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View from India: Electrification of EVs is a journey, not a switch

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India has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint as per the Paris Agreement. A transition from fossil-fuel vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) is a move in the right direction.

The electrification of EVs needs to be ramped up and power hybridised to become more efficient. Karnataka is preparing the ground as more and more EVs will grace the roads.

The EV ecosystem consists of the various components that contribute towards the making of the vehicle. These components bring their own challenges. “EV batteries, motors and controllers generate heat. They are part of the compactors. Seen realistically, traditional materials release heat. So it’s important to work out safety measures for the battery or else it can catch fire,” said Jaywant Mahajan, director of GetMy Solutions Pvt Ltd. In EVs the battery is in the down part of the vehicle, bringing it in close contact with the surface of the road. The ambient heat of the road is high in the summer months, which makes it difficult for the battery cells to sustain themselves.

Battery connectivity can be a volume business if manufacturing charges are kept low. “Sodium battery is something that can be explored. We require a dedicated regulation platform for battery production. A government-led policy for batteries is needed; battery production calls for a multidisciplinary approach,” highlighted Prof B S Satyanarayana, founder & CEO of Satya Bharathi Consultants.

It’s critical to bring in Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and create design roadmaps for the future. If a fleet of e-bikes and e-scooters are being increasingly used for home deliveries, for instance, naturally they need to be IoT-AI enabled to track the vehicle via a smartphone.

There’s also a need for superior, reliable and safe designs. The design should be scalable and, in turn, maintain the vehicle's affordability. It’s critical to ensure that the design does not compromise on the driving experience. Prototyping models and precision simulation happen through IoT-AI algorithms. All these tenets are worth exploring; in fact, it’s an opportunity worth millions of dollars. The R&D needs to be oriented accordingly. The country’s strength lies in software and simulation techniques: EVs need to be designed for Indian roads.

Given that auto companies are expanding their EV portfolio, it’s pertinent that the auto industry should come up with local tech solutions. It’s important to build technology in-house through collaboration between industry and state governments. “When we look at global auto-companies many of them have R&D centres in India. Now a time has come when we need to customise scalable and affordable tech solutions for the Indian EV industry,” said Anil Kumar MR, director at SEG Automotive India Private Limited. The tech solutions also need to be backed by cyber security as vehicles become more and more digital. This will also give the auto industry a competitive edge. The ecosystem needs to be strengthened with transfer of technology, which is essential to stay ahead of the competition.

EV requires a holistic approach, wherein the road infrastructure also has a role to play. National highways are expanding and corridors of connectivity will unfold, giving scope for a spurt of commercial vehicles. This will  result in an increase in road networks. However, roads need to be pre-planned, keeping the environment in mind. “Alternate forms of energy can be explored. Solar-driven roads powered by wind energy would be a great idea worth exploring. Besides, it can unleash employment for thousands of youth across the country,” explained Ruchir Shukla, director of Electric Mobility, Shakti Foundation.  

Many established players have stressed the need for the Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) industry to have a policy. “As the government has rolled out the ESDM policy, EVs can also be viewed as a means to contribute to the domestic growth of the ESDM market," explained Shukla. "A move in this direction would bolster the vision of 'Self Reliant India'. With this, India can save on auto-component imports, which cost the country billions of dollars."

The government should perform the role of enabler; it needs to focus on R&D for incentivising local development. Many R&D solutions can be patented, and the country can earn money for intellectual property (IP). IP solutions are expected to attract investments.

Another area expected to rake in money is the conversion of fossil-fuel vehicles to electric or hybrid vehicles. The introduction of scrap policies for the existing vehicles is also tipped to be a revenue churner. This will unfold hidden opportunities worth billions of dollars. A case in point is the initiatives towards the recycling of lithium.

The concept of shared transport and better integration of seamless transport needs to be introduced even as EVs navigate the roads. It requires proper management of revenue and needs to be backed by a regulatory body. “Electrification of EVs is a journey, and not a switch that can be put on and put off. The EV journey will be an ongoing one. As the EV market grows, it should offer consumers innovative EVs made with renewable components and eco-friendly road infrastructure,” summed up Anil Kumar.

All of this was discussed at CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), Karnataka’s Environment and Sustainability Conference. ‘Smart & Clean Mobility: Towards Electrifying Energizing Karnataka’, was the theme of the online event.

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