Type to search

India wakes up to march of electric vehicles

After more than a decade of sitting on the fringes, electric cars may have finally started gathering speed in India. Over the past year, the country witnessed the release of four EV models taking the tally to six. Last week saw the launch of Mercedes Benz’s $140,000 EQC, India’s first luxury electric SUV.

On Thursday, as Jaguar Land Rover launched its luxury EV iPace, that precedes a dozen more luxury EV launches in the next six months, according to industry sources, suddenly a silent revolution of EVs is seemingly sweeping India, despite the challenges confronting electrification of automobiles.

“The launch of the luxury EVs signals that India is finally moving toward sustainability in the EV space that could boost the passenger car segment in the electrified automobile space,” a spokesperson for Mahindra Electric Mobility told ATF. MEM is part of the $19 billion Mahindra Group, that claims to be the pioneer of electric vehicle technology in the country,

“While India is still focused on the shared mobility segment-vehicles priced under $20,000, the launch of luxury EVs is crucial for popularising electric cars in the personal vehicle space. EVs, now need to be marketed to consumers in a manner to convey that such cars can not only address their environmental concerns. But also cater to the aspirational needs,” he added.

Dawn of electric vehicles

According to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV) EVs – including battery, hybrid and plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell electric vehicles – are already becoming more commonplace in the country’s transportation sector than they were even three years back.

The adoption was partly boosted by various government policies and incentive schemes launched in recent years by agencies such as the Ministry of Renewable Energy and Department of Heavy Industry.

But more importantly by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s keenness to promote clean mobility not only for environmental and health reasons but also for bringing down the country’s huge oil import bill.

Consequently, a slew of policy measures followed.

READ MORE: Who killed the gasoline car? The future of electric cars

In 2013, for instance, the government introduced the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 – a national mission document that provided the vision and the roadmap for the faster adoption of electric vehicles and manufacturing in the country.

Following the NEMMP, the Department of Heavy Industry formulated yet another scheme called Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles (FAME) to promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicle technology and to ensure its sustainable growth.

The first phase of FAME was launched in April 2015 for two years and was subsequently extended until March 2019. The scheme provided demand incentives for electric and hybrid vehicles across segments in the form of an upfront reduction of purchase price.

Subsequently, India crafted the second phase (called FAME II) with an outlay of $1.4 billion for three years commencing from April 2019 to boost the usage of EV for public transport.

FAME II solely focused on commercial vehicles and its incentives were designed to encourage the adoption of three- and four-wheeler EVs and also for buses.

In August the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways allowed all the states and Union Territories to exempt electric vehicles from registration fees. That, according to the industry, was a major incentive for EVs too.

“Clearly, with these incentives, and the plethora of others provided by India and each of the country’s states, EVs are likely to replace internal combustion engine vehicles sooner than later; much sooner in fact,” Sohinder Gill, the director general of SMEV, told ATF,

Market taking shape

A Frost and Sullivan survey released in April, projected that e-rickshaws, e-autos and e-two-wheelers will proliferate in numbers and account for 4 million units by 2025. The range of incentives proposed by FAME II could also generate gradual demand for electric mobility by supporting 7000 e-buses, half a million e-three-wheelers and a million e-two-wheelers.

While the industry visualises that the adoption of EVs as shared transport are slated to leapfrog, there is no telling how the market for EVs in the personal vehicles space would evolve, says SMEV.

“But the slew of luxury EV launches slated ahead is a signal that EVs in the personal mobility space have managed to grab the country’s attention, and that the market is finally taking shape,” an industry source told ATF, requesting anonymity since he is not a spokesperson.

“As more and more companies start launching personal transportation EVs across the price range, widespread electrification of cars is but inevitable,” he added.

READ MORE: Uber promises 100% electric vehicles by 2040

Indrajit Basu

Indrajit Basu is an India-based correspondent for Asia Financial and wears two hats: journalist and researcher (equity). Before joining AF he reported on business, finance, technology, wealth management, and current affairs for China Daily, SCMP, UPI, India Today Group, Indian Express Group, and many more. He is also an award-winning researcher. If he didn't have to pay bills, he would be a wanderer.

AF China Bond