Future of Electric vehicles in India by Chetan Maini of REVA, India

The Future of Electric Vehicles in India

Chetan Kumaar Maini, Deputy Chairman and Chief Technical Officer, Reva Electric Car Company Private Limited (RECC)

Enhancing the quality of life is the ultimate objective and the driving force behind many of the critical decisions we take. However, for this to happen, we as a community need to shift from individualistic mindsets and take responsibility for the environment we live in. It is only then that we would see holistic improvement.

Against the backdrop of environmental concerns and depleting resources, it is imperative not only to preserve what's left but find new alternatives to drive engines of growth in the economy. The effort, however, requires a collaborative approach by the government, regulatory authorities industry, R&D institutions and the community.

As a nation of keen minds, the answer lies in innovation, which has always been the force behind powerful changes in our times. This has been recently proven at the Asian Wall Street Journal awards. Out of the twelve finalists short-listed for the Asian Innovation Awards five of them were Indians, recognised for their inventions that improve the quality of life or productivity. These included an electric walking stick, modified pulley and energy efficient electric vehicles amongst others.

The most sustainable invention recognised for applying technology to a strong business model and commercial potential has been the electric vehicles (EVs). EVs are the long-term solution to India's urban pollution and planning problem.

Rise in economic activity and population has led to a tremendous demand in the transport sector especially in urban India. By 2020, India's population in cities is expected to grow five-fold to a staggering 200 million while pollution is expected to grow by seven times. With this tremendous growth has emerged a very critical issue of keeping air and noise pollution in urban areas under control.

If we can have three lakh Electric Vehicles on the roads by 2020, including three-wheelers, cars, and scooters, this could result in a reduction of over 16 lakh metric tons of CO, NOx & HC by 2020, savings of over Rs. 3700 crores in foreign exchange and significant health costs savings. EVs are zero polluting, easy to handle and have low running and maintenance costs.

Small electric buses, three wheelers and electric scooters are ideal for city mobility in India but it could take between 5 and 10 years before they become viable for commercial use. Many local auto manufacturers such as REVA, Mahindra & Mahindra and Eko Scooters are embarking on alternate fuel transportation programs to combat air pollution in India.

Apart from being environment and user friendly, there are several other reasons for alternate fuel cars to flourish in India. Firstly, electricity for EVs can be produced from various sources for which India has natural resources and does not need to depend on the import of oil. Although, EVs will not replace LPG, CNG or petrol and diesel for intercity use, the infrastructure required for EVs in the form of electricity distribution infrastructure is already available in all our cities and minimum costs are required to install additional.

Chetan Kumaar Maini

Chetan Kumaar Maini is Deputy Chairman and Chief Technical Officer of REVA Electric Car Company Pvt Ltd (RECC), a joint venture between Maini Group of Bangalore and AEVLLC, USA. The company designs, develops, manufactures and sells environment friendly, electric vehicles. He built up a new team for vehicle design and development and testing, vendor development, financial, budgeting and marketing aspects and launched the REVA in 2001. The Advanced Vehicle Development Centre (AVDC), the in-house R&D Unit of RECC is recognised by Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India. RECC is an ISO 9001 certified company and has commenced exports to UK and Malta.

He has over 14 years experience in. developing over 6 Solar, Hybrid and Electric Vehicles in US and India. His prior experience includes working for Amerigon Inc (USA) and General Motors (USA). As Program Manager at Amerigon, he was responsible for all Electric vehicle programs and initiated the REVA Project.

Chetan has a BSME from University of Michigan with focus on Solar Electric Vehicles and a MSME from Stanford University with focus on Hybrid Electric Vehicles. At the University of Michigan, he was the key team leader of the Solar Car Team that won the GM Sun Race in USA and stood 3rd in the World Solar Challenges in Australia, At Stanford University he was the Project Leader for the hybrid electric car project.

He has a paten in Energy Management Systems for Electric Vehicles and has presented several technical papers on Electric Vehicles globally.

Chetan was conferred the BW-NlD Design Excellence Award-2005 for Best Concept Design of the Future Professional, Monte Carlo Sustainable Mobility Award at the 21st Worldwide Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition (EVS 21) held at Monaco in 2005, Business Leadership Award (Electric Vehicles) by the Solar Energy Society of India affiliated to International Solar Energy Society (ISES) in 2004, Golden Peacock Innovative Product/Service Award by Institute of Directors in 2003, YEO Thomas Alva Edison Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 2002 and Dr M S Swaminathan Award for environment protection for the year 2001.
According to a research study conducted by the Freedonia Group, it is estimated that alternative fuel vehicles would reach global sales of over 1.6 million units and $39 billion by 2009.

Battery technologies such as Sodium Nickel Chloride and Lithium Ion will increase the range of EV two to three fold. Fuel cells will remove this restriction altogether as they will be able to generate electricity instantaneously as soon as hydrogen is made available in cylinders at hydrogen filling stations. Next generation motors and electronics will reduce costs and increase performance by 15%. Battery leasing and selling of energy will further lower product costs and increase market share. Higher volumes of EVs will reduce costs by 10-15%.

India also has the maximum market potential for EVs owing to an established auto component infrastructure, low manufacturing and R&D costs, mechanical hardware availability, high urban congestion and the presence of a large domestic market. The industry could significantly gain from rising exports by 2010 and with appropriate government support, could transform the landscape of urban India by reducing pollution, improving public health, creating employment opportunities and impacting society.

In spite of India being a hub for inventions of such technologies, EVs have not gained popularity owing to lack of adequate and timely support from central and state governments. Although, government has reduced the custom duty on three of the imported components in battery operated vehicles to 10%, still the incentives seem too less for the price reduction of such vehicles. Other initiatives, which need to be taken to make the EVs affordable, include measures like relaxation in excise duty and VAT uniformity for the key inputs and components and also for the finished electric vehicle. In addition, in various countries, electric vehicles receive subsidies so as to promote the technology and reduce emissions. Similar initiatives should be introduced in India.

Setting up a Technology Mission for EVs could also go a long way in supporting the development of EV technologies in India. China has established a Technology Mission with $106 million to have commercialised electric vehicles by 2008. The Technology Mission could support development of key technologies, development of infrastructure such as battery swapping stations and charging stations, support the development of prototypes/pilot and technology demonstrators, establishing a technology park and business incubation area, providing support for testing and certification for domestic sales and exports, single window clearance and support for administration and policy matters and introducing EV technical education at ITI, diploma and engineering degree levels.

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