The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) has gained significant momentum globally as a crucial step towards achieving sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In India, the EV market has experienced substantial growth in recent years. However, despite this progress, EV adoption is still not the obvious choice among the masses. Various barriers hinder the widespread acceptance of EVs in India. This article explores the key challenges faced in India's EV ecosystem, including government policy challenges, technical challenges, safety concerns, limited consumer awareness, and charging infrastructure gaps. This article aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of these barriers both at the individual and systemic levels and their potential solutions to drive increased EV adoption in India.
Here are some key factors that have hindered the widespread adoption of EVs in India:
High upfront cost:
One of the primary barriers is the higher upfront cost of electric vehicles compared to conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. The cost of batteries, which constitutes a significant portion of an EV's price, remains relatively high. This price differential makes EVs less affordable for many consumers, especially in a price-sensitive market like India. Until very recently there were no EVs in the sub-lakh segment. Tata and MG has brought sub lakh cars in 2023 and hopefully, this will inspire other OEMs also to make EVs affordable.
Limited model availability and variety:
In the Indian market, the number of available EV models is still limited compared to conventional vehicles. Consumers often have a preference for specific vehicle types, such as sedans or SUVs, which may not have sufficient EV options. The lack of variety and limited choice of models could be a deterrent for potential EV buyers. One of India’s major auto OEMsMaruti has yet to launch an EV variant. Mahindra just launched XUV400 a couple of months back. Other players also have limited options only and brand loyalty is acting as an entry barrier for many consumers.
Lack of consumer awareness and education:
Many consumers in India have limited knowledge about electric vehicles, including their benefits, charging requirements, and overall performance. The lack of awareness and education hampers the willingness to switch to EVs. Awareness campaigns and educational initiatives could play a vital role in addressing this barrier. Many 2-wheeler OEMs have managed to create this awareness and hence 2 wheeler in passenger segments is seeing better growth than 4-wheelers.
Range anxiety refers to the fear or uncertainty of running out of battery charge while driving. Many consumers worry about the limited range of EVs and the potential inconvenience of finding charging stations for long journeys. Although the range of EVs has been improving, it remains a concern for consumers, especially in a country with vast distances like India and continuously improved Highway Infrastructure.
Limited charging infrastructure:
The availability of charging infrastructure is crucial for the widespread adoption of EVs. In India, the charging infrastructure is still relatively inadequate, particularly in non-metro cities and rural areas. The lack of a well-established and accessible charging network makes potential EV buyers concerned about the availability of charging points and the time required for recharging. Tata Power, other discoms and OMCs along with new age tech startups are also setting up charging infrastructure but due to heavy capexrequirements for setting up charging infra, the required pace is missing and creating a big entry barrier for new consumers to move to EVs. In 2/3 Wheeler segments, some companies are taking the lead in providing battery swapping stations but these are at a very nascent stage such initiative can improve consumer confidence.
Charging time is closely related to the issue of driving range. With a slow charger, the EV can take up to 8 h for a full charge from the empty state using a 7 kW charging point. The charging time mainly depends upon the size of the battery. The bigger the size of car batteries, the longer the time it takes to recharge the battery from empty to full state. Comparing the charging time of an EV with refueling and ICE in a petrol station is one the biggest barriers in people’sminds towards EV adoption. Though better technologies are coming to reduce the charging time, deployment of such vehicles and charging stations requires more capital and hence hinders the speed of such deployments across India. Govt. policies both at the Central and State level in a coordinated way are required.
Battery technology and infrastructure challenges:
The development and production of advanced battery technology play a crucial role in improving the performance and affordability of EVs. However, India has limited domestic manufacturing capabilities for batteries, relying mostly on imports. Building a robust battery manufacturing ecosystem and charging infrastructure are vital for overcoming these challenges.
The lack of standardization and interoperability between different charging networks also poses challenges for EV owners. The government, in collaboration with EV ecosystem players and auto OEMs, should prioritize establishing standardization protocols, ensuring interoperability, and promoting the development of fast-charging technologies. E.g. LEV DC for past charging 2-wheelers, not all OEMs have agreed to move to this standard. Govt. has taken the right and necessary steps in standardizing the battery swapping stations. India is taking the necessary steps but these gaps are not helping in driving the adoption to a rate which is required to meet our ambition of 2030.
Safety concerns are critical in gaining consumer trust in EVs. Risks associated with battery technology, such as thermal runaways and fire incidents, need to be addressed. The government should establish stringent safety standards and regulations for EVs, charging infrastructure, and battery manufacturing. Collaboration with international organizations and research institutions can help develop comprehensive safety guidelines and establish best practices to mitigate these risks effectively.
Policy and regulatory challenges:
The absence of a comprehensive and consistent policy framework for EVs has been a hindrance to their adoption. Clear and favorable policies, such as subsidies, tax incentives, and supportive regulations, can significantly impact market dynamics and consumer behavior. Although the Indian government has taken several steps to promote EVs, the lack of a long-term, stable policy framework has led to uncertainty among stakeholders. The recent reduction in Fame 2 subsidy may have a negative impact on the growth of EVs.
Addressing these barriers requires a multi-faceted approach involving collaborations between the government, industry stakeholders, and consumers. Continued investments in charging infrastructure, technology development, awareness campaigns, and supportive policies are necessary to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in India.
The article is authored by Pravin Kumar, Co-Founder goEgo Network