybrids – the Civic priced at Rs 20 lakh as compared to Rs 13 lakh for the petrol version – however, is likely to slow sales.
In absence of dual fuel electric vehicles, cheaper CNG or LPG are popular among vehicle owners in metros such as Delhi and Mumbai. This is precisely why Delhi’s Defence-Colony resident Rajvinder Singh has got all his three cars —- Maruti SX4, Sonata and Hyundai Accent —- converted to run on CNG. “My monthly fuel bill has reduced by over 60 per cent at the time when fuel prices are rising every three month,” he says gleefully.