After launching electrical vehicles, mostly four wheelers on Indian streets and e-taxis at Nagpur, a report prepared by a think-tank has strongly recommended to tackle electrification of two and three-wheeler segments first since small vehicles dominate Indian roads. Looking at the growing popularity of small vehicles and their usage among individuals, it is imperative to shift them from conventional fuels towards battery operated or other cleaner mode of energy usage. Looking at the total cost of ownership, which is high by Indian standards, the report has suggested that since bringing down this cost for four-wheelers is still years away and hence other segments should be prioritised for electrification. A report prepared by Ola Mobility Institute titled ‘Beyond Nagpur:
The Promise of Electric Mobility,’ offered some interesting insight based on their e-taxi experiment in Nagpur, launched last year with much fanfare. The highest proportions of passenger-kilometres travelled are by public and shared vehicles. Additionally, the largest fleets in the country are maintained by Government agencies, civic bodies and app based aggregators. Hence, shared, public and commercial transport electric vehicles are better poised to bring down the total cost of ownership as opposed to an electric vehicle being used as a personal vehicle, the report stated.
The report also recommended incentivising usage more than the purchase of vehicles. The Government’s push for gaining more clean kilometres can be achieved only when we look beyond incentivising just the purchase cost of electrical vehicles. Usage-based incentives on electric vehicles will accelerate innovation, encourage early adopters, enable new business models, and promote low-cost shared mobility services. The study primarily focused on experimenting with various scenarios that would test the viability of EVs on economic metrics.
One such essential metric, the Total Cost of Ownership, includes the direct and indirect costs of purchasing, running and maintaining a commercial vehicle over its typical lifetime of four years, making it a key driver to proliferate electric vehicles on Indian roads towards realizing E-mobility ambitions as a nation. Due to the low operating cost of an electric vehicle, high-mileage commercial owners are natural early adopters, given the economic incentive over the on-road life of internal combustion alternatives. Ola’s EV pilot project showed significant operational pressure on charging stations during peak periods, suggesting utilisation challenges for infrastructure. The pilot also showed substantial potential for battery swapping as a reliable charging mechanism for small format vehicles.
During the Nagpur pilot, lithium-ion battery swapping increased the available operating time for three wheelers by 25% compared to fixed battery systems, and by 50% when compared to lead-acid battery powered alternatives. Additionally, the report also presents data to encourage the usage of renewable energy to power EV infrastructure. For instance, installing rooftop solar panels on Nagpur charging stations reduced the average electricity expense of the platform by 28%.
According to Anand Shah, Senior Vice President and Head of Ola Mobility Institute (OMI), “The Nagpur pilot was designed to provide first-hand experience to inform a viable business model for electric vehicles at scale. We are convinced that the growing base of renewable energy combined with sound policy measures to promote high utilization of electric vehicles can make India an exemplar for market-based electric vehicle ecosystem.”