New Delhi: India’s electric vehicle (EV) industry has recently added an SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) in its portfolio, with the launch of Hyundai Motor Company’s Kona Electric SUV. In the four-wheeler EV segment, before Hyundai Kona, there were only three options from domestic automobile manufacturers – Mahindra Electric’s e-Verito and e2o plus, and Tata Motors’s Tata Tigor EV. With the government’s increasing focus on zero-emissions EVs and with the launch of a new high-end e-car that is boasting of the advancement of electric technology, the EV industry has received some impetus, but, in terms of mass adoption of electric vehicles, is the country ready for the e- revolution yet?
On being asked about the progress made by the EV industry in the past few years, Sohinder Gill, Managing Director of Society for Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), a network of manufacturers of EVs and EV components said,
In a country, where, EVs faced a series of policy flip-flops before the government finally set targets to facilitate scaling up of the e-mobility market earlier this year, a sale of more than 1.3 lakh e-vehicles in last two years is not bad. Launch of Kona definitely increases the credibility of the technology and confirmed booking of 120 e-SUVs within a few days of the launch testify this. But we need to go a long way to achieve a state of mass adoption and to realise the government’s target of electrifying at least 30 per cent of roads by 2030 because if we take into account all EVs including the unregistered e-rickshaws and lead-acid battery scooters, currently EVs are just three per cent of the total vehicles on the road. Right now, it is difficult to say if we can achieve this target or not but entry of all kinds of EVs, in every segment would play a role in getting Towards it.
Price And Range- The Two Factors Keeping EVs From Becoming Mass Utility Vehicles
Until the launch of Hyundai’s Kona Electric SUV, the maximum range offered by Mahindra Electric and Tata Motor’s e-cars was 100-120 kilometre on a single charge. Charging a car from zero to 100 per cent takes 8-9 hours, when charged using a simple 15 ampere socket that is used for powering electrical appliances like air conditioners and microwaves. Available at price between approximately Rs. 8- 10 lakh, less than 4,000 cars were sold in the last two years, as per the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. This includes the cars purchased for individual use and for commercial purposes to serve as cabs. Even in the two-wheeler segment, e-scooters are priced at almost double than their petrol counterparts. For example, an Okinawa I-praise costs Rs. 1.1 lakh while a more popular Honda Activa is priced around Rs. 60,000, as per SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers).
According to a spokesperson from SIAM and member of the task force formed by the central government to enhance mass adoption of EVs,
For an average consumer in India, buying a domestic passenger internal combustion engine (ICE) car that is between Rs. 5-7 lakh is more practical. 2018 saw a sale 25.5 lakh such cars. On the other hand, in India, at present a passenger electric car starts around Rs. 8-10 lakh, a price range in which a consumer would rather wish to buy an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) sedan car. Also, there is a lack of charging infrastructure, while petrol pumps are found almost everywhere. Consumers would not want to buy a Rs. 10 lakh worth electric car and then worry about it going out of charge within 100 kilometer. The consumer desirability and acceptability need to be addressed for making EVs a reality in the country. Building a robust charging infrastructure with more fast chargers (Direct Current chargers) needs to be the first step so that people don’t have to worry about range.
The newly launched e-Kona, has broken the constraint of range in EVs and has demonstrated the capability of EV technology with its powerful 39.2 kWh (kilo Watt hour) lithium-ion battery which can run up to 452 kilometre on a single full charge and can go from a speed of zero kilometre per hour (kmph) to 100 kmph in 9.7 seconds. Certified by Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), electric Kona has been priced at Rs. 25.3 lakh which is almost Rs. 10 lakh more than the price of Hyundai’s popular SUV Creta. SIAM spokesperson highlighted that while e-SUV is an exciting milestone for EV industry and EV enthusiasts, it is difficult to see the car become a popular passenger car in the SUV segment.
Acknowledging high price as a constraint for EVs to realise their full potential in India’s market, Puneet Anand said,
We are very excited that we are the first car manufacturers to launch electric SUV in India but it is not expected to corner significant sales numbers due to its premium tag. Therefore, we are also working on developing a more affordable mass vehicle priced around Rs. 10 lakh soon in India for which we will be investing over Rs. 2,000 crore. We are carrying out studies to determine features of the vehicles as per the demands in India. We want a price that should be acceptable to general customers.
Mr. Anand pointed out that to tackle charging issues, with every purchase of the Kona Electric, Hyundai will also provide the customer with a 7.2 kW AC (Alternate Current) wall box charger that can charge the car fully in 6 hours 10 minutes. To make the car more practical for the users, a 2.8-kilowatt portable charger accompanies the car, which can be directly plugged into any regular 15-ampere socket.
Talking about the cost of owning an EV, the SMEV Farah Halim, an expert on EVs and member of PlugIn India, a community of electric vehicle owners explained,
Currently, petrol rates are hovering at around Rs. 80 or more in some cities while the cost of electricity for domestic uses is Rs. 6 at most places. Based on this and on general maintenance costs of vehicles, we made an assessment on the cost of running of a small petrol car like Hyundai i10 or Maruti Celerio. We found that the cost of operating these cars is Rs. 3.5 lakh in four years. However, the cost of operating a small electric car hatchback like Mahindra Electric’s e2o Plus after four years is around Rs. 39,000. Similarly, the cost of operating an ICE scooter like Honda Activa and TVS Jupiter after two years is around Rs. 36,600 while the cost of operating an electric scooter like Hero Photon or Okinawa Ridge+ during the same period is only Rs. 3,400.
India’s Push For Electric Vehicles
Earlier in March, the central government launched the second phase of EV incentives schemes Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME-India) with an outlay of Rs. 10,000 to achieve its target of electrifying at least 30 per cent of vehicles on road by 2030. Under FAME II, the government targets to set up 2,700 charging stations across the country, and aims to incentivise 10 lakh two-wheelers, five lakh three-wheelers, 55,000 four-wheelers, and 7,000 buses.
To giver EVs a further push and in a bid to make these more affordable, the central government had recently announced a provision income tax rebates of up to Rs. 1.5 lakh to EV buyers on interest paid on loans to buy electric vehicles. Along with this, the government is planning on reducing the Goods and Service Tax on EVs from the current 12 per cent to 5 per cent. It has also removed custom duty on some components of EVs.
After Hyundai Electric Kona, Mahindra and Mahindra will be launching its first electric SUV, electric Mahindra KUV100 by the end of the current years, and MG Motor’s MG eZS will be hitting the roads of India soon.