In March, minister for power, coal, new and renewable energy Piyush Goyal had announced an ambitious plan: Come 2030, every car user in India could have an electric vehicle (EV). Expanding on the plan, the minister added that EVs will be given without an upfront payment and paid for by users over a period of time from the savings made on fuel. The idea is inspired by the success of the government’s campaign to promote energy-efficient LED bulbs, which has seen costs falling by 80% over 18 months to ₹99 per bulb now. Taking a cue from these plans on EVs, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, Ford India Pvt. Ltd, Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles Pvt. Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd have created a consortium that will help develop a supplier base for critical hybrid and electric vehicle components. According to a report in MINT, the components will feed into the efforts of these companies to build six electric and hybrid vehicles, creating a base of suppliers that have the expertise to make these parts. The project, the report added, will focus on developing broad industry-wide product specifications for the components for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. At present, all components that the consortium seeks to localise are expensive and are imported mostly from China. Electric vehicles, though not yet popular in India, are an important solution to addressing several problems: Energy security, climate change and road transport emission including sustainable personal mobility, which has seen a huge spurt in recent times.
That such an ecosystem is critical to the success of developing EVs is clear from the growth and popularity of Tesla Inc, an American automotive and energy storage company. In less than a decade, the company has worked with more than 35 suppliers — globally — to create three world-beating products including the recently launched Model 3.
For EVs to enter India by storm — we hope it does soon — the Centre needs to take several other key steps. First, it needs to provide a network of charging stations. Experience shows that while infrastructure developers are reluctant to invest in this area until there is a sizable population of EVs on the roads, vehicle manufacturers are unwilling to launch their models due to the lack of charging stations. Second, the charging stations also have to be green and for EVs not to threaten India’s tricky power situation, they must not be overly dependent on grid supply. A report by Teri said that decentralised electricity generation at the charging outlets is therefore the need of the hour and that any decentralised generation will have to be based on renewable energy because using diesel electricity or electricity from coal-fired plants will only negate the point of using EVs. Apart from the localisation of key components, developing EVs and a robust charging infrastructure, a lot of work needs to be done on increasing awareness about electric vehicles. The world over, the popularity of EVs is increasing. There is no reason why they should not be a hit in India too.