For a country of India's size and its motoring population, sales of 22,000 EVs are insignificant. Clearly, there is much left to be done by the government to incentivise buyers of such eco-friendly mobility solutions.
Amid the flurry of news reports of various measures being taken to tackle air pollution and new emission norms which have created a stir among automotive industry players in India comes some welcome news, at least for a handful of automotive companies.
The struggling Indian electric vehicle (EV) industry has seen sales of grow 37.5 percent in FY2015-16. Total EV sales for the fiscal stand at 22,000 units (20,000 two-wheelers and 2,000 four-wheelers) as compared to 16,000 EVs sold during 2014-15.
The current EV sales volume though is still way behind the peak of 85,000-100,000 units during 2011-12 and pales into insignificance when compared to overall sales of over 2.6 million conventionally fuelled vehicles per annum in the country.
While expressing happiness at rising numbers of EV sales, the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV) points out that the ambitious target of having 5-6 million EVs by the year 2020 on Indian roads as visualised in the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 as well as FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles) would be tough to achieve unless ground level infrastructural deficiencies are removed and credit facilities eased for buying green vehicles.
“We are quite delighted at the growing number, which reflects an increased awareness among commuters and the fact that people are seeing a good value proposition in EVs,” said Sohinder Gill, director- Corporate Affairs, SMEV.
Gill, however, draws attention to the fact that the base number of EVs in India remains low and governments at every level will need to do more if electric mobility has to assume larger proportions in the country.
“Intentions at policy level abound but the government at every level – be it Centre, State or Municipal – now has to go the extra mile to facilitate mass migration to green mobility,” said Gill.
Lack of basic infrastructure facilities like charging stations and difficulties in availing credit from banks for purchase of EVs have been cited as chief bottlenecks to large scale migration to green mobility.
“SMEV has developed a technology for charging stations and can easily set up 1,000 charging stations across the city in a span of three months. One charging station costs around Rs 30,000 which is very minimal to create an efficient charging infrastructure for EVs. The only thing we need is the government’s intention and support to create a wide and accessible network of charging stations at every convenient point – be it a local market or city roads. Additionally, the government should provide ease of credit at zero percent or very low rate of interest on EVs. This will go a long way in ensuring the fulfilment of the NEMMP 2020 target,” says Gill.
Abject lack of awareness of EVs in India
Apart from the price factor, lack of awareness about EVs in the populace is a key reason for the very slow offtake of EVs, according to Gill, who is also the CEO of Hero Electric. "Awareness continues to be abysmally low. Large scale awareness programmes should be conducted by the government. Individual OEMs will concentrate only on limited markets where they are present," says Gill, who also shares that that only 30 percent of customers are aware about EVs. That should be tackled first followed by the benefits of the FAME India programme.
After the launch of the FAME India programme, manufacturers are also coming back into the market. SMEV had a membership of around 20 serious players at the peak. This figure had dropped to 6 or 7 and it now stands at 12. During 2010-12, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had implemented an Alternate Fuels for Surface Transportation Program (AFSTP), at a total expenditure of Rs 95 crore. The EV industry was a beneficiary. But after its withdrawal, the market crashed. Around 1,000 dealers and 7-8 manufacturers closed down their EV business.
Along with increasing the EV charging infrastructure across the country and offering easy finance, Gill has suggested some measures to motivate and incentivise people to migrate to green mobility. They include:
- Nationwide awareness and promotion campaigns
- Zero tax regime and greater subsidy on e-bikes
- Progressive phase-out of conventional two-wheelers in select cities
- Allocating a dedicated area for building charging stations on city roads as well as residential enclaves
- Facilitating creation of e-bike infrastructure and subsidising cost of charging.
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