Indian roads are increasingly becoming greener owing to the growing uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) across various passenger segments. Although the sale of EVs in the country more than doubled last year, it is important to note that the year before that had a relatively low baseline. Besides, over 90 per cent of EV sales are accounted for by two and three wheelers, and only a small fraction is attributed to four-wheelers.
There is little doubt that the EV market is poised to take off in a big way in India, although consumer responsiveness suggests otherwise. According Deloitte’s 2023 Global Automotive Consumer Study, the top five reasons that consumers opt for EVs are lower costs, improved driving experience, minimal maintenance requirement, use of the vehicle as a power source and concerns regarding climate change, in order of importance. Currently, Indian EV consumers prioritise costs and operational advantages over environmental considerations. This places a greater responsibility on EV manufacturers and service providers to meet consumer expectations and drive increased EV adoption in the future.
This article presents first-hand accounts from consumers that throw light on the current state of the EV sector in India.
First impressions: An EV road trip
I recently had the opportunity to take a long-distance road trip from Delhi to Jaipur in an EV for the first time. As a working professional in the renewables sector, I was both excited and curious to witness how the journey would unfold. In the first few hours of the trip, it became evident that the driving experience in an EV is notably smoother compared to a regular internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, with significantly reduced noise levels. However, as we progressed, the need to charge the vehicle became imminent. As a sceptical consumer, I could not help but feel nervous about what lay ahead. Our first challenge was locating an operational charging station on the highway. After locating a charging station, we discovered that it was not operational. As we moved ahead to the next charging station, we faced another setback as the charger got stuck in the EV. This led to a series of phone calls to customer service and almost an hour wasted before the charger finally detached from the car. Throughout the journey, the average stopover time for charging the car ranged from 40 minutes to 1 hour. My brief experience as an EV consumer made me realise that the concerns among potential consumers regarding charging and timely customer service are not unfounded. The sector surely has a long way to go.
Over the past few years, India’s EV sector has undergone a significant transformation. From a policy standpoint, the government has implemented several initiatives to support electric mobility across the country, including providing subsidies and tax breaks to EV buyers. In addition, the Department of Heavy Industries has approved subsidies worth Rs 100 billion under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles Phase II (FAME II) scheme to promote the use of EVs.
However, the sector is not without its challenges. These include a lack of public charging infrastructure, concerns about car performance and vehicle quality, driving range anxiety, a lack of home charging stations, safety issues, resale value uncertainty, and a general lack of information and understanding among the general public. Furthermore, the options available in the market are currently limited. As a result, consumers find themselves in a dilemma where they have the desire to purchase an EV, but are hesitant due to market constraints.
That said, the sector’s expansion is commendable. The onus now lies on the stakeholders to ensure not only the quality of the vehicles but also the quality of EV charging and related services.
By Kasvi Singh