Electric Vehicles: Future Roadmap for India

Electric Cars Roadmap India

The International Conference on “Electric Vehicles: Future Roadmap for India” was jam packed with industry experts sharing their thoughts on India’s readiness and adoption of electro-mobility, and also on procedural troubles in realizing the ultimate vision of the auto industry going emission-free.

As the entire globe is moving towards electric mobility in a big way, with technological push by the industry and incentives provided by governments for their faster adoption, the Indian automotive industry is at the cross-roads now. Electric mobility is not just a technological shift, but warrants a comprehensive introspection of how mobility is being perceived by the industry and society, and kindles whole new imaginations and possibilities on its entire supply chain and business models altogether. It is expected to be disruptive like never before. To ride this transformative wave in a smooth and sustainable fashion, Indian auto industry and governments must embrace an innovative and pragmatic approach based on our own market scenario, per-capita income, purchasing power, and strategic social development goals.

In this regard, three key documents (or rather approaches) that outline India’s agenda and policy needs to adopt electric mobility constitute the baseline for any discussions and debates on the matter for now. First one is the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 (2013), which aims to usher in 7 million EVs on Indian roads by 2020. The second document is the NITI Aayog’s transformative mobility report (2017) that sets out shared-connected-electric mobility approach, by which 100% public transport vehicles and 40% of private vehicles are to become all-electric by 2030. Lastly, the SIAM’s white paper on electric vehicles (December 2017) that aims to achieve new vehicle sales in the country to be 100 percent pure electric vehicles (BEV and FCV) on the 100th anniversary of India’s independence, i.e. 2047.

Also Read: Sustainable Mobility: A Global Vision In Indian Context

In a bid to elicit more clarity on India’s blueprint for adoption of EVs, ASSOCHAM recently organized a one-day International Conference on “Electric Vehicles: Future Roadmap for India” on 19th December, 2017 at New Delhi. It offered all important stakeholders a common platform to deliberate around EVs in India, and debated on what is the right way or approach to EV adoption in the country. Speaking at the inaugural session, Mr. R S Kalsi, Chairman of ASSOCHAM National Council on Auto and Auto Ancillaries, observed that the EV transformation in the auto industry is a global certainty and is already happening, but “Indian industry cannot afford to watch the trend and assimilate as we did in previous technology revolutions, but be an active player to gain strategic leverage.

Chicken or Egg Conundrum

Speakers at the conference agreed that India being one of the largest producer ICE vehicles should take lead in EV vehicle and component manufacturing. Yet, to gain through the EV revolution, most of them consented that the industry and government should be ‘technology-agnostic’ as pure-electrics are not the only and cost-effective means to cut fuel imports and vehicular emissions in the country. Both the customers and the automakers should have enough leeway to make logical choices that is affordable, practical, and sustainable.

Reflecting a similar tone, Mr. Rahul Bharti, Senior Vice President, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, vouched for Hydrogen Fuel cell technology along with battery-electrics as a practical answer to zero-emission mobility debates. On local manufacturing of EVs, he argued for a ‘360-degree approach’ that is “consumer-centric and environmentally sustainable, by taking into account safety and recycling aspects of battery technologies, and also involving economies of scale by taking-up cell-level manufacturing to sustain the business”.

EVs in India

However, what is going to be the stakeholders opening move? Which should come first – EV manufacturing or the charging infrastructure? Will more and more EVs on road push for its charging ecosystem, or should the automakers wait for the EV infrastructure to mature enough to sustain their new products? “Creating an infrastructure that is future-proof is the key to this conundrum” said Dr. K.N. Sreevatsa, Vice President, ABB Limited. “It’s safe to follow global standards while making essential learnings and tweaking to local requirements, wherein some standardization and consolidation will help industry to brisk up EV production” he added.

“The catch-22 situation on EVs and infrastructure demands proper problem definition” observed Dr. K. Balasubramanian, Director, NFTDC. Technology is ‘knowledge integration’ he said, adding that affordable and efficient EV technologies can be locally developed and pooled together to overcome capital expenditure and initial ownership costs. Adding to the discussion, Mr. Debi Prasad Dash, Director of India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) stressed on high-levels of localization as vital for EV boom in the Indian market, more so in the battery technologies, wherein certain local alternatives to Li-ion that are affordable and capable yet to be tried-out by the industry.

Buses and Masses

“Electric mobility should become the technology of the masses to be sustainable” opined Ms. Akshima Ghate, Associate Director – Transport and Urban Governance, TERI. Asserting that buses are critical to every energy and emission debates, she added that any roadmap on EV adoption in India must look at the institutional capacities of the STUs that run public transport in majority. Ms. Ghate also brought into discussion the importance of urban freight in EV debates, as an integral aspect of e-mobility vision.

Mr. Nishant Arya, Executive Director of JBM Group, from a bus maker point-of-view, underscored the product viability gap of electric buses as key deterrent to market adoption. Yet, he was positive that both the industry and government is moving in the right direction towards promotion of e-buses. He stressed on the need for stable fiscal incentives for buyers and export incentives for bus makers to make India a manufacturing hub.

Electric buses

Nevertheless, speakers concurred that India’s EV roadmap has to be pragmatic and realistic. Commenting on the ‘pure-electrics-only’ model that is dominating the future mobility discourses, Mr. Ashok Taneja, MD and CEO of Shriram Pistons and Rings Limited, said that the industry and government has to take into account a multitude of factors including per-capita costs of electrics, their efficiency, and access to masses. “None of us are opposed to EV shift, but the transition has to be a well-thought out, organic and practical”, he asserted, while asking the industry and governments to rationally view alternative fuels and hybrids in the Indian context.

Also Read: Electric Buses: Local and Affordable Solutions using Lead-Acid Batteries?

In a similar view, Mr. Vikram Gulati, Vice President, Toyota Kirloskar Motors, observed that no ‘one-fits-all’ approach can help the Indian case, and highlighted the need for a ‘family of EV technologies’ to realize the zero-emission vision in the upcoming decades. Mr. Vishvajit Sahay, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, advocated a ‘calibrated approach’ for the auto industry to make the EV transition a successful endeavor.

On the whole, the international conference called for a ‘paradigmatic shift’ in the way industry and governments consider mobility solutions. At the same time, the experts agreed that Indian has to act cautiously with a rational and technology-agnostic approach, so as to sustainably serve the mobility needs of Indian society during the transition.


*An edited version of this article has been published in the January 2018 edition of MotorIndia Magazine.

LNG in India: Automotive Fuel Revolution?

Tata LNG Bus India

India has to work out a ‘cleaner’ approach to Auto LNG, by locally developing renewable gas. 

Europe is already surging ahead with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) or Biogas (renewable natural gas) for commercial vehicles. In India too, a lot of action is taking place in the LNG scene. Just last August, Union Government has notified revised gas cylinder norms for LNG stations, which is aimed to help establish a storage and supply chain for refueling stations through ‘daughter trucks’, just like for CNG stations in Delhi.

Also Read: Volvo FM, FH LNG-powered Trucks on par with Diesels

Home-grown Tata Motors has taken the lead interest in LNG, with the debut of country’s first LNG-powered Tata Marcopolo LNG Bus (LPO 1613) in Kerala late last year. In fact, the company was the first OEM here to come up with gas-run heavy truck Prima 4032.S LNG, displayed at 2014 Auto Expo. Eco-friendliness and soft price make it a compelling alternative fuel for the company. LNG is also cheaper than diesel by nearly 40 per cent and almost 15 per cent dearer than CNG as well.

Tata Prima LNG Trucks
Tata Motors displayed this Prima 4032.S LNG-powered truck way back in 2014.

It is also reported that other domestic CV makers including Ashok Leyland, Mahindra, and BharatBenz are developing LNG variants of their products. Scania, for instance, has already introduced ED95 engine series (Euro 4 compliant) in its products that can run almost completely on bio-fuels including Bio-CNG. In the supply side of the LNG, India’s largest importer of LNG Petronet, and Reliance Petroleum have expressed their interest in offering LNG at fuel stations.

Also Read: LNG as alternative fuel for Trucking: Europe takes the lead

Yet, the LNG dialogues happening in India are solely related to conventional natural gas that are non-renewable and purely imported. There is a need for a much `cleaner´ approach to auto LNG, by encouraging local and commercial production of Bio-methane. Both the government and the auto industry has to work together in this regard, so as to extract the real `eco´ benefits of using LNG on CVs.

Next, would you like to read more on LNG fuel?


*An edited version of this article has been published in the January 2018 edition of MotorIndia Magazine.

Why Fiat Punto Failed Euro NCAP Crash Test?

Fiat Punto Euro NCAP Crash Test

The deplorable crash performance of the aging car reflects that the driver aid techs and crash safety standards have gone up in recent years.

The crash test of 2017 Fiat Punto by Euro NCAP earlier this month was unprecedented, for both the Italian brand and the testing agency. Fiat is renowned for its solid-built and well-engineered cars, but its popular supermini hatchback has performed strangely bad in the latest crash test results. Embarrassingly, the third-gen Punto has snipped the needless limelight by becoming the first car to score zero rating in Euro NCAP. What’s gone wrong? Is it out of Fiat’s wrongdoing, or the independent crash tests becoming irrelevant and less pragmatic?

Also Read: 2019 Fiat Cronos (X6S) Sedan (Linea Successor)

Let’s delve a little further into the test results first. The crash tested model is a 2017 Fiat Punto 1.2 Easy variant (5-door) that weighs 1,030 kgs and equipped with dual frontal airbags, front seat belt pretensioner and loadlimiter as standard fitment. The result document summarizes the car’s passenger safety performance in four aspects – Adult occupant protection rated at 51 percent, Child occupant protection at 43 percent, Pedestrian protection pegged at 52 percent, and Safety assist (driver aid technologies) at zero percent. The test findings are applicable for all other variants of the Punto, Euro NCAP adds.

In terms of adult occupant protection, the frontal offset test has apparently revealed that Punto’s passenger compartment has remained stable. The knee and femur protection for both the driver and front passenger was good, but dashboard structures seem to present risk of injury. Protection of driver has been rated good for all critical body regions. Passenger’s chest protection was rated marginal, but weak for rear occupant. Front seats and head restraint tests have proved poor whiplash protection during rear-end collision. Lack of head-protection airbag for passengers in Punto meant that the side pole test was not performed.

Absence of i-size compatible seats reflects compromised child occupant safety. The agency has used 10 year and 6 year dummies to assess the protection levels. The head, neck, and chest protection of 10 year dummy was rated either poor or marginal, while the car earned ‘good’ for the other dummy. For pedestrian, the protection offered by the bonnet to his/ her head was predominantly poor or weak, although good in places. The
bumper provided good protection to the legs and pelvis area. The absence of any safety assist features was a huge let down, the Punto earning zero points in this particular category.

Critical Inference

Born in 2005, the Fiat Punto is a twelve-year old model that has seen very marginal design and equipment revision all these years. It was neither replaced with newer model in many global markets, as the brand was busy adopting a new “two-pronged model” approach, especially for Europe. This age factor is perhaps the major cause for the car’s feeble crash safety performance, as the Punto could not match the pace at which the industry standards on safety and willingness on part of manufacturers to offer safety package have gone up. In fact, the Punto has been rated 5-star in adult protection way back in 2005 by Euro NCAP, and 3-stars for both child occupant and pedestrian protection. As Michiel van Ratingen, NCAP’s secretary general, has rightly pointed out, the Punto is a classic example of a product that is sold well past its “best-before date at the expense of the unsuspecting buyer”.

Also Read: Why Mahindra Scorpio Failed Global NCAP Crash Test?

The Punto has still fairly performed in this crash test, but in an “old-school” fashion. The body shell has remained intact, there was hardly any structural deficiency, and the driver protection was earnest. But in the last decade, a lot of importance is given to crash avoidance as a basic tenet of crash safety in the Euro NCAP. This calls for active safety technologies like Blind Spot detection, Speed Alert, Lane Assist, and Autonomous Emergency Braking. The industry’s adoption towards such new standards is also evident. For instance, Fiat Punto’s rival cars in Europe like Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, and Seat Ibiza are all equipped with such driver assistance features as standard fitment. Fiat does not even offer these techs as optional feature in Punto, and the only standard equipment offered is a seat-belt reminder! This stark tech divide not in sync with the present-day safety norms has penalised the Fiat Punto’s rating to a great extent.

Fiat Punto Euro NCAP Crash Test
Fiat Punto has fairly performed in the crash test, but in an “old-school” fashion not in sync with the transforming safety standards.

Of course, we already knew that a modern replacement for the Punto hatch is already out – the Fiat Argo. In Europe, FCA is promoting the new Tipo 5-door as a premium alternative, so it is likely that they may pull-off the Punto very soon. But watch out, the devil is in developing markets, especially India, where there is hardly any announcements on the car’s replacement with a modern hatch in near future. On the contrary, Fiat India continues to offer multiple iterations of the car in India, and, that too without standard fitment of dual airbags and ABS with EBD across the range. With the proposed Bharat NCAP coming into effect next year, it is likely that our Fiat Punto Evo may perform poorer in the crash tests that we would expect it to.

Next, would you like to read more on Fiat?

Two-Wheeler Insurance: Luck and Magic doesn’t matter!*

Bharti AXA Two-Wheeler Insurance (1)

Superstitious and irrational faiths does not bring you and your motorcycle rides the good charm and protection from untoward happenings, but a comprehensive two-wheeler insurance like that of one offered by Bharti AXA does.

The day when we start asking “Why” and “How” to this-worldly affairs, the society we live in will embark on a much needed scientific and rational progression to make a better world. You may think you are “logical” and “scientific” in attitude and conduct, but unless until you can reason out anything and everything you do or believe in, you are still caught in the blinders of tralatitious beliefs and faiths. Especially for those customary observances and beliefs that are attributed to luck and fortunes that are culturally ingrained in our minds, more so in our Indian context.

When a cat crosses your way en route to an important engagement or work, it is conceived as a bad omen. Shoes are made to hung on to truck bumpers to save it from “evil eyes”, a nimbu-mirchi (lemon-chilli) totem on the rear-view mirror of our car or number plates of bikes for good fortunes. Or the so-called “auspicious” daahi shakkar before an interview, or the bird poop superstition that is believed to prevent people from dangers, as in case of the TVC advertisement below. We never ask to ourselves “Why” and “How”!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR3u8l59bFw&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=VishalPatel

This is a critical conundrum that we as society face today. Blind faith and superstitious beliefs debase `cause and effect´ reasoning, something that is fundamental to scientific thinking and progressive attitude. They prevent individuals to think and do things rationally, pay no heed to logicality, and results in irrational behaviour of the society as a whole. A biker prays for good luck before he sets out, but may not like to wear a helmet. A trucker would like to secure himself with ritual superstitions, but may lack awareness to use turn-indicators or dippers at nights. Car and bike owners may pay for coconut and lemon sacrifice before every trips, but decide stingily their road insurance coverage. Not merely the individuals put themselves and their resources at risk, but also play with the life and fortunes of other road users and lead the entire society down. Lack of rational thinking manifests as a social problem.

Higher propensity to risks

Two-wheelers are the one that occupy our roads in majority, are lifeline to everyday commutation of millions of middle-class men and women in India. They are easy to ride and cheaper to buy. But the fact is that, they are highly vulnerable to accidents and thefts than other kinds of vehicles, and takes chances with the life and property of rider or owner. Road deaths out of accidents involving two-wheelers account for at least a quarter every year, way higher than larger cars and trucks. The wide prevalence of potholes and broken patches in our roads, coupled with sheer road congestion in urban areas and the tropical weather of rain and dust, makes motorcycle riders even more susceptible to road mishaps. That is perhaps why bike skidding, bumper crashes, and loss of balance while riding a bike are so common in India that everyone of us would have experienced such mischances at least once.

Bharti AXA Two-Wheeler Insurance (2)

Further, road safety often starts from our own homes. We can neither predict nor determine the behaviour of other road users, nor can we define our destiny with surety. All we can do is to rationally think on how to mitigate one´s risk by acting on essential safe-conducts and precautions, before we hit the road. Helmets for both the rider and pillion passenger can and ought to be the first step, instead of a bird poop! Use of genuine spare parts and components, especially tyres, brake pads and cables, and engine oil can be the next step. Regular maintenance and service will also help ensure road safety and good fortunes while on travel. Obedience to road safety norms and traffic rules while on road is creditworthy too in this regard.

Tangible Protection

Okay, but what if you and your motorcycle face grave risk out of no cause of your own. There are idiots out on road, simply waiting to hurt other users and pedestrians. You could be one of them too! You may even fall prey to other´s irresponsible behaviour on road, may it be rash driving or carelessness while on wheels. Or what if your bike is stolen from a public parking lot? Uncertainties out of such externalities can never be obviated, however rational and responsive you are.  Thus, a comprehensive risk management becomes essential, so as to offer protection from any ensuing financial loses and liabilities out of damages, or to pay for your hospitalisation or even compensate your family if any mishaps takes away your life. The premium you pay is so negligible to the risk mitigation the motor insurance takes care of, for both you and your possible victims.

Bharti AXA Two-Wheeler Insurance (1)

In this regard, Bharti AXA General Insurance Company Ltd, one of India´s leading motor insurance provider, is offering comprehensive and innovative insurance coverage for two-wheelers.  This includes both third-party and own-damage (OD) liability coverage, 24/7 claim assistance and client support, attractive discounts on premiums with No-Claim Bonus (NCB), hassle-free claim settlement with 2500+ cashless garages, and online quote retrieval and policy renewals. You also get add-on covers in Bharti AXA two-wheeler insurance, that includes Personal Accident Cover for occupants and Zero Depreciation cover.

At the end of the day, as a motorcycle rider, all we want is more certainty and control on our inevitable risks.  A nimbu-mirchi or daahi shakkar may merely provide you fake contentment, but not tangible protection. Investing in a comprehensive two-wheeler insurance coverage like that of Bharti AXA is definitely worth it. It is responsive, rational, and ensure justice on road.

#KauuveKaMaltyag #SuperstitionKaPollKhol


* This story is an advertorial.