The Hindu Explains: Big Tech, electric mobility and Tamil Nadu’s disqualification politics

How is India driving to electric mobility?

The story so far: On Monday, Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. Ltd. said in a statement that Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, had invested an unspecified amount to support its ambitions to scale up electric vehicle deployment in India. Ola Electric is undertaking several pilot programmes including charging solutions, battery swapping stations, and deploying two-and three-wheeler electric vehicles. Will Ola Electric’s initiative provide the spark to meet India’s ambitious goal of having 30% electric vehicles by 2030?

What is India’s policy for electric vehicles?

While carmakers in the rest of the world have been focussing on electric cars in the premium segment (costing over ₹10 lakh), India is targeting smaller vehicles. The reason for this is, according to NITI Aayog, 79% of vehicles on Indian roads are two-wheelers, while three-wheelers and cars costing less than ₹10 lakh account for 4% and 12% of the vehicle population, respectively. Concentrating on small electric vehicles will help meet domestic demand and place India in a “position of global leadership”.

While China, the U.S. and a few European countries offer various subsidies up to 40% to encourage uptake of electric cars, India wants to offer non-fiscal incentives. Credits will be offered based on carbon dioxide emissions per km as well as vehicle efficiency. While manufacturers exceeding the emission targets will be required to purchase credits, those meeting them will be rewarded. The price of the credit will be decided by the market. This approach will make electric vehicles and those with low-emissions cheaper and the polluting vehicles expensive. In the next five years, India aims to have at least 15% of electric vehicles on the road. On February 28, India announced the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles (FAME-2) scheme with an outlay of ₹10,000 crore for a period of three years.

To encourage faster adoption, incentives will be provided on purchase of an electric vehicle. The scheme will support 10 lakh two-wheelers, 5 lakh three-wheelers, 55,000 four-wheelers and 7,000 buses. While the focus will be on private vehicles for two-wheelers, incentives will be given for three and four-wheelers used for public transport and commercial purposes. The aim is to set up charging stations and other infrastructure under ‘Make in India’.

What’s the driving range of electric vehicles?

In electric cars using lithium ion battery (the most widely used battery worldwide), it is between 200 and 300 km per charge. The driving range in a city is typically 25-30 km per day. Battery technology to increase driving range and energy density has been and will continue to be the focus area in the coming years. The most important determinant will be the lifespan of the battery. As per current battery technology, its lifetime will be shorter than the rest of the vehicle. According to the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, some car manufacturers in developed countries are offering an eight-year or 1,60,000 km warranty on batteries.

How long will it take to charge the battery?

Currently, batteries used in electric cars have capacities of 50 kWh (kilowatt hour) and can be charged overnight using the existing power supply available at home. Like in the case of mobile phones, batteries used in electric vehicles can be fast-charged using 7 and 22 kW supply. Charging stations at service stations have 50 or 120 kW supplies and the battery can be charged in 20-30 minutes. But fast-charging causes overheating and degradation, and if done frequently reduces battery life.

Will electric vehicles reduce carbon emission?

At nearly 55%, electricity generation in India is primarily using coal. Hydroelectric generation is 13% and renewable energy sources including small hydro projects, wind and solar, account for about 21%. So like in the case of the U.S. and China, net reduction in carbon emission will not be much even if there is large-scale adoption of electric vehicles in India.

This is unlike France and the U.K., where non-fossil fuel is a major source of electricity generation. However, cities and town using electric vehicles in large numbers will see a reduction in exhaust-pipe emissions, particularly particulate matter. This will be important in the case of India which is home to 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.

Can used batteries be recycled?

Lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles can be recycled. According to the Financial Times , China and the European Union have rules that make carmakers responsible for recycling their batteries. In July 2016, Elon Musk had tweeted that Tesla’s Gigafactory battery factory in Nevada, U.S., will recycle lithium ion battery. Li-ion batteries use a “variety of chemical processes, making it difficult to develop standardised recycling”. Battery recycling will become an industry by itself by 2025 when used batteries will become plentiful. Eaton, a U.K.-based company, is already selling used electric batteries for reuse as household batteries.

Is there enough cobalt to meet the demand?

In lithium ion batteries, cobalt is a key component of the cathode (positive electrode). Cobalt plays a pivotal role in preventing overheating and provides stability to the battery thus allowing charging and discharging over many years. Cobalt is a by-product of mining nickel and copper. About 60% of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mining of which has been linked to human rights abuse including child labour. As battery technology evolves, the amount of cobalt used may reduce or even stop. Last May, Tesla’s battery cell supplier Panasonic Corp said it has already “substantially cut down” cobalt usage and is already “aiming to achieve close to zero usage of cobalt in the near future”.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2022 11:44:52 pm |