Govt’s Electric Vehicle push: Carmakers call for a tech-agnostic approach

With the government’s 2030 deadline for shifting to an all-electric car fleet for new cars looming in the horizon, car makers have made a strong pitch for a technology-agnostic approach to the all-electric goal. Globally, the electric vehicle or EV definition covers a broad range — Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), convention Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Fuel Cell Vehicles. Car makers such as domestic market leader Maruti Suzuki India and Toyota Kirloskar Motors have asserted that the government should define emission norms that EVs need to adhere to even as the choice of technology should be left to the manufacturers and consumers.

“I think that the goal should be that India needs to go from a particular CO2 (carbon dioxide) level to a new CO2 level and then one can decide what to do. Should one go for alternate fuel, hybrid, electric… That choice should be given to the customer and to the manufacturer. The technology should not be determined. That is somewhere we need to work with the policy makers,” CV Raman, executive director – Engineering, Maruti Suzuki India said.

While there are several steps towards reaching the goal of full electrification, the component ecosystem is very similar in all of these and the hybrid technology is a good intermediate step towards achieving an all-electric goal, he said. Hybrids typically have improved fuel efficiency through electrification of powertrain even as they do not require the setting up charging infrastructure base that is an essential for BEVs. Additionally, the manufacturers claim that a hybrid vehicle base also spawns the manufacture of the battery ecosystem, which can then be leveraged for a BEV push.

“While the talk is around electric vehicles, when you look at hybridisation or electrification of fleet, today we are at under 1 per cent as far as the overall industry is concerned. The percentage of penetration is very less. Going forward we believe that the volume is going to increase from today’s 3.2 million to 6 million 2025-26 and to 8 million by 2030. So even if we go to an ambitious target of 40 per cent of that being electric vehicles, the balance 60 per cent will also need to be upgraded. The IC (internal combustion) engine is here and it gives us a certain level of fuel efficiency. You can make hybrid technology like mild hybrid, strong hybrid and plug in hybrids and electric vehicles. These are steps of electrification, but the component ecosystem is very similar in all of these,” Raman said.

Shekar Viswanathan, vice-chairman, Toyota Kirloskar Motors said that the company has told the government that “it doesn’t matter which technology comes in, it should be seen if it is delivering the energy options in clean and efficient manner”. “The government must recognise is that electric vehicles are easier to make and are simpler than IC engines… If you have more hybrids, then battery sourcing becomes an advantage and cost of battery may come down. So chances of even electric vehicles becoming more affordable will critically depend on whether hybrid vehicles are encouraged,” Viswanathan said. Carmakers such as Toyota have been lobbying with the government to get taxes on hybrid cars lowered.

* Conventional hybrid electric vehicles or HEVs such as the Toyota Camry sold in the country combine a conventional internal combustion engine system with an electric propulsion system, resulting in a hybrid vehicle drivetrain that substantially lowers fuel usage. The onboard battery in a conventional hybrid is charged when the IC engine is powering the drivetrain.

* Plug-in hybrid vehicles or PHEVs, such as the Chevrolet Volt, too have a hybrid drivetrain that use both an internal combustion engine and electric power for motive power, backed by rechargeable batteries that, in this case, can be plugged into a power source.

* BEV such as the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S, which have no internal combustion engine or fuel tank, run on a fully electric drivetrain powered by rechargeable batteries.

* Fuel cell vehicles or FCVs such as Toyota’s Mirai and Honda’s Clarity use hydrogen gas to power an on-board electric motor. FCVs combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, which runs the motor, while the only residue of the chemical process being water. Since they’re powered entirely by electricity, FCVs are considered EVs but unlike BEVs, their range and refueling processes are comparable to conventional cars and trucks.

In India, however, the definition of EV only covers BEVs, where the government has lowered the taxes to 12 per cent. At 43 per cent, hybrid electric vehicle attract the same tax applicable on IC vehicles. Manufacturers such as Toyota Kirloslar are lobbying hard for a reduction of the tax on hybrids to 28 per cent.

“Different kind of segments will be able to absorb different kind of technology. That’s very important. I am not very sure today that without having the charging infrastructure and taking two hours for charging today.. Currently there are less than 100 volt technologies that take much longer time to charge. If you increase the voltage, you can reduce the time. The infrastructure needs to be developed and be available all around. There the hybrid or a plug in hybrid will naturally fit into the gap because the infrastructure requirement is not there and the fuel efficiency also goes up. That’s how we are looking at electrification. It has to be a step by step process,” Maruti’s Raman said. While Maruti Suzuki unveiled its new Swift in India on Thursday, Suzuki Swift Hybrid was unveiled in Japan in 2017 and is available in two variants – SG and SL. The car carries an electric motor assisting the petrol drivetrain and is a full hybrid, unlike some of the mild hybrids that Maruti Suzuki has offered so far in India.

Raman said that the company is looking to localise parts so that there can be economies of scale. “Suzuki, Denso and Toshiba are setting up the Lithium ion battery plant. But we also need motors, power electronics, and battery management system and all of that. That also needs to be set up,” he added.

According to a NITI Aayog report, India could save 64 per cent of energy demand for road transport and 37 per cent of carbon emissions by 2030 by pursuing a shared, electric and connected mobility future. Many countries have attempted to push e-mobility through multiple initiatives, generating a push through stringent regulations and lucrative consumer tax incentives for using EVs, however, monetary incentives alone cannot drive EV penetration, according to McKinsey & Co data. For example, while West Virginia in the US offers the most monetary incentives for EVs, it has seen low EV adoption. California, on the other hand, offers fewer monetary incentives, but has the highest penetration, thanks to the government’s investment in providing robust EV infrastructure, parking benefits and workplace charging facilities.

Source- The Indian Express