India's electric vehicle industry: Driving towards a sustainable future

Mathew Thomas, Country Manager and Managing Director Siemens Digital Industries Software India talks about how digitalisation is enabling organisations to improve sustainability and performance of EVs and batteries.

By Mathew Thomas calendar 16 May 2023 Views icon8346 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
 India's electric vehicle industry: Driving towards a sustainable future

Sustainability as we all know, refers to addressing today’s requirements without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. It is about finding a balance between economic growth, environmental protection, and social responsibility. The importance of sustainability has increased across all sectors of the economy. And the transportation industry is a crucial and early area to decarbonise for any nation on a net-zero emissions pathway. Currently, the automotive industry is going through its most turbulent period in history. Megatrends such as emission reduction, lightweight construction, automated driving, connectivity, and mobility services have changed the landscape for good. In fact, the government has set ambitious goals to promote electric mobility and reduce the carbon footprint of the automotive sector. 

The rising Electric Vehicle (EV) Industry is an important development for the country’s sustainable future. According to a survey by Capgemini Research Institute, 62 percent of automotive organisations have a thorough sustainability strategy with defined goals and targets. EV sales in India have crossed the one million units mark which is up by almost 58% from last year. 62 percent was 2 wheelers, 34 percent three wheelers, and 4 wheelers at 4 percent. This is data from SMEV (Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles). This shows that EV adoption in India is moving well. Another industry report states that the EV market in India is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 49 percent between 2022 and 2030. However, a deeper dive into the production and usage lifecycle of EVs reveals sustainability challenges that remain unresolved.

The environmental impact of gasoline-powered vehicles is one of the most significant reasons for the shift towards EVs as they run on electricity, reducing dependence on fossil fuels. However, EV manufacturing contributes significantly to the overall carbon footprint of each vehicle, mainly due to the processes involved in battery production and the need for raw materials like cobalt, lithium, and other rare earth metals. Extraction of these materials requires the combustion of fossil fuels to power the mining equipment. The energy used to turn these raw materials into battery cells and then the battery packs that power an EV, are two additional factors to consider. While EVs don’t emit any carbon during operation, charging up on electricity generated in a coal-powered plant cuts those emissions savings.

At the end of the vehicle’s service life, the battery must be disposed of or recycled; however, the recycling ecosystem for EV battery packs is still developing. Efforts are being made to develop the necessary infrastructure and processes to manage the end-of-life of EV batteries. The Indian government has recently launched initiatives to promote the development of a sustainable EV battery recycling system. Currently, recycling methods can be costly and energy intensive. While better than combustion engines fuelled by gasoline or diesel, today’s electric vehicles are not a standalone solution to the problem of transportation emissions when we consider the full product lifecycle and supply chain.

Digitalisation is aiding organisations to address these challenges and enabling them to improve the sustainability and performance of EVs and batteries. Advanced battery simulation solutions, for instance, help engineers to develop and test everything from the battery’s micro-structure and electrochemistry to overall battery performance evaluation, leading to more capacious and efficient battery packs. These simulation solutions can help develop new battery types that do not rely on hazardous materials, making them cleaner to produce and easier to recycle.

Overall, the market potential for electric vehicles is immense, and with the right policies, this space can be easily tapped. India has taken several initiatives that are in line with carbon neutrality and encourage electric vehicle production. Although the sector is relatively new to India’s power landscape, it is expected to witness considerable growth in the coming years. 

Views expressed are those of the author.

 

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