The celebration of World EV day on the 9th of September is a relatively new event, having started in 2020. It was started by Green.TV, a media company, to work on enabling the transition to electric mobility by bringing together stakeholders. Though it is a new celebration, there has been great participation from people across industry, policymaking, media, and the general public. In this short piece, we show why this decade is the one in which electrification of the transportation network will truly take off and the reasons for it. We also share some insights that our CEO and COO provided during a forum as part of the celebrations on different aspects of the electric mobility ecosystem.
Though there have been periods in the past when electric vehicles (EVs) were heralded to have arrived, it was usually a short uptake and did not sustain for long. There were two reasons for these, and they had to do with the economics of owning the vehicle. While the late 19th century saw EVs being competitive with those running on fossil fuels, advancements in the internal combustion engine (ICE) saw fossil fuel vehicles racing ahead and becoming the dominant technology in powering vehicles over the 20th century. The fuel to run these vehicles was also cheap and hence led to the cost of ownership of these vehicles being low. On the other hand, battery tech across the 20th century advanced slowly, and only during steep increases in the price of oil were electric vehicles preferred (and forgotten when the price of oil fell).
However, the 21st century has seen a push for electrification of the transportation sector and a shift away from fossil fuel operated vehicles. And there are two reasons for this transition, and these involve the economics of the industry wherein the prices of one segment have been steadily rising while the other sees a continuous fall.
The first is that, towards the end of the 20th century, there was a buildup on the science of climate change and the adverse effects that it has on the planet. And the growing research on that has only increased calls for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to be reduced and finally stopped. Transportation as a whole release a significant amount of GHGs and there has been an increase in fuel efficiency standards to reduce these emissions, and this has seen a consistent rise in the price of ICE vehicles. Additionally, emissions from vehicles also have adverse health impacts and cities and countries around the world are limiting the types of vehicles that run on their roads. All these factors mean that more stringent regulations might well be on the horizon. It would lead to the cost of owning a fossil fuel vehicle increasing, and might even risk not being allowed to operate in an increasing number of areas.
The other reason that electrification of the transportation sector is picking up pace is that the price of critical technologies, such as batteries, have seen a steady decline. Innovations and breakthroughs have meant that, over the last two decades, battery technology such as Lithium-ion has seen a major fall. And as the price of the product has fallen, demand has seen a subsequent rise. This trend is set to continue well into the future, and the 2020s is set to be the decade that electric vehicles move ahead of their fossil fuel counterparts.
However, there are still a few issues such as range anxiety and the lack of charging infrastructure being hurdles in the uptake of EVs, and some of the discussions during the EV day are on how industry and policymakers are tackling these problems. Massive Earth Foundation’s MobilityNXT had a series of discussions on different aspects of the transition such as the forces driving the change, the technological aspect of EVs, the policies related to it, and so on. Sheru’s Co-founder and CEO Ankit Mittal and Co-founder and COO Shikhar Sharma were part of two discussions and gave their insights on the respective topics.
Mr. Ankit’s forum on ‘What will lead to EV adoption in India?’ saw discussants giving their insights on what is driving this adoption and how it might go forward. He suggested that the rise of a platform that lets customers choose which technology they might need, be it battery ownership or battery as a service, would lead to greater adoption. The use cases of each are different, and both have their applicability for different users. Understanding the needs of users, and providing them options to choose from would lead to a better value proposition and ultimately greater uptake of the technology.
Mr. Shikhar’s forum on ‘Swapping vs Charging: What will be the Winner?’ saw the discussion revolve around which of the two of swapping and charging is the technology best suited for users. While the advantages of both were discussed by the participants, he pointed out that it’s ultimately dependent on the needs of the customer and that Sheru offers a service that is best suited for a particular segment — that of erickshaws. He also pointed out that fast charging has its downside as the power grid might face difficulties when it’s under strain from a sudden surge in demand from several vehicles fast charging at once and that need for battery swapping would exist well into the future. He recommended that policies be put in place for greater interoperability that would allow for batteries to be swapped easier between providers, thus leading to greater uptake of the service. The dissemination of incentives announced by states to power distribution companies is another issue that would need to be addressed, as many are unaware of these incentives and the implementation of policies is ultimately by them.
World EV day offers us an opportunity to look back at the progress we’ve made, and to look ahead at the challenges, and the solutions that we need to create to address them. At Sheru, we commit to a transformation of the mobility network that will lead to a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable planet.