Rajeev Chaba, President & MD, MG Motor India tells PCQuest why EV adoption is crucial for India vis-a-vis ICE vehicles and what kind of innovation, incentivization and infrastructural support is needed for the shift.
What kind of opportunity and roadblocks do you see for the EV uptake in India vis-a-vis ICE vehicles? Do you have any suggestions on what could make the EV adoption better?
I can easily see more opportunities than roadblocks. To begin with, India is a net importer of crude oil. Its crude imports totaled $112 billion in FY2019, which is more than the GDPs of several economies including Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bahrain. Now, this is a recurring spend that only increases with the adoption of ICE vehicles. This is where the biggest opportunity for EV is. EV adoption can save our nation its valuable foreign reserves. At the same time, India aims to build its renewable energy capacity to 175GW by 2022 and take it further to 450GW by 2030. EVs are best positioned in this landscape.
People also have to realize that EV technologies have enhanced over the past couple of years. They no longer have the lags in pickups as there used to be earlier. For instance, MG ZS EV delivers a better power to an end-user even if you compare it with any high-end ICE-driven SUV. The vehicle zooms from 0 to 60 mph in around 8.5 seconds.
The only roadblock that I see is that of infrastructure. A superior adoption will require a robust EV charging infrastructure throughout the nation. The entire value chain, including the government and the industry stakeholders are taking positive steps in this direction. It will bring about a positive change and catalyze EV adoption.
Cost remains the biggest barrier to EV adoption, what kind of policy intervention, govt. incentives, and innovation are needed to overcome this issue?
The central and state governments are taking conducive steps in this regard at present. FAME II has led to an adoption of more than 27,000 EVs including 5,595 electric buses. It has further approved more than 2,600 EV charging stations across 24 states, out of which, more than 1,600 stations will be fast-charging stations. Simultaneously, state governments – including Delhi and Telangana alongside others – are also taking positive policy measures with subsidies, road tax exemptions, and so forth. If you calculate the true cost of EVs, it will be far lesser than other ICE vehicles. Total cost of ownership or TCO is quite comparable in the four-wheeler segment even at the current prices.
“India’s EV journey can be taken a notch above if more innovations are promoted in the EV space together with infrastructural development and incentivization”
We believe that all governments are firmly aligned with ‘Clean India, Green India’ vision and taking the right steps. India’s EV journey can be taken a notch above if more innovations are promoted in the EV space together with infrastructural development and incentivization.
The technologies in the EV battery market have undergone significant changes in recent years, yet innovation is needed to increase the efficiency and decrease the charging time. What new tech development and innovation we are likely to see in the coming years at both ends – electric engine and battery?
There are two aspects that need to be looked into. One is the price of lithium-ion batteries and the second is the continuous innovation that is taking place in the EV battery space. The focus is to improve the range that an EV can travel in a single charge and reduce the charging time. If we look at the price of lithium-ion batteries, it has come down drastically over the last 5 to 10 years and is expected to come down even further over the next 5 to 10 years. It is widely believed that the price will be around $100 level in the next 3 to 4 years. This is when we will see mass adoption of EVs from consumers since at this price there will be parity at TCO level between an ICE vehicle and an equivalent EV. Similarly, the range is also improving and now topping 500 kms in one charge for some top-end vehicles. Both of these developments are a result of the continuous innovation and development that is happening in the field of EV batteries.
If we look at trends in new types of EV batteries then a lot of interesting developments are taking place. For instance, research is being conducted in the field of Solid-State Batteries. In solid-state batteries, the liquid/Gel Polymer Electrolyte (GPE) is replaced by a solid electrolyte which takes less space and is a fast conductor of ions, thereby making solid-state batteries lighter, smaller, safer, and more powerful. The technology is not yet ready for large-scale commercial production. One of the key problems with this technology is the formation of metal deposits when lithium anodes are used, often causing such deposits to penetrate the electrolytes.
“In markets with higher EV adoption, almost 85% charging of EV happens at home. But, the charging capacity installation comes with its share of challenges and hence, customers need help in this area”
Then there is progress in the space of Li-Metal batteries. Lithium-metal batteries use lithium anodes rather than graphite as in the case of Li-ion batteries. Lithium is much lighter than graphite and has twice the energy density vis-a-vis Li-ion batteries. However, the main issue with the Li-Metal battery is its low life cycle. Li-Metal batteries are most likely to get commercialized along with the development of solid-state batteries, as they are difficult to design using a liquid electrolyte due to the high reactivity of Lithium in an aqueous medium. Then there is work happening in the space of Supercapacitors, Li-Sulphur batteries, and so forth. These will be some of the prime developments taking place in the near future.
Charging infra is another roadblock for EV adoption- what is the biggest roadblock according to you?
The charging infrastructure is one of the major roadblocks in the pan-India EV adoption. Currently, we are moving forward with a viable approach by entering cities and developing their charging infrastructure. We install fast-charging stations across all of our dealerships and even provide roadside charging to ensure a seamless public charging experience for our customers.
As far as EV charging is concerned, from experience in markets where EV adoption has been higher, the charging of EV happens at home almost 85% of the time. If we look at the Indian market then this percentage will turn out to be even higher. Therefore, in order to assist our customers, we have focused on debottlenecking the process of providing home charging facilities seamlessly. Our effort is to make the EV ownership experience as hassle-free as possible. The charging capacity installation comes with its share of challenges and hence, we feel that customers need help in this area. MG conducts free-of-cost EV charger installations at the homes of all of its customers.
Given the ongoing initiatives led by the governments and industry stakeholders, we believe that the scenario is going to change considerably in the future.