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EV: Is India Ready?

India’s domestic automobile industry kick-started during the British Raj in 1942 when Hindustan Motors first introduced the 4-wheeler to Indian roads. However, the industry picked up pace only after the liberalization period in 1991. The Narasimha Rao government (in office 1991-1996) came down heavily on this sector and pushed for many changes such as the adoption of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in commercial & public transport vehicles across India, emission norms, and other similar legislations.

But the question before us is, even after 100+ years of Internal Combustion (IC) engines, are Electric Vehicles (EVs) here to stay? Are we ready for the tectonic shift? The brief answer is that electric vehicles are already here and demand for EVs and EV amenities will only skyrocket in the next decade.

The future of transportation is clean and sustainable. India is making significant strides towards a green mobility market and we will see clean alternatives on Indian roads shortly. According to a report by Economic Times, 90% of car owners in India are ready to switch to an EV, but this report does not factor in vehicle cost. The first EV car launched by Hyundai was “Kona”, costing 24 lakhs, Delhi Ex-showroom. At the same price, a person can buy 4 Maruti Suzuki’s Swift Desire, which is the best-selling car in India according to Statista. In a price-sensitive market such as India, EV manufacturers will have to overcome the obstacle of high costs involved in buying the green alternative.

EVs will put the brakes on tailpipe emissions and also reduce India’s dependency on oil imports. Last year, NITI Aayog, which spearheads Narendra Modi’s EV initiative, proposed a ban on the production of 2 wheelers under 150cc by 2025 and 3 wheelers by 2023. This proposal became a pain point for the sector, which was already in hot water. Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways relaxed these norms after India Inc had vehemently lobbied against the government’s plan.

The union cabinet has approved the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage, which is thought of as a positive boost and aligns with the Modi Government’s vision for “Atmanirbhar Bharat”. This mission encourages setting up the large scale, export-competitive integrated batteries and cell manufacturing Giga plants in our homeland through a Phased Manufacturing Program (PMP), empowering comprehensive expansion of battery storage, a notable contributor to EV costs.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) and Ola Electric, (India’s homegrown taxi company Ola’s electric arm) pointed out that the country’s automobile industry is the fastest-growing market globally but only makes up 0.5% of the global EV market chart. The national agenda is to rub shoulders with China, Japan, and the US to ramp up manufacturing and sales of commercial and passenger electric vehicles. Sources close to the media have said that India’s demanding tender of 10,000 vehicles floated by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), heading India’s Electric dream, is now on the verge of getting scaled down to a third of its capacity or even worse, getting scrapped!