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Mass Adoption of EVs in India: A Utopian Scenario?

Where does India stand when it comes to mass adoption of EVs in India?
Where does India stand when it comes to mass adoption of EVs in India?

India is currently surfing comfortably on the EV wave.

With the numbers for EV adoption rising day in and day out, and the rise in fuel prices, the frequency of debates around EV adoption has risen recently, and for all the good reasons.

The Indian automotive industry is a force to be reckoned with in the world. However, for the next stage of the automotive revolution to seep in, the country needs to be ready with adopting electric vehicles, with the same intrigue and interest as it did the internal combustion engined vehicles.

With several companies entering the space, loads of capital being infused, and large-scale public and private sector efforts being put in, the execution of strategies to bring EVs into the mainstream. So before figuring out how to bring electric vehicles into the mainstream, it is essential to understand the background, current status, and future of electric vehicles in the country.

India’s Tryst with EVs

two electric vehicles standing together in fields in India
The Lovebird: India's first EV, as considered by many. Credits: 91mobiles

India has come a long way since it was first introduced to the concept of electric vehicles. The ‘Lovebird’ was the first completely electric vehicle in India, with a DC motor and a four-speed gearbox, and had a staggering (as per the standards of the time) range of 60 kilometers.

After that in 2001, the Reva took to the streets, which quickly gained popularity. The unique-seeming car when stopped beside the then-popular ICE family cars of the time, did create a sense of intrigue amongst the onlookers.

It was almost a decade later in 2010, that India took a decisive step and decided to incentivize EVs by providing benefits and incentives for EV manufacturers in India, which was discontinued in 2012.

The scheme was later replaced by National Electric Mission Mobility Plan 2020 and then by what we know today as Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles (FAME).

Today, the government push has increased manifolds with proactive participation from the government and manufacturers alike.

EV Adoption in India: Where Do We Stand?

EV charging in India
EV Adoption Status in India | Credits: IISD

In order to further accentuate the adoption of EVs in India, the country needs to adopt measures to increase the penetration of electric vehicles in the country’s overall automotive sales.

The reasons posing as a barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles in the country are many and spread across various domains. While there remains a spike in awareness and popularity, a large-scale acceptance of EVs in India needs to overcome these barriers.

  1. Infrastructure In order to accommodate a large number of electric vehicles in the country, the infrastructure within the country needs to be EV friendly. This primarily includes battery swapping and charging infrastructure across the country. According to a recent study, India will need over 20 lakh charging stations to satiate the requirements of over 5 crore electric vehicles on road by 2030. As of 1st July 2022, the Ministry of Heavy Industries has sanctioned 2877 charging stations across the country. The number seems daunting, but the good news is that the number seems to be rising steadily. Although the faster the steps are taken, the better the rate of adoption. One good example of this comes from Delhi NCR. According to the Delhi Government, implementing a single-window facility for setting up EV charging stations has brought significant results. In less than a year, there are 1,000 electric charging stations in less than a year.

  2. Degree of innovation EVs have always been considered to be the ‘new thing in town. In the earlier days, electric vehicles focused more on showcasing the new technology it runs on rather than addressing customer concerns. This led to a rather dismal adoption of EVs in India. However, as the bigwigs of the automotive industry started entering the EV space, there have been major updates that are answering the right questions with what they have to offer. The newer vehicles are customer-first and cater to concerns like range anxiety. What’s even smarter is that manufacturers are able to replicate their best-selling ICE models as EVs, which in turn, helps customers trust the vehicle build quality, features, and the rest of the lot, while welcoming an EV motor in the picture.

  3. Costs There’s an interesting observation of EV adoption in India. The majority of the electric vehicles out of the total share of electric vehicles in the country are two and three-wheelers. The Indian consumer has been able to figure out the right utility for them, with many assisting in last-mile connectivity, and as a replacement for short-distance urban mobility. However, when it comes to the four-wheeler segment, the value-conscious Indian customer is yet to be equally welcoming. The premium on electric vehicles is something that’s still keeping many at bay, before going for their first electric vehicle.

  4. After-sale Services & Concerns Apart from the initial upfront costs that an EV commands, there lies the total cost of ownership which includes sourcing the equipment for the vehicle. While the total cost of ownership might be lower than that of fuel-based vehicles, in order to reach the breakeven, there are a lot of kilometers that a 4W EV has to cover. Moreover, on a more realistic note, it won’t be easy for you to bring the roadside mechanic in case of a breakdown as of now. However, as major automotive companies enter into the space, the large network of service centers might be of help.

Are EVs there (yet)?

EV mass adoption in India
Mass adoption of EV in India requires efforts on multiple levels

Mass adoption of EVs in India might not be a distant dream, but it certainly will take a holistic approach by all the stakeholders to reach there.

In the recent past, there have been key developments in the EV space, which have once again led to a positive outlook for the entire industry.

  1. More EV Models Coming Up Long gone are the days when EVs were made in a ‘one size fits all manner. With the rise in the number of companies manufacturing electric vehicles, customers can actually look for options and decide what they want to go for. This will enable customers to make more robust decisions based on their propensity to spend, utility, and preferences.

  2. Positive Government Initiatives The good thing about India’s EV space is the fact that the public and private sector’s participation in facilitating large-scale EV adoption has been somewhat equivalent. In September 2022, there were some major positive updates paving the way for the large-scale adoption of EVs. India’s first-ever miniature National Highways for EVs (NHEV) charging station was unveiled, competing with fuel stations on the highways, envisioning a highway-friendly future for the electric vehicles of the country. Furthermore, there has been a push by the government for EV battery safety norms, which are to be submitted by electric vehicle manufacturers, in order to ensure an overall holistic approach to the adoption of EVs in the country.

  3. Rising Sales Numbers According to the latest sales figures, September 2022 witnessed a massive 173% year-on-year increase in overall sales. While two-wheelers and passenger vehicles take the majority of the chunk of these sales numbers, there are no doubts about the fact that the overall demand for electric vehicles is seeing a rise.

Conclusion: Mass Adoption of EVs in India

Status of mass adoption of EVs in India might be a little far, but definitely not farfetched.
Status of mass adoption of EVs in India might be a little far, but definitely not farfetched.

Refuting the current EV wave just as a ‘trend’ would be a detrimental thing to do.

Electric vehicles are finally at the center stage, gaining the right amount of limelight.

As the Indian consumer gets aware of the benefits of EVs in the near future, and how they might as well be the better option than their ICE counterparts, the manufacturers and government needs to build a holistic atmosphere that’s conducive for electric vehicles to not just grow, but retain and prosper.

Mass adoption of EVs in India might feel like a utopian scenario at the moment, but it’s the day-to-day small wins that are making the industry a force to be reckoned with.

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