In its newest initiative, Auto Tech Review recently introduced a webinar series titled “Tech Chat”, with an objective to deliberate on a multitude of subjects relevant to the automotive sector
The first of the series was themed ‘Recharging India’s Electric Mobility Ambition One Year into FAME II Scheme’, which was graced by Saurabh Kumar, Managing Director, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL); Samir Yajnik, Executive Director, Electra EV; Vinay Piparsania, Director – Automotive, Counterpoint Research. Deepangshu Dev Sarmah, Editor-in-Chief, Auto Tech Review moderated the webinar.
The ₹ 10,000 cr government support under FAME II scheme over a three-year period is designed to support 10 lakh electric two-wheelers, 5 lakh three-wheelers, 55,000 four-wheelers, and 7,000 electric buses. The first year of the FAME II scheme hasn’t quite yielded the desired results and the outbreak of Covid-19 has thrown up doubts about how this scheme will pan out going forward. The webinar sought answers on how the government and industry can fast-forward the country’s EV ecosystem. It elaborated on whether the prevailing slowdown (even before the arrival of Covid-19) and subsequently the pandemic will serve as roadblocks in EVs taking off. The webinar also measured at length on what kind of roadmap should be mapped out by various industry stakeholders for the EV journey to be a success story in the country.
While conceding that the prevailing times are exceedingly challenging for the entire demand supply chain globally, Kumar said the response against the Covid-19 crisis will be equally challenging. “The exact economic impact of the coronavirus is unknown not just in the Indian context, but also at a global level and the new term ‘social distancing’ could have an impact on shared mobility for a long time,” he pointed out.
On the EV charging front, the EESL MD stated that there has been significant progress in 2019, in terms of allotments and clarity as to what kind of charging stations are needed to be set up. Kumar refused to buy the line of thought that the government was dragging its feet in the implementation of the FAME II scheme “The finance bill was passed around September and this paved the way for availability of money for implementation, but technically speaking the five-month period of actual work in the policy is a good start for EV adoption,” he observed.
However, Kumar did believe there was scope within the FAME II scheme to bring about some changes. “The scheme can bring about changes, especially in terms of incorporating personal four-wheelers. The market currently has four to five electric models available, which should be a strong enough case to bring personal cars under the FAME II scheme,” he opined.
Kumar also stressed the need for building greater awareness about EVs and was categorical that the onus lies not just with the government, but with various industry stakeholders as well. “Owning an EV not only brings operating costs down, but also brings benefits to the society in terms of cleaner air and noise pollution,” he noted.
In his presentation, Yajnik spoke about the EV market that is less than 5 % of the country’s automotive market, yet industry players are keen to be part of the EV space owing to the dire need to reduce emissions. “There is a great deal of excitement around EVs, which is underpinned by the fact that slew of start-ups are working diligently in the EV space. The Covid-19 crisis will make it imperative for companies to reassess and realign their strategies as the pandemic has put a question mark on the demand aspect of EVs for now,” he stated.
The Electra EV Executive Director rued the fact that despite making more than 80 % components in the country, the industry still imports critical EV components from China and other parts of the world. Yajnik stated that recent statements made by countries such as Japan, US, and some European countries offering stimulus packages for companies to move businesses out of China due to the whole Covid-19 situation could be one of the biggest impacts on the industry as a whole.
Offering his insights on the subject, Piparsania agreed that the outbreak of Covid-19 will have adverse effects on the entire industry, including the EV industry, but transportation being a primary need, it will be reimagined. “EVs will form a major part of this change, along with connected car technologies as the market develops,” he noted.
Yajnik stressed the need for incentivising EV manufacturing. “We need to have incentives in place for manufacturing the entire EV value chain. Battery cell manufacturers have started pulling back plans and pushing them to later times due to the prevailing uncertainty. This can be avoided by offering incentives, thus accelerating indigenous manufacturing of critical EV components,” he remarked.
Piparsania asserted that two-wheelers and three-wheelers will lead the EV adoption in India, while adding that electric buses have been slow off the blocks. “Buses are totally in the hands of the government. State transport undertakings (STUs) have still not delivered on tenders, and only a few hundred has been delivered and the targeted 7,000 buses still appear to be a big challenge,” he said.
Stating that the FAME II scheme is more focussed towards indigenisation of EVs, he said as against global trends India appears to have complicated it too much, which has led to a huge gap between the numbers achieved as against what was targeted. “Among all the benefits offered under the FAME II scheme, the real rider has been 50 % localisation,” he pointed out.
Piparsania was categorical that demand for EVs will happen when a vehicle is affordable and viable enough for regular use. He believes that the need of the hour is for a better charging infrastructure, which still lacks significant visibility in the eyes of an average road user. “When consumers are not able to see abundance of charging stations, they will remain sceptical about switching to EVs. More charging stations with better technologies will surely improve customer sentiment,” he noted.
He further proposed that OEMs be granted more allowance to rope in new technologies and bring acquisition price lower. “Batteries continue to be a major cost centre, but government assistance can help bring those issues down to lesser concerns. There is a need to emerge with better plans after the Covid-19 crisis subsides,” he made his point.
The ATR webinar also featured a terse Q&A session, wherein insightful questions were thrown at the panellists. All in all, the webinar initiative brought to the table several aspects related to developing the country’s EV ecosystem. Only time will tell how the EV industry gathers momentum post settling of Covid-19, which for now appears a long way off.
(Note: The recorded webinar and presentations can be viewed on our website under the Events tab or by clicking HERE)
TEXT: Abhijeet Singh