India will have a substantial base of petrol-powered cars by 2030, and not focusing on making these cleaner now will somewhat negate the positives of zero-emission electric vehicles, says Jan Roehrl, executive vice-president and chief technical officer at Bosch, global supplier of automotive technologies.
While India, one of the fastest growing auto markets, has mandated that all new vehicles should comply with BS-VI emission norms by 2020, and by 2018 in Delhi, the government should ensure that its push for an all-electric fleet by 2030 does not dissuade firms from making cleaner vehicles.
“When you think about policy, it addresses new vehicles. What about the existing ones? Take Western Europe. About 12-14 million vehicles are sold every year, but there’s a population of more than 250 million vehicles,” says Roehrl. “For every gram of CO2 emissions you reduce, it can be multiplied by a factor of 10-20 on the entire population.”
The investments needed for producing greener cars today will be substantial and have long recovery periods. Forcing firms to phase this tech out prematurely is unviable, as many will be unwilling to make the initial investments. Then, there is the problem of high cost of lithium-ion batteries and other technologies.
Roehrl suggests the government should not only force firms to improve internal combustion engines but also focus on greener fuels. Mandating that three-wheelers run on CNG is a step in the right direction but there are others, too, such as promoting synthetic fuels.
Jan Roehrl, Executive vice-president and chief technical officer at Bosch
Globally, firms began gaining knowledge of electric motors, batteries, their management systems and how to manufacture these cost-effectively via building hybrid vehicles.
Roehrl says it’s too late for India to leapfrog to e-mobility. “India already has an automobile industry. It’s a healthy one and growing. There’s an ecosystem already built for that which is now getting ready for BS-VI. You cannot ignore the system already existing, unlike in telecom where the old ecosystem was lacking, which is why India jumped to mobiles,” says Roehrl.
Mahindra is the only one to have had some history in selling e-passenger cars in India, with the e2o. While Tata, Maruti and Nissan have shown interest, they are yet to prove they can build affordable e-vehicles.
While Mahindra’s electric cars haven’t been the best received, the company says it has looked at the e2o as an investment to gather knowledge about the market and learn the technology.
Electric cars rivaling the likes of Maruti’s best-selling Swift Dzire or Hyundai’s i10 Grand might be realised in the next decade, but the technology to electrify small two- and three-wheelers can be realised sooner. It’s a bet Bosch is taking in India, and while the company already has solutions to electrify larger passenger vehicles, it’s not bringing them here yet.
Bosch had announced it was working on a modular electrification system for two- and three-wheelers that would include the battery, motor, control unit and even a connected dashboard. The product would be ready to ship in the next 12 months and customised for Indian conditions.