How to unlock Indian EV ecosystem’s growth potential?

EV adoption is gaining momentum in India and the growing volumes also call for localisation of the EV supply chain in the country.

By Shruti Mishra calendar 02 Dec 2022 Views icon8269 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

In order to bring electric vehicles (EVs) in the mainstream segment of the Indian car market, the automotive industry is witnessing disruptions revolving around supply chain, sustainability as well as safety. 

The second day of the Autocar Professional EV Forum – held virtually on November 28-29 - witnessed another round of thought-provoking discussions by some of the industry’s most-renowned personalities who shared their views on accelerating EV capabilities and creating a sustainable EV landscape in the country. 

Among the speakers were R Velusamy, SVP and Head - Automotive Product Development, Mahindra & Mahindra; Vivek Vikram Singh, Managing Director and Group CEO, Sona Comstar; Anant Nahata, Managing Director, Exicom Group; and Dhanendra Nagwanshi, Global Electrification Leade, SABIC USA. 

Localising EV supply chain
The electromobility supply chain has recently been under flurry of activities over the past few years.  Production of EV components such as cells and motors have witnessed strong interest from industry players as well as the government, which has been pushing the sector with reforms such as the PLI or Production Linked Incentive scheme for local production of electronics-intensive components.

"Other than the cells, components like the battery management system (BMS), power distribution unit (PDU), cell supervisory circuit, the frame as well as module can be localised as should the e-motor, transmission unit, MCU and two-way EV chargers. We need to push as an industry to localise,” Velusamy said. 

According to Sona Comstar's Vivek Vikram Singh, manufacturing low-voltage systems is not complicated. "We have the entire supply chain. 30kWh-50kWh is eminently solvable – it gets tougher as you go to higher voltages. We need capability and knowledge in high-voltage EV systems, as safety regarding their thermal management and materials becomes critical," he added. 

For e-motors and gearboxes, Singh added, the potential for localisation is very high – up to 100% barring the magnet which will continue to remain imported due to lack of natural resources in India. "Challenges still exist in power electronics and software as also design, testing and integration," he pointed out. 

"OEMs can start with a build-to-print approach and then look at complete localisation after a couple of iterations. This also offers Tier-1 suppliers good enough time to engineer, test and launch because these are safety-critical components," Singh explained. 

Plugging in: Building EV charging infrastructure
As per Exicom Group’s Nahata India has come a long way on the EV charging front over the past few years. The government kick-started the process and today almost 500 ‘destination’ fast chargers are being installed every month across the country, he highlighted. 

“Globally, the metric is 1 connector for 10 EVs in terms of coverage. In India, it is presently estimated at 1 charger for every 50 EVs, but these are early days and there is a lot of work underway to develop an expansive EV charging network in the country,” Nahata added. 

Underlining the company's strategy, he stated that Exicom Group is experienced with power conversion – similar technology that is used in charging. The Gurgaon-headquartered EV charger company currently supplies AC chargers to OEMs including Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, Audi, Volvo, Hyundai and Kia. 

"Today, most companies in India locally design and manufacture AC chargers. Like any other electronic-intensive industry, semiconductor-based child components do come from outside but still the localisation is high. For DC chargers, however, there is still a fair journey ahead to achieve a high degree of localisation,” Nahata noted. 

Expand raw material capacity 
As demand continues to accelerate, the panellists agreed that building the necessary manufacturing capabilities and capacities is pertinent. Though EVs come with many advantages – efficiency, lower CO2 emissions and offer more simplification for carmakers, they bring challenges as well. One of major hurdles in localisation dynamics in India is the natural availability of lithium and cobalt. 

The battery accounts for a significant 45-50 percent of the vehicle BoM cost, with roughly 22-25 percent of this cost locked in battery cell raw materials.

“Battery pack developmental costs are very high – I have never seen anything similar for engine development! There are several tests and an EV battery must be tested in a bunker. This will compel everyone in the industry to standardize cells, packs & modules,” Velusamy said. 

He also listed three areas that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to EV battery safety - quality of the battery cell, the integration and materials used inside, monitoring of the BMS (recognising the weakest cell) and integration of battery pack into the EV (against front and side crash).

Acknowledging the government's effort Velusamy said “India’s new battery safety norms are welcome. I am sure they will give us OEMs time to implement it on the vehicles already in production. They are making all OEMs & suppliers think of compliance with global norms for upcoming EVs."

Besides, securing the supply chains for lithium, it is important to also safeguard other metals. “Aluminium and Steel are commonly used materials for battery packs, which are heavy, complex, and expensive. To address these challenges, SABIC has been developing some unique, flame-retardant materials,” Nagwanshi said. 

He also highlighted that the industry needs to relook at conventional systems, for instance, how thermal insulation blankets and cell separators are used. “By using new materials, processing technologies and new design considerations, battery systems can be further optimized,” Nagwanshi added. 

Emphasising on building engineering talent to design, develop and test EV, Sona Comstar's Singh said "India needs to leverage its biggest natural resource – engineering talent – which is available abundantly and in world-class quality. The more value-addition we add from engineering time into the product or system that is our strength. India has a 5x-6x advantage on engineering costs,” Singh said.

Watch Day 2 of Autocar Professional EV Forum:

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