“Bijli to sahi se aati nahi, gaadi kaise chalegi?”
This was the answer of a man who lives in rural Haryana and deals in car retailing, during a casual discussion about the future of electric cars in India. We are standing at a time when the country is thriving towards the zero emission mobility. The government wants to put pure electric mobility drive in fifth gear, people are curious about the EVs, automakers are keen to grab a chunk of the pie and enthusiasm is pretty high. But, reality check is what we need just like the car dealer. How you will charge your electric car when you don’t get consistent electricity for your daily needs? This is very first question that comes to the mind of thousands of customers.
Yes, it is true that the availability of electricity across India have increased in recent past, but there are dark pictures as well under the light. A vast majority of places of India are still denied the consistent supply of electricity, which is clearly enough to raise a question about the future of all-electric mobility in India. A strong network of charging infrastructure is one of the prime conditions for the success of electric vehicles and the picture is pretty grim in India.
There are efforts by some automakers, some start-ups and government to make a healthy charging infrastructure network, but that’s only limited to some of the metro cities and not sufficient as well. There are loads of promises being made assuring an improved picture of the charging infrastructure in coming days, but the reality is yet to progress keeping pace with that. While petrol and diesel are available very easily, electric car charging stations are something you cannot find even with a binocular.
Wait, the unaddressed questions don’t end here!
Despite a fast changing scenario, Indian customers at large are still price sensitive. Pricing of electric vehicles in India are something that could easily burn the buyers’ pocket. For example, customers in Delhi need to shell out around Rs 7 lakh for Mahindra e2o Plus; while at that price slab one can buy a conventional fuel powered car with loads of features, better power and more. The government needs to offer hefty amount of subsidy for the EVs to encourage buyers. Also, there is still no clear strategy from Indian government about the adoption of electric mobility.
What drives the pricing of the electric cars sky high? It is the expensive components and electric batteries. India still imports a massive number of electric batteries from China (a country well advanced in electric mobility). To make the zero emission vehicles more affordable, resulting in improved picture for EVs in India, local production of batteries is a question needs to be addressed on priority. Suzuki is building its battery plant in Gujarat; Mahindra too is working on more powerful electric batteries. However, the overall scenario is way below the desired level.
No, I’m not being pessimistic about the future of electric mobility in India. But, these questions are needed to be addressed if we are seriously looking forward to a greener and cleaner India. While government has lot to do for that, automakers and component manufacturers too need to take initiatives to brighten the picture. And then, I hope to see that car dealer from rural Haryana someday says with a big smile, “Bijli se gaadi jarur chalegi.”