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EV Market Profile: India

by Brad Dias

India has set an ambitious goal. It wants every public transport vehicle, as well as 40% of all private cars in the country, to be electrically powered by 2030. This is an ambitious plan, and the current reality of EV sales and charging infrastructure in this populous country makes this challenge seem even bigger.

EV Sales In India

Only 8% of all the electric vehicles sold in India have four wheels. The other 92% are two-wheelers. During 2016-17, a total of only 25,000 EVs were sold. This means that only around 2,000 four-wheeled EVs were sold, compared to nearly three million domestic passenger vehicles sold in the same period. That comes out to less than one-tenth of one percent for EV car sales.

Two-wheeled EVs, such as bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters, are generally used for short distances and are much lighter. Compared to electric cars, they need much less time and power to charge. This brings us to India’s next EV challenge: the availability of charging stations.

Charging Infrastructure

In India, charging an electric vehicle is usually the owner’s responsibility. There is very little public charging infrastructure currently available, so it’s difficult to plan a long journey. This is one of the biggest reason that penetration of electric cars in India is so low at the moment.

Mahindra Reva has installed about 100 charging stations in Delhi and Bangalore. Newer companies are coming onto the scene and introducing their own charging stations. The automobile giant Tata has set up 3 charging stations in Mumbai, the financial capital of India.

In many states in India, power fluctuations and outages are the norm. This will surely be an additional concern in consumers’ minds when they consider buying an EV.

Government Incentives

There are currently no nationwide government incentives for electric vehicles in India, but some Indian states do provide their own subsidies and schemes to promote the usage of EVs.

The states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Lakshadweep do not levy VAT on the sales of EVs. The states of Goa and Maharashtra do not levy road tax on EVs. There is a nationwide 12% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on electric cars, although this has been reduced from the 28% GST that’s applied to normal petrol and diesel cars.

A report by the OECD showed that the subsidies provided by the Indian government for EVs are among the lowest in the world. On top of that, the high price of electric cars, compared to petrol cars in the country, is still a deterrent. So until better incentives or subsidies are introduced, sales will continue to be low.

The “Make in India” policy has been set up to lure foreign companies to set up manufacturing plants in India. Additionally, the Indian governmental entity Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) plans to procure 20,000 EVs for government use by March of 2019. EESL also plans to set up an additional 2,500 charging stations across the country. This should help with EV use and adoption.

Local EV Production

The former Reva electric car company produced a small compact electric car called the REVAi. Reva was acquired by Mahindra and Mahindra, and renamed as Mahindra Electric Mobility Limited.

Since then, the REVAi has been replaced with the Mahindra e20, which is currently manufactured in Bangalore. The manufacturing plant in Bangalore is India’s first platinum certified automobile plant, which has the capacity to produce 30,000 cars per annum.

India’s Electrical Generation Systems & Sources

Over 75% of the electricity generated in India is coal-powered, which is far from ideal, as it produces harmful emissions. As the number of electric vehicles on the road increases, the source of emissions will shift from petrol and diesel engines to coal-fired power plants.

Meanwhile, renewable sources of electricity are quite underutilized and make up a little over 15% of the total electricity generated. Solar power, for instance, is responsible for only around 1% of the electricity generated. Solar power can be a clean and low-cost source of renewable energy, due to the high amounts of sunlight India receives, as well as the continually falling cost of solar panels.

Outlook For The Future

The Indian government and automobile manufacturers have a lot of work to do to achieve their target of selling only electric vehicles by 2030. The biggest current challenge lies in improving the inadequate charging infrastructure. Without this, it will not be possible for most Indians to use electric vehicles as a reliable means of transportation.

Once better electrical infrastructure is in place, the next step is to start improving electric vehicle adoption by the general public. By introducing more favourable regulations, subsidies and rebates, India can steer consumers to start choosing electric power over internal combustion engines.

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