EcoTrade talked to Dinesh Kumar Madheswaran, researcher, Green Vehicle Technology Research Centre, SRM University, India about making electric mobility accessible to all.
EcoTrade: The UN Environment Programme is actively working on introducing electric vehicles in Asia. How can countries like India, the Philippines, and Indonesia build an accessible, reliable, resilient, and cost-effective infrastructure system to transition from Internal combustion engines to EVS?
Dinesh Kumar Madheswaran: We must have heard much about this subject, from an expert to a novice. The typical reply is that we need various strategies and legislations, including better charging infrastructure, reducing range anxiety, training more people, government-private collaborations with electric vehicles, etc.
The lack of the variables above may explain why India, the Philippines, and Indonesia are farther along than the European Union in their transition to EVs. But these nations are now acting to address these challenges and speed up EV growth, all of which can be solved by implementing one key solution, the solid national EV policy. In the Indian context, however, I find this situation quite complex. As India comprises numerous states and union territories, each state government is said to have its own EV policy that is flexible to interstate politics. There’s much to choose from even as you work to assimilate with the government’s centralized agenda. The only policy feature common to all Indian states is EV exemption from taxation. In addition, the nations above should consider an often-overlooked factor—population density—when they reform their EV policy to make the transition to EVS more readily available, trustworthy, flexible, and affordable.
EcoTrade: How can huge gaps in research, policy, and technology be addressed?
Dinesh Kumar Madheswaran: Suddenly, the words of well-known wisdom strike my mind. When addressing the gaps in EV research in developing nations, I find myself relating to the quote, “We should listen to our elders, not because they are always right, but because they have more experience being wrong.”
Taking lessons from one’s history Evolving EV markets, like those in India, the Philippines, and Indonesia, can benefit from the mistakes and experiences of more developed EV markets, including those in the European Union and the United States. Growing nations may learn from these markets’ trials and tribulations and use the lessons learned in their own EV research.
Keeping out of trouble and Drawing on the expertise of others: Similarly, developing EV markets like India, the Philippines, and Indonesia might benefit from the lessons learned by more established EV markets. The Philippines and Indonesia’s partnerships with Japan and China are worth noting. Battery costs, charging infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, and customer education are all potential roadblocks that can be avoided with collaborative efforts with developed EV nation markets.
EcoTrade: What can governments and businesses do to make electric mobility accessible to everyone?
Dinesh Kumar Madheswaran: I was fascinated by the 2013 National Electric Transportation Mission Plan (NEMMP), the way the Indian government and industry have made electric transportation accessible. I appreciate the government’s desire to have 6-7 million hybrids and electric cars on Indian roadways by 2024. The government has built a charging station network, provided financial incentives to buy electric vehicles, and invested in lab work to make EVs cheaper and more efficient to meet this goal. Tata, Reliance, and similar firms were also shown investments in local battery manufacture and EV charging infrastructure. Know what! With this NEMMP, we can see an increase in EV sales in India from 450 in 2011 to 1.5 lakh in 2018. This example highlights how the Indian government and industry collaborated to make electric transportation available to everyone and how coordinated efforts may lead to sustainable mobility solutions.
The 2019 Philippine Electric Vehicles and Charging Station Act is intriguing. Interestingly, the government and private sector are working to install charging stations along critical highways and in major cities within a 50-kilometer radius. Several companies in the Philippines, including Grab, which has launched a pilot project for electric tricycles in the country, have begun offering electric vehicles for rent or sale, a peculiar but attention-grabbing development. Sustainable transportation solutions are far more likely to be adopted if this concerted effort is made.
Electric Vehicle Roadmap 2020-2030 highlights how the Indonesian government and industry collaborate to make electric mobility available to everyone and how a concerted effort may lead to sustainable mobility solutions. Mandatory installation of EV charging stations in public areas, retail centers, and public transportation nodes will be a fruitful effort toward electrification. It’s a safe bet that Gojek and Grab, two popular ride-hailing services in Jakarta, will soon roll out their own electric vehicle fleets nationwide.
EcoTrade: Can India become an EV supply chain superpower in Asia? What conditions need to be in place for the industry to thrive? And how can businesses find investment in EV productions?
Dinesh Kumar Madheswaran: India is already becoming an Asian EV supply chain giant. Electric vehicle production facilities and EV component development garner investments from local and global industries.
In 2020, Ola Electric, an affiliate of Indian ride-hailing company Ola, unveiled intentions to build an international-scale ev scooter plant in India, producing 10 million scooters annually. Establishing an electric vehicle charging infrastructure in India is another firm focus.
Tata Motors, India’s largest automaker, is betting on electric vehicles and has released many electric models, such as the Nexon and Tigor EV. Additionally, Tata Motors are creating EV batteries and establishing a domestic battery production facility.
International automakers such as Hyundai, Kia, and MG Motors have also established EV production facilities in India. The development of EV components is also receiving investment from Indian industries. For instance, Bharat Forge, a prominent Indian forging manufacturer, has partnered with Germany’s RefuDrive to produce electric car components in India.
These cases collectively show that India is well on its way to becoming a significant player in the EV supply chain in Asia, thanks to its expanding ecosystem of EV producers and component vendors. Companies wishing to invest in the electric vehicle business will find the country’s excellent manufacturing capabilities, government assistance, and favorable legislation very appealing.
Establishing a reliable EV charging infrastructure is essential for India’s thriving EV sector. FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles), announced in 2015 by the Indian government, is a perfect illustration. Under the program, the Indian government has approved the building of around 2,600 charging stations in 62 cities across the nation with the assistance of the Indian Oil Corporation, the largest oil company in India.
Under the FAME plan, the Indian government earmarked Rs 10,000 crores (~$1.3 billion) to promote EVs. This financing is available to Indian businesses manufacturing EVs and their related components. To further develop electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in India, Ola Electric has secured $250 million in investment from Softbank and other investors in 2019. Companies in India may take advantage of such prospects for EV business.
EcoTrade: How can countries in Asia scale up solutions that will enable their transition to renewable energy and electric mobility?
Dinesh Kumar Madheswaran: The following are some examples of how India, the Philippines, and Indonesia might scale up existing infrastructure to accommodate their transition to renewable energy and electric mobility:
By 2030, India plans to have installed a total of 450 GW of renewable energy capacity, 175 GW of which would be solar. The government is incentivizing EV purchases, fostering the growth of EV charging infrastructure, and encouraging the local production of EVs and EV components. With this, the sales of electric vehicles in India increased by 20% in 2020, reaching 156,000 units.
The Philippines has committed to increasing its share of renewable energy from roughly 29% to 35% by 2030. The government is also encouraging their use by eliminating import taxes on electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. There were just 318 EVs registered in the Philippines in 2016, but by 2020, that number had risen to over 6 thousand.
Up from its current level of roughly 9 percent, Indonesia aims to have 23% of its energy combined from renewable sources by 2025. The government is incentivizing EV purchases by providing consumer tax breaks and funding the construction of charging stations nationwide. More than 2,100 electric vehicles were registered in Indonesia by 2020, up significantly from 2016’s total of 75.
Thus, India, the Philippines, and Indonesia may mitigate their reliance on fossil fuels and emit fewer greenhouse gases by expanding their renewable energy strength while encouraging EV adoption.
Dinesh Kumar Madheswaran is a budding researcher from Green Vehicle Technology Research Centre, SRM University, India. Through his studies, Dinesh optimism about making green and sustainable energy technology (batteries and fuel cell materials) more practical and affordable for automotive applications.
This interview is part of an ongoing series where we invite sustainability leaders to discuss challenges and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region’s transition to carbon-neutral economies.