Text: J Srikant

The scene of road transport is changing around the world. From being dependent on IC engines, there is a palpable shift towards hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. But the change is taking effect with varying degrees in countries across the globe. While some countries have taken to the alternative mode of transport with relative ease, a few including India are still just testing the waters in the vast ocean of opportunity that the hybrid and electric vehicle market represents.

To give an insight into this, Auto Components Manufacturers Association (ACMA) along with Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) recently held the second National Conference on Sustainable E-mobility in New Delhi. “The auto component manufacturers are yet to gain traction in pursuing business opportunities in this sector because of lack of visibility, volume projections, and incentives to capitalise on this new business opportunity,” said Deepak Jain, Chairman – Sustainable Technology Development Committee, ACMA & Managing Director, Lumax Industries. Only a few component manufacturers understand the true state of EV development. “We need to develop communication strategies to increase awareness as long as majority of component manufacturers consider the EV to be tomorrow’s technology.”

ACMA President Harish Lakshman said that while on the one hand auto component makers have to be prepared to think beyond the IC engines and new diesel technology, on the other hand they also need to know and understand the localisation plans of the OEMs, and also the kind of technology they are looking for from Indian suppliers. ACMA has also suggested fiscal incentives for the component industry in this regard so that they could acquire requisite technology and focus on R&D to meet global expectations.

India is a market with different modes of transport and electric mobility solutions developed for other countries may not be directly applicable to India. Dr Rao Chalasani, Chairman, Frontier Technology Group, SIAM, said though the share of passenger cars in energy consumption will increase by 2020, there will still be a significant share of 2-wheelers and buses, and therefore a solution centred on 4-wheelers will not solve the energy deficiency problem for India.

The main challenges for the growth in demand for electric vehicles in India, which were pinpointed by various speakers at the conference, included lack of infrastructure and high acquisition price. Bringing good news to the automotive industry, Ambuj Sharma, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Heavy Industries (MOHI), said that government is ready with the scheme for electric mobility, which is in the final stages of approval, and will focus on both market creation and localised manufacturing capability for hybrid and electric vehicles.

For the plan period till 2017, the ministry plans to spend around $400 million, major chunk of which is already with them. The government has already set up one centre of excellence on motors and is planning to set up another two or three on battery and battery management systems. The penetration level of xEVs, which includes hybrid and pure electric vehicles, is expected to reach 6 – 7 million.

Michael Poznanski Eisenschmidt, Director-Technical, Volkswagen said there is a big need for infrastructure to grow in India, and till that comes up, other initiatives will not bear fruit. The conference had two sessions, one on ‘Collaborative Innovation’ and the second named ‘Road to Commercialisation,’ with a panel discussion on ‘Growth of e-mobility – opportunity and action.’

The sessions included talks by eminent speakers such as Dr A.K Jindal, Head – Engineering (Commercial Vehicle), Tata Motors; Dr Wilfried G Aulbur, Managing Partner, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants; Vikas Marwah, Chief Marketing Officer, Sona Koyo Steering Systems, Prof Satish Kailas, Indian Institute of Science; Rashmi Urdhwareshe, Director ARAI and Sajid Mubashir, Member – R&D (NAB), MOHI. The key point to emerge out of the talks was that there is a huge dearth of components for electric vehicles in India because of which OEMs are hard pressed to import items, thus unable to reduce the price of the vehicle. Component makers should start working more with global OEMs for technology transfer. Aulbur said that localisation is the only way to reduce cost and OEMs should move from worldwide presence to worldwide integration.


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