E-Mobility India Forum sees experts debate strategies for speedy adoption of EVs

by Mayank Dhingra 07 Oct 2021


Messe Frankfurt organised the E-Mobility India Forum in New Delhi today (October 7), an event which saw participation of industry experts and thought leaders discussing the various aspects of the fast-paced electrification of the Indian automotive sector.

As per a Frost & Sullivan study, global EV sales are expected to reach 5.2 million units in CY2021, but dominance of Chinese OEMs in the EV space will continue to hold a prominent position and remain unchanged going forward.

Kaushik Madhavan, VP, mobility, Frost & Sullivan, mentioned that incentives will play a key role in driving EV sales, and incentivisation needs to be on a holistic basis. "Fortunately, in case of India, there are incentives on purchase of EVs, as well as on accessibility of charging infrastructure. This would ensure an increase in penetration of EVs in the country."

According to Balbir Singh Dhillon, head, Audi India, "Ninety percent of volumes in the luxury segment in India were from diesel and we took a bold decision of going petrol only or selling electrified models with advent of BS VI."

For Audi India, the company has introduced five all-electric vehicles in the country in a short span of the last eight months, and as per Dhillon, "The expectations of customers in the luxury space is very high and the fact that we were able to sell the initial batch in two months, shows the acceptability of EVs from customers."

"Fifteen percent of Audi India's sales by 2025 will be electric and we expect growth in charging infrastructure helping in that, despite most of our customers only charging at their homes or offices," he further added.

Targeting the completely different end of the spectrum, Uday Narang, founder and chairman, Omega Seiki Mobility (OSM), said, "We want to offer mass-market products and we also want more players from every strata to be involved in this revolution. Pricing is very important and one of the biggest challenges OEMs face is the financing of EVs."

"OSM has set a separate company to finance EVs for last-mile applications," he added. "We are seeing new startups and new players entering this space. The industry dynamics are changing and companies are incrasingly hiring computer engineers and technologists. The EV journey is a marathon and not a sprint," Narang said.

With a strong focus on technology, Narang further added, "OSM is all about alliances and we are working on an alliance-based system, for instance, with Log 9 materials, in order to innovate to make the battery technology more cost effective. We are evaluating all sorts of technologies, but we have to be cautious about the cost sensitivity of the Indian market."

Focus on localising EV tech
The second panel discussion revolved around the need to localise EV tech in India and the incumbent efforts towards this accord.

According to Gajanan Gandhe, VP and country head, Dana India, "Dana has made a strategic change globally to align our products to serve both EVs and ICE vehicles. Our manufacturing facility in India has already started manufacturing low-voltage and high-voltage EV solutions. We are supplying e-motors, invertors, power modules, software and controllers."

"We are trying to localise most of our components and by middle of next year, 60 percent composition of our e-motors would be localised and about 70 percent of the invertors would be localised as well," Gandhe added.

According to Atul Arya, head, Energy System Division, Panasonic India, "We have moved quite rapidly to a much larger scale. Demand for materials like Copper and Cobalt is going to rise significantly, owing to most components getting electric."

"A lot of companies have developed prototypes to show a large portion of these materials, including lithium, can be recouped by deploying various eco-friendly processes."

Bosch's CTO, Guruprasad Mudlapur, shared his perspective and said, "There is a lot that is possible to be localised with Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers. The amount of electronics and complexity is significantly increasing in the auto industry."

"But lack of semiconductor infrastructure, which is very essential for auto electronics manufacturing, is a major bottleneck in India. India is also largely dependent on getting machinery from overseas," Mudlapur highlighted the challenges being faced.

The panelists also acknowledged the major opportunities that lie for makers castings, and copper wires, and the potential to supply made-in-India components to OEMs overseas.

"We also see a huge opportunity to export to Dana companies worldwide from India. This gives an opportunity for our suppliers and us to invest in India," Gandhe concluded.

Adequate charging infra need of the hour
In the next panel, the forum discussed the charging infrastructure that's critically linked to the accelerate the electric transiton.

As per Rajiv Vij, MD and CEO, Carzonrent India, "Major transition with respect to EVs is dependent upon TCO. We want to transition our entire fleet of 8,000km to full electric over the next few years as better products have addressed the range anxiety to an extent."

"But for a fleet operation, it is critical to have a well-established charging infrastructure to manage the business. Therefore, a partnership between charging infrastructure companies and fleet companies could be very important. We are looking at building multiple partnerships," Vij added.

Sandeep Bangia, business head, EV charging ecosystem, Home Automation, ESCO, Tata Power, said that while vehicle manufactures such as Hero MotoCorp are eyeing the battery swap solution to eliminate range anxiety, while other OEMs like TVS are partnering with charging infrastructure companies to ensure that people have seamless access to chargers.

According to Sudhendu Jyoti Sinha, adviser, NITI Aayog, "We cannot expect government to incentivise everything. The MoHUA has made it mandatory for new residential complexes to have charging points installed, and preferably powered by renewable resources."

As per Bangia, "Out of every 100 units of power generated in India, 37 percent is being generated from renewable resources already. We are doing a lot of RWA sign-ups to put to EV charging points."

"We are sitting at an inflection point in terms of adoption of EVs in India as charging infrastructure strengthens up and better products get introduced in the market," Vij signed off.

The closing session of the day-long discussion session was all about shedding light on start-ups, which are increasingly mobility ecosystem.

As per Arpit Agarwal, director, Bloom Ventures, "Doing a startup back in the day used to raise eyebrows, but not anymore. Similar is the story with starting up in the EV domain. One should be willing to re-write the rules.

According to Pulkit Khurana, co-founder, Battery Smart, "There are a lot of perceptions about how the investor-startup relationship works. If the objective and goals are aligned, the marriage is bound to succeed."

Bringing the investor perspective, Karan Mittal, partner, Ev2 ventures, said, "Structured funds like ours work on timelines. When we get into a company, we look its performance in the initial three-four years, where we also see companies pivot. There's a learning curve that every company and founder goes through."

According to Manish Aggarwal, co-founder, Start-up Buddy, "There are basic and elementary problems with respect to EVs that need to be solved in India. Investors have to be patient as sometimes the problem statement can change and start-ups need to pivot. We need to see the founders' conviction in solving the problem."

The E-Mobility India Forum took a holistic approach in discussing all the major parameters that are linked with the EV transition and the challenges associated with its adoption. But the overarching mood at this on-ground event with limited audience was that the electric mobility adoption is at its inflection point in India, with a bright future ahead.

Autocar Professional, India's No. 1 automotive B2B title in print, online and events, was the media partner for the E-Mobility India Forum.