Wait or buy? Why electric vehicle revolution in India is closer than you think
Battery-powered vehicles are already taking over roads across the world but penetration of electric vehicles in India remains rather low. Just because it is low at present, however, hardly means it will remain low in the near future as the central as well as several state governments are continuing to push for these clean vehicles for multi various benefits - from lower operational and maintenance cost to zero emissions and more. Union minister Nitin Gadkari recently stated that the cost of an electric vehicle will be at par with petrol counterpart in another two years, a factor that could well push more people towards opting for such vehicles.
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The record prices of petrol and diesel at present is a very real concern for motorists across the country. But it is also a possible factor that may make many seriously consider an electric vehicle. And while critics may argue about range-related issues and the still nascent stage that the infrastructure for EVs are currently at but Gadkari maintains the challenges are being dealt with at a lightning pace. “In two years, there will be a lot of charging points in the country," he said at a webinar on accelerating the phasing out of coal and switching to electric vehicles, adding that with petrol pumps adding charging points, the pace of providing support to battery-powered vehicles will gain momentum.
Indian Oil Corporation recently announced it will set up 10,000 charging stations over the next three years. Bharat Petroleum followed it up with announcement of plans to set up 7,000 charging stations. These, along with stations set up by governments and private players, and home charging solutions, could possibly bring down range-related anxieties to a large extent.
But what about the limited options?
There is massive movement of battery-powered two-wheelers entering the fray and mounting a challenge to conventional scooters and motorcycles. From big brands to start-ups, the options are ever increasing. But when it comes to passenger vehicles, the choices remain far fewer. Tata Motors, with the Nexon EV and Tiago EV, has a lion's share of the still small field of play. Luxury car brands like Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar Land Rover too have brought in options in recent months.
And while a few others like Mahindra, MG and Hyundai have options to offer as well, other brands are still monitoring the situation. Maruti Suzuki, for instance, has said an EV is possible before 2025 but only if it can sell the product in large volumes - around 10,000 per month. Volkswagen, a brand that is betting big on EVs the world over, is playing the wait and watch game in India. Kia India, Skoda and Toyota Kirloskar Motor too are non committal at present.
There is a strong indication though that if EV prices do come at par with petrol and diesel vehicles, it could make a solid case for companies in the mass segment to drive in options. “Within two years, the cost of EVs will come down to a level that will be at par with their petrol variants," Gadkari has said. “Already GST is only 5% on EVs and the cost of lithium ion batteries is also declining."
With a petrol vehicle costing around ₹10 per kilometre to move and ₹7 per kilometre for a diesel vehicle, it may eventually make much more sense to opt for an EV which has an approximate running cost of ₹1 per kilometre. As such, the charge of EVs onto Indian roads is hardly a matter of 'if' but more of ‘when’.