Electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to be more economical than internal combustion (IC) engine cars in the long run and, of course, more environment-friendly. But four-wheeler EVs have still not managed to hit the high note in India in terms of demand and customer adoption. What is the root cause of this situation? What options do Indian purchasers have? Paromik Chakraborty of Electronics For You spoke with Greg Moran, co-founder and chief executive officer, Zoomcar, to get these questions answered and to learn about Zoomcar’s venture with EVs.
Q. Are four-wheeler EVs affordable for Indian consumers right now?
A. EVs have been around in India for a while now. But these just could not stir up the Indian customers. One of the biggest reasons for this is something known as range anxiety. After spending ` 600,000 to ` 700,000 on a car, the consumer wants to get at least 250 kilometres without worrying about recharging. But that is not the case yet. However, if we talk only about the economics of driving a car, an EV is about eight to ten times cheaper as compared to an IC car.
Q. How are EVs more economical than traditional cars?
A. Here is the math. Currently, petrol price is hovering somewhere around the ` 80 per litre zone. A small city car—like an entry-level or premium hatchback like Maruti Swift or Hyundai i10—provides a fuel average of 16 to 20 kilometres per litre, which brings the running cost to around ` 5 per kilometre for a petrol car, and around ` 4 per kilometre for a diesel car.
In addition to this, there are service and maintenance costs around of ` 0.60 per kilometre for petrol cars and about ` 1 per kilometre for diesel cars. Hence, on an average, cost of driving an IC car is around ` 6 per kilometre.
On the other hand, for Mahindra Electric P6 variant the cost comes out to be ` 0.80 per kilometre when we take the cost of electricity at an estimate of ` 6 per unit and the range of 10 kilometres per kilowatt-hour. This is about eight times cheaper than for an IC car.
Hence, operating an EV is definitely affordable. But due to range anxiety and better and superior alternatives in IC engines for the same price, it is getting difficult for EVs to make it into the lives of Indian consumers.
Q. How can this range anxiety be addressed?
A. Subscription is the way ahead for EVs to address range anxiety. Consumers can get the taste of first blood via subscription, and we will see a sudden rate of adoption in the next 12 to 18 months. We see technology leapfrog. Technologies like 3x single-charge range and super-fast charging will be a normalcy, soon.
Q. Are four-wheeler EVs abundantly available in India or mostly need to be imported?
A. Abundantly available would be a farfetched scenario for now, but the future is changing fast. EVs are available in India and majority of them are in Bengaluru. If we do a segmentation on the number of EVs in India, it would be around 400,000 two-wheelers, about one million e-rickshaws and less than 10,000 four-wheelers. But given the Indian government’s ambitious plan of National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, we can see a number of OEMs jumping on the electric mobility bandwagon.
As of now, barring the luxury electric car BMW i8, rest of the electric cars are manufactured locally by Indian companies. Mahindra is leading the race with two electric models commercially available, namely, Mahindra eVerito and e20. Tata recently joined the race with TATA Tigor electric.
For Hyundai, who is planning to launch its EV in India, importing components is something it is contemplating, owing to growing competition. This is because importing and assembling would be much faster than setting up a manufacturing unit to begin with. The company will launch Hyundai Kona, with a range of 450-plus kilometres, and is already in talks with Tamil Nadu government to equip its existing factory in Chennai in alignment with the new requirement.
Sudden demand for EVs will see huge domestic investments both in manufacturing and R&D. India has the potential to be the hub of tomorrow’s EVs.
Q. How can end users arrange for charging?
A. Purchasers normally get a charger with their electric car, which as of now the OEM installs at the consumers’ location. Depending on the model, there are two kinds of chargers—fast charger and regular charger. The normal charger is compatible with the general 10A (or 15A) power socket normally found in homes.
Q. Are there ample charging points available in India?
A. We are still at a nascent stage. As and when the number of cars increases on the road, OEMs will start putting public charging points—similar to the way currently being done by Tesla in the US. As of now, it is either installed at the consumer’s home location or in certain places likes malls and office spaces. However, the latter is quite rare.
Q. Is Zoomcar tying up with EVs?
A. We have been operating EVs for the last three years and have tieups with OEMs exclusively for our EV needs. We have tieups with Mahindra Electric for its e20 variant and with TATA for its Tigor EV model. In fact, even before the commercial launch of Tigor EV, we had them on our platform. Currently, we have 500-plus cars on-ground (pan-India), which includes e20 and Tigor EVs.
Q. How beneficial are rental models for EVs, especially with mobility service experts like Zoomcar looking out for the citizens?
A. From the point of rental benefits, EVs are 20 to 25 per cent cheaper than the next cheapest cars present on the platform. Hence, it is a good value proposition for customers who use Zoomcar for shorter trips (less than 80km). Based on data, consumers’ point of entry for subscription looks most promising via EVs, and we have a few ambitions placed here across mobility segments.
Q. How difficult is it to get service and repair support for EVs in India?
A. Similar to our IC engine cars, we have tie-ups with OEM-authorised dealerships in all cities where EVs are operational, and maintenance is taken care of by them. Availability of parts and trained technicians for EVs is a bottleneck for Tier 2 cities. We are tackling it on our own as of now. In about 12 to 18 months, we will see a solid ecosystem.