The need of the hour is to create well co-ordinated and synchronised efforts for scaling up manufacturing, infrastructure development and an integration of service providers for mobility solutions, said Mr Anshul Gupta, Director, Okaya Power Pvt. Ltd. Answering an Autoguide questionnaire on electric mobility, Mr Gupta also expressed the hope that with supporting policy interventions and increased adoption of EVs, the landscape for charging and battery swapping should reach comfortable level over the next three to five years.
The following is the text of the interaction with Mr Gupta:
With the auto sector having stabilised to a great extent, do you think the electric mobility is getting the desired attention now?
The recent pandemic has brought the advantages of electric vehicles to mainstream. The falling pollution levels and the resultant health and environment benefits were witnessed by people first hand during the lockdown phases, and hence, the spotlight on EVs has been all the more prominent in the past few months. So, the transition to electric vehicles and mobility solutions have received a shot in the arm in the recent past which has been further accentuated by proactive efforts from the Government and the automotive OEs (established players and startups).
How do you rate the overall progress in the EV ecosystem?
The EV ecosystem development is a cross-sector issue, needing involvement and support from multiple stakeholders to sustain and expand it successfully. The Government has already initiated large-scale investments and policy interventions. This has been complemented by several players entering the fray. The need of the hour is to create well co-ordinated and synchronised efforts for scaling up manufacturing, infrastructure development and an integration of service providers for the mobility solutions.
Okaya has also been at the forefront of this initiative, having already deployed over 500 charging stations, and we recently received a World Bank-funded order for an additional 1,020 charging station installation across the country.
What do you think is the trajectory of EV investments?
Undoubtedly, there has been an upswing to the investments in the EV industry – fuelled by the increase in the interest and awareness of the consumers. The national and state governments are promoting the adoption of EVs heavily by incentivising both demand and supply side and providing an impetus in the infrastructure development. The private sector too is participating with investments by both established players and the new-age entrepreneurs.
How long do you think will it take to reach comfortable levels in terms of charging infrastructure?
The Government has declared public charging stations and EV charging businesses as a de-licensed activity. It has also laid down the roadmap to have substantial coverage of the road networks – both intra-city and highways by EV charging stations. There have been initiatives to set up community charging stations too and many players have now ventured with small-scale recharging solutions. With supporting policy interventions and increased adoption of EVs, the landscape for charging and battery swapping should reach a comfortable level over the next three to five years.
The Government is focused on ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and the battery technology and raw material are mostly controlled by China. Do you think this will slow down or change the impetus on EVs?
While India is largely self-reliant in manufacture of lead acid batteries, the key components and raw material for advanced batteries such as lithium Ion is controlled by other developed nations such as China. The Government needs to promote manufacture of entire batteries in India, including the cells. Adequate raw material should be procured and made available to ensure sustained manufacturing. Also, we need to invest increasingly into the R&D and development of newer battery technologies.
Has the pandemic impacted peoples’ preference for EVs in any way?
The continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the consumer behaviour and preference in a significant manner. The need for physical distancing has seen the people make the switch from public transports and sharing solutions to owned private vehicles on account of safety and precautionary measures. The EVs with their low running and maintenance costs have garnered a lot of interest from consumers. The preference for EVs is further supported by increased consciousness of the people towards environmental concerns following the pandemic.
Which segments is seeing the maximum EV penetration and what is the future of growth in EVs plying interstate or long-distance routes?
The fastest penetration for electric vehicles is currently being witnessed across the 2W and 3W segments of the industry. The three-wheeler segment, in particular, is seeing the most rapid adoption of EVs. Policy interventions and incentive programmes along with low daily running costs have earmarked the rapid adoption of 3W across the passenger and cargo-carrying segment. The electric 2W are also making significant inroads in consumer purchase decisions. The recent advancements in the offerings in terms of product quality and ride quality, improved battery technology, connectivity options and increase in charging stations are spurring customers to move towards EV scooters and bikes.
With the improvement in the charging ecosystem and innovative solutions such as battery swapping, the EVs shall also create a formidable presence in inter-city movement enabling long-distance travels without any anxiety in the near future.
Are you satisfied with the steps taken by the Centre and various state governments to promote electric vehicles?
Both the Centre and state governments are currently deploying significant resources towards transition to electric vehicles. Various fiscal and non-fiscal incentives have increased the value propositions for EVs. The recent policy announcement delinking the EV and battery sales is an innovative solution to create increased demand. A more cohesive effort on a large scale shall further amplify the impact of such measures and help a smoother and faster transition to EVs.
Are there any specific expectations from the Government on the policy front post-pandemic?
The Government and policy makers have to look proactively at promoting the industry and private sector towards generation of renewable electricity source also. With millions of EVs running on the country roads in the near future, the demand on the energy shall be substantial and the additional generation should be catered to by renewable sources.
What’s your take on the overall EV scenario in 2021?
The EV industry presents huge potential and opportunity for wide scale acceptance in the country. The Government is also firmly disposed towards bringing in a low/reduced carbon footprint in mobility scenario by 2030 – and EVs seem to be pivotal to these plans. As such, we would expect the EV market and ecosystem to grow at a rapid and robust pace in the next decade.