The Indian Electric Vehicle Industry Landscape

There has been a tangible amount of swell regarding the anticipation of the future in the Indian automotive sector, significantly about the electric vehicle market.

The EU and G8 countries have agreed that the future demands a stricter climate policy and have pledged to have co2 emissions by 2050. In this timeframe, the number of private cars worldwide will more than double to 2.5 billion, so demand for energy continues to rise while fossil fuels dwindle. The world cannot simply continue as before. The UK, France, Norway and Germany have even brought in legislation to ban the sales of non-electric vehicles as early as 2025. This makes the Electric Vehicle industry one of the most exciting, significant and necessary areas of innovation today.

India has already shown its keen interest to be a major part of this automotive paradigm shift. ELE Times’s correspondent Mayank Vashisht spoke with Bhavneesh Athikary, Automotive Lead Indo-Pacific, Hexagon, to dig deep into India’s anticipation of becoming the Electric Vehicle hub for the world and the roadblocks hindering that desire.

Excerpts of this Exclusive Conversation:

Bhavaneesh Athikary,
Automotive Lead, Indo-Pacific, Hexagon

ELE Times: India has already put forward the desire to become the biggest hub for electric vehicles in the future. How far is this desire from reality?

Bhavneesh Athikary: Innovations in EV space have taken place and will continue to occur, and we expect that the policy environment in India will become even more favorable. Over the years, we’ve seen many initiatives from the Government, such as the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (NEMMP), which was launched in 2013 by the Department of Heavy Industry (DHI) as a roadmap for the faster manufacture and adoption of EVs in India.

Talking about India, from the Ministry of Power to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, many government stakeholders have made policy changes. The Ministry of Power, for example, has clarified that charging EVs is considered a service, which means that operating EV charging stations will not require a license. It has also issued a policy on charging infrastructure to enable faster adoption of EVs. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways have announced that both commercials and private battery-operated vehicles will be issued green license plates. It has also notified that all battery-operated, ethanol-powered, and methanol-powered transport vehicles will be exempted from the commercial permit requirement.

There is undoubtedly significant potential. Earlier this 2021, it is reported that Tesla would be setting up an electric-car manufacturing unit in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

Tesla would start its operations in India with an R&D unit in Bengaluru. I would say the ingredients are in place for India to become the biggest hub for electric vehicles.

We would say the ingredients are in place for India to become the biggest hub for electric vehicles.

ELE Times: The charging infrastructure for eMobility is a significant concern. There are only 1000 charging stations for electric vehicles in India, where the population of cars on the road is sky-rocketing. The proportions are unrealistic, and the apprehensions in the consumer’s mind are justified. What are your thoughts on this classic problem, and how the Government can reduce this disparity and improve the infrastructure?

Bhavneesh Athikary: Charging infrastructure disparity is a justified and enormous concern for EVs across several countries. Range anxiety is still one of the critical challenges and availability of charging stations. When we speak of EVs, we’re not just talking about passenger vehicles; we are talking about two-wheelers, three-wheelers like auto-rickshaws, as well as commercial vehicles.

Yet when faced with these challenges, we need to look for unconventional approaches; India is already using alternate charging methods like battery swapping stations or mobile charging, charging options at home. India needs to leapfrog technology to explore beyond the conventional charging infrastructure.

On a positive note, too, we must not forget that technology is constantly evolving and very rapidly too. So the challenge right now might not be a challenge for long; fast charging technology is also evolving. Various public-private partnerships are also being tried out and discussed; I am sure we will surpass this challenge.

Of course, we cannot talk of EVs without considering that the move towards renewable energy is another crucial puzzle piece. The good news is, as you can see from India’s policy point of view, there’s a lot of push for this, especially solar energy.

ELE Times: There is complete unavailability of primary battery cell manufacturing in India, which puts India at the risk of increasing our trade deficit. Most manufacturers rely on batteries imported from Japan, China, Korea, and Europe. How can this dependency be reduced, and India can become self-reliant?

Bhavneesh Athikary: India is not home to key lithium-ion battery raw materials – lithium, cobalt, and nickel, so most of them have to be imported. India should build international partnerships to secure access to these key materials. We should also not forget that Lithium is just a small part of all the raw materials that goes to make a Lithium-Ion battery. Also, alternatives for lithium-ion battery technology needs to be explored.

I believe India is likely to become a leading hub for manufacturing EVs and EV components; for many reasons.

One of them is that the Government has rolled out a Production-Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for Advanced Chemistry Cell ACC Battery Storage. This would support the nation in achieving the manufacturing capacity of 50 GWh of ACC and 5 GWh of Niche ACC. With 50 GWh manufacturing capacity, the cost of a battery can be got in par with global costs. . The PLI scheme will go a long way to spur the domestic production of batteries. Thus, it reduces our dependence on imports because it aims to support the growing EV industry with the required infrastructure and significantly reduce EVs cost. Many leading battery producers like Amara Raja Batteries have publicly mentioned their new investments into green technologies, including lithium-ion batteries.

We should also have a strategy around recycling these lithium-ion batteries.

ELE Times: What are the repercussions of the pandemic on the EV sector?

Bhavneesh Athikary: It was negatively impacted in the short term, especially regarding supply chain disruption that happened because of the pandemic. But I think, contrary to concerns, COVID-19 Pandemic has been a catalyst in some sectors.

For example, in the last-mile delivery sector, the pandemic has led to a massive increase in e-commerce and many players in the last-mile delivery sector have moved to electric vehicles. In India, EVs are not only about passenger vehicles but other commercial or logistical vehicles. With environmental concerns never greater than today, EV adoption is rapidly growing, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see India at the top of the EV adoption list

At Hexagon, despite the pandemic challenges, we have continued with our mandate to help automotive industry accelerate their move towards eMobility with our unique capabilities We understand that we can improve global human impact for business and society, and our goal is to help the industry rise to meet the eMobility revolution.

We focus on combining our extensive knowledge from across our portfolio to do our part to unblock the barriers towards EVs. We offer the industry an integrated approach to improve, speed up, and simplify the development of electric vehicles, hybrid transition technologies, and clean automotive energy models.

Hexagon offers an intelligent, integrated approach from battery cells to infrastructure, right from design to manufacture. We believe the race for 100% clean automotive will accelerate. Hexagons holistic suite of eMobility solutions for design and engineering, production and metrology will help address key challenges of ramping up and commercialising eMobility.

Mayank Vashisht | Sub Editor | ELE Times