EVs, charged up to overtake ICE vehicles

Amit Kumar Jain/Surbhi Jain | Updated on October 12, 2020 Published on October 12, 2020

Ready to go The evolution of EVs has come a full cycle, and are set to be the vehicles of future   -  iStock

With more charging points, tax breaks and financial incentives, government has opened the road for electric vehicles

Policies, like life, sometimes come a full circle. The Delhi Government’s recent announcement of an Electric Vehicle (EV) policy, with purchase incentives up to ₹30,000 for two-wheelers, e-autos, e-rickshaws and goods carriers, and up to ₹1.5 lakh for electric cars, demands a look at the facets of ownership of an electric vehicle.

Will you believe that the electric vehicles were invented decades before the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles? Perhaps not. Robert Davidson, a Scottish inventor, in 1842 introduced the first electric rail locomotive — Galvini powered by zinc-acid batteries. As Galvini was seen as a serious threat to the jobs of railway workers involved in the running of steam locomotives, it faced severe resistance.

For long, it also remained an unviable option due to high costs and limitation of the battery power. This was, partially, overcome by provision of power supply infrastructure along the track in 1880s.

But the costs of operation and maintenance of the electric locomotive still remained high. With the advent of greater flexibility in operations of diesel locomotive in the early 20th century, electric locomotives were shunted out.

The history of electric cars is no different. In November 1881, French inventor Gustave Trouvé demonstrated the first working (three-wheel) car powered by electricity at the International Exposition of Electricity in Paris.

However, the early electric vehicles could not become popular due to their limited range (the maximum distance that can be travelled after charging the battery) and limitations of battery life. Further, the invention of ICE-powered vehicles also in the early 20th century with a wider range and capacity pulled the plug on EVs. EVs became history until recently, when there is a renewed interest in their emerging as an environmentally friendlier alternative to polluting IC vehicles. In about a decade, there have been significant strides of innovation and techno-commercial development in technologies such as the electric powertrain and battery.

Tech support

EVs have evolved from cumbersome and unreliable charging and low-power vehicles to easy-to- charge and high-performance transport solutions. The advancements in battery technology and expansion of charging facilities are paving the way for a switch to EVs from IC vehicles. Today’s EVs are capable of achieving top speeds of 170 kmph, and a range of up to 300 km.

EVs produced by Indian companies are offering battery warranty of up to eight years or 1.6 lakh km.

According to evdunia.com, the operating cost of electric vehicles is around ₹0.75-1 a km against ₹4-5 per km for their diesel/petrol counterparts. Over a five-year period, the cost of running an EV, including the vehicle cost, is around 20 per cent cheaper than a fossil-fuel vehicle.

A number of cities in the developed world have announced ambitious plans to replace IC vehicles with EVs in the next 15-20 years.

Norway plans to prohibit the sale of all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025, Germany by 2030, the UK by 2035, and France by 2040. India also has announced an ambitious plan to ban sale of fossil-fuel vehicles by 2030.

The Government of India has undertaken multiple initiatives to promote manufacturing as well as adoption of EVs. Capital subsidies are being provided for purchase of EVs under the FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) scheme.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) on EVs has been reduced from 12 per cent to 5 per cent. An income tax deduction of ₹1,50,000 on the interest paid on loans taken for EVs is also allowed.

In addition, various financial incentives, fee exemptions and tax rebates are also offered to EV owners under various State-level schemes. States like Telangana have amended their building by-laws to mandate space for charging infrastructure.

The promotional schemes offered by State governments like Delhi’s to augment Central Government initiativeswill go a long way in ushering in the EV revolution in India.

The lack of charging facilities seems to be one of the biggest barriers in the widespread adoption of EVs.

In January, the Department of Heavy Industries sanctioned 2,636 charging stations in 62 cities across 24 States/UTs under FAME scheme phase II.

The Delhi Electric Vehicle Policy, 2020 also seeks to encourage setting up private charging points (PCPs) at residential and non-residential premises and provides a grant of 100 per cent for the purchase of charging equipment up to ₹6,000 per charging point for the first 30,000 charging points.

Reducing costs

Another barrier in the adoption of EVs is the higher price. To make EVs more affordable, the government recently allowed the sale of EVs without a pre-fitted battery, a step towards reducing the upfront cost of the cleaner vehicles as batteries contribute 30-40 per cent of the total cost of the vehicle.

This will encourage in standardisation of batteries, innovations and economy of cost to further bring down the cost of owning an EV.

The results of these progressive steps are being witnessed in the changing perception of consumers towards EVs. According to a study by lubricants major Castrol, most consumers in India would consider buying an electric vehicle by 2022, but most of them also believe that it won't be until 2025 that the majority of new cars purchased are electric.

The evolution of EVs has come a full cycle, and are set to be the vehicles of future. Upcoming technologies like charging on the move, quick charging, and autonomous driving would further fuel the demand for EVs. EVs are fully ‘charged’ to overtake ICE vehicles. Are you charged up, too?

Amit is a PhD in Urban Transportation, presently working with the Ministry of Railways, and Surbhi is an economist, with the Ministry of Finance. Views are personal

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Published on October 12, 2020
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