Barriers Impede EV Uptake in India


MUMBAI, India – Amid worries over pollution and climate change, India is trying to speed the uptake of electric vehicles, but penetration of those vehicles is still lagging due to various challenges, an expert told an industry conference here last month.

Indias federal and state governments have launched several programs, also including some that offer incentives to promote purchases, but manufacturing and usage of EVs remains low, said Udey Dhir, managing director of VAS Tribology Solutions Pte Ltd.

Automakers such as Mahindra Electric and Tata Motors, as well as two-wheeler makers like Hero Electric, Ather Energy and Ampere, already have their electric models in the market, while many other Indian and foreign players also plan to launch EVs in India.

But India, the world’s fourth-largest automobile market, is not yet fully ready for electric vehicles due to the slow speed of EVs and lack of adequate electric charging networks, Dhir stated.

[Theres] a lack of significant infrastructure and necessary technology to support electric vehicle manufacturing. Efficient components such as high-density batteries remain a key challenge, he said at the Asia, Middle East and Africa Bitumen and Base Oil Conference, organized by Petrosil Group.

High operating expenses and long wait times at charging stations are also among the challenges marring the adaptation of EVs in Asias third-largest economy, he added.

Emphasizing the importance of EVs, Dhir said India currently imports more than 80 percent of its crude oil requirement and therefore would benefit from a shift to transportation that relies less on petroleum. The country spent U.S. $112 billion on oil imports in 2018-19, and the government expects EVs will eventually reduce that expenditure.

The government has no plans to ban petrol and diesel vehicles in the near future but will continue to push for greater use of electric vehicles with a view to cut oil imports and save the environment, Dhir stated.

Worldwide interest in EVs – hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and vehicles powered purely by battery – is growing rapidly because of climate change and the prospect of reducing operating costs.

Dhir said EVs penetration in the global market is low currently, but their demand is rising because they have lower operating costs, typically require less maintenance, are less noisy and are considered environmentally friendly. Most EV sales are in approximately a dozen markets including China, the United States, several European countries, South Korea and Japan.

Dhir said rising sales of EVs will reduce overall global lubricant demand going forward as the number of moving parts in these vehicles are significantly lower than in conventional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

The lubricants job is to remove friction and heat from moving parts, he said. Now if the number of moving parts is coming down … lubricant consumption will be less.

Demand for engine oil – which accounts for more than 80 percent of automotive lubricant consumption – will be hit hardest. EVs running just on battery dont require engine oil, while HEVs need engine oil with higher technical parameters, Dhir said. Many analysts predict that global engine oil demand will continue to grow for at least a couple decades since numbers of non-electric vehicles are expected to continue rising.

Dhir, whose company is based in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand state and provides lubrication and coolant management as well as consulting services, said new requirements for lubricants will need to be met or evaluated due to the emergence of EVs.

Dhir also predicted that lubricant consumption for railways and other modes of transport will remain flat or rise in the future.

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