Updated: Sep 14, 2021
The demand for electric vehicles (EVs) has been on the rise in India, especially after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, getting the vehicles serviced and charging them on a regular basis are seen to be some major challenges.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the words ‘clean and economical’? Cloth bags? Cruelty-free cosmetics? Chemical-free detergents? Well, electric vehicles (EVs) fall under this category as much as these other products.
In 2017, Nitin Gadkari, the Minister for Road Transport & Highways, startled the automobile industry – and the country – when he announced a target to make India a 100 percent electric vehicle nation by 2030. “I am going to do this, whether you like it or not. And I am not going to ask you. I will bulldoze it,” he said at an industry conference.
However, this ambitious goal was eventually diluted to 30 percent, owing to a lot of pushback by the industry as well as the low rate of acceptance amongst consumers.
Stumbling blocks along the path of EV adoption
In January 2020, Rajashekar KS, 61, bought a Benling Icon with the objective of reducing pollution levels and laying the foundation for a greener environment. His excitement knew no bounds when he picked up the sleek and shiny two-wheeler. The moped was light-weight, easy-to-handle and nimble enough to maneuver through traffic. Nevertheless, Rajashekar’s enthusiasm dwindled after a few months due to lack of servicing facilities.
“There are hardly any independent repairers who understand EV systems or know how to service these automobiles. So, whenever there is some wear and tear, it becomes difficult,” he says.
Another reason for the hesitance in EV adoption has to do with the dearth of charging infrastructure. Despite paying a premium price, several electric car owners are unable to cover long distances, especially during inter-state travel, because of this limitation.
Manu Pushpendran, 40, an IT professional based in Mumbai, purchased a Morris Garage ZS EV in May 2020. The longest he has driven is to Goa covering a distance of about 580 kilometers.
“It takes about seven hours for me to charge and I generally plug in at the parking space in my home. Since there is no option for fast charging as such, it becomes difficult to cover long distances and drive to multiple destinations,” he says.
What does the future hold?
Illustration by Pratyush Thaker
Electric vehicles may take time to become mainstream in India, but there are clear indicators signalling an increase in demand.
In a written reply to a question on e-vehicles on 16 March, 2021, Arjun Ram Meghwal, the Minister of State for Heavy Industries said that the number of registered electric vehicles as per the e-vahan portal during the last three years has seen a consistent rise. As against 69,012 units of electric vehicles (including two-wheelers, three wheelers and buses) sold in India during 2017-18, its numbers increased to 143,358 units in 2018-19 and again spiked to 167,041 units in 2019-20.
Distressing levels of carbon emissions, soaring fuel prices and a strong push from the government are known to be some of the reasons for this surge. Since India provides one of the world’s largest untapped markets when it comes to EVs, a slew of companies like Ather Energy, Mahindra Electrics, Tata Motors and OLA Electric Mobility Pvt Ltd are putting in efforts to expand their reach.
Overall, the country is making positive strides in the electric mobility space, but, there is still a long way to go. Making capital available for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and battery manufacturers, improving the network of charging infrastructure and continued policy support are key to making headway.
Some resources and links to help you learn more about electric vehicles: