MAHESH PATIL is Head – India at Amphenol Advanced Sensors
From just three car brands in the 80s and early 90s to over 50 brands today, India’s automotive market has significantly leapfrogged in the last three decades and more. The scale and impact of the imminent and imperative transformation of the auto industry, which is expected to emerge as the world’s third largest passenger vehicle market by 2021 and presently accounting for 7.1 % of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), contributing around 49 % of the overall share from the manufacturing sector, and employing 30 mn people – both directly and indirectly – would be an unprecedented scenario.
The bourgeoning population and the growth in the per capita income will also fuel the auto industry’s growth. The growth will also see associated costs of oil imports, congestion and pollution. Given this scenario, it is imperative to move from the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) technology to electric vehicles (EV).
Since India is an established industry with a mature indigenous technology base in the industrial segment of motors, electronic drives, power supplies, and batteries, it offers an excellent opportunity to create a disruptive environment to be the leader in the EV segment. The gap of a few decades in the traditional ICE segment’s indigenous technology development can be leapfrogged for India to lead the EV segment with the best technology, leverage existing industrial manufacturing base, piggyback the experiential model of conventional vehicle design in terms of vehicles structure, aesthetics, supply chain, manufacturing, reliability, compliance, certification and ensure India emerge as the leader in this space.
The private sector is well poised with a well-established ecosystem for manufacturing EVs and the government is continuously serving as the necessary catalyst for fostering adoption and growth of this segment through the FAME II scheme and the phased manufacturing programme.
HOLISTIC STRATEGY FOR EVs
Historically, the barrier to adoption of EVs has been the risk of not finding a charging station or the potential downtime of a charging station due to power or any other malfunction, including charging time. Over the last few years, the lithium-ion technology and associated development of the charging technology has reduced this to an hour or two, but that has an associated burden on the electric grid. It is imperative to look at EVs beyond an automobile to encompass that with the electrical power system.
The key areas where the transformation of this space requires attention is in creation of regulations that are simple for the establishment of charging infrastructure, charging station standards in terms of connectors & protocols, and creation of parking spaces for charging. Conventional ICE vehicles can be fuelled in a matter of minutes, but charging an EV would typically require anywhere between an hour to eight hours or more! Considering the waiting time for charging, provisions to build larger parking spaces must be considered.
Along with this is the economies of scale, which will help bring down capital costs on charging stations, as well as make EVs affordable for mass adoption. The vital component in the supply chain would be lithium-ion cells, which are yet to be manufactured in India. Batteries being the highest cost in the EV – and also with end-of-life based on usage and management – will be a determining factor for faster adoption of this technology.
The ubiquitous fuelling stations never required a mobile device to look for the availability of a fuelling station, while for EVs it will be imperative to be connected to the digital world. From locating a charging station, to the availability for charging, the payment for the same, the status of the vehicle health in terms of battery parameters and other variables, telecommunications reliability will be a mandatory requirement.
Transformation of mobility in India, as in any other geography, is a formation of a reliable, robust, ubiquitous infrastructure comprising component manufacturers, manufacturing facilities, a stiff grid with availability of 24X7 power, and a telecommunications infrastructure with reliable connectivity.
An element that will give a huge fillip to this sector is our lost opportunity on semiconductor manufacturing. EVs are highly electronics dependent and we have a virtually non-existent semiconductor manufacturing base. The starting point for costs and creating a globally competitive manufacturing sector for EVs are the semiconductor devices. This sector can grow only if there is an active and consistent government policy to foster this growth, else we risk being an importer of raw components for this sector, replacing oil with electronics components and batteries.
The software content in the EV ecosystem from battery chargers, charging systems, mobile connectivity, internal car communications is huge and India with its leadership in this space should be able to leverage this capability to be a leader in this space.
Lastly but most importantly, the ecosystem cannot be without the human element and the success of this industry hinges on the skill transformation for this sector at an accelerated pace. Hence, creating employable resources at an early stage, accelerating scale of adoption to ensure we have the employment opportunities going up, especially in a sector that presently employs 30 mn people, is of paramount importance.
The other human element is the consumption pattern. India is transitioning from the traditional individual ownership concept to the usage concept giving rise to the management of fleets. This pattern would help adoption of EVs based on the economies of scale.
The mobility transformation wave has given India a huge opportunity to be a leader in the EV space, in terms of technology, supply chain and manufacturing advantages. This would be possible only if we do not lose sight of the basics of simple, consistent regulatory policy, creating of parking spaces and charging infrastructure, reliability of power systems & telecommunications infrastructure, notwithstanding the quality of road networks for increased powertrain efficiencies.
(The views expressed represent the personal views of the author and not of his organisation or affiliations)