Two wheeler EV market
India is home to the largest two-wheeler market in the world. It is growing exponentially, although accompanied by a disruption – the rise of EVs. As per recent research from the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), sales of electric two-wheelers in India climbed by 132% in 2021.
Owing to environmental concerns and steep hikes in the operation costs of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles, EVs have been a welcome shift in the market. This development is garnering the interest of major players and delivery service operators in the two-wheeler and EV sectors. Industry giants like Hero Electric and OLA Electric Mobility are rapidly expanding.
The expanding EV market
India has made commitments at the COP21 Summit in Paris to cut emissions by 33% to 35% by 2030. This, along with the transport sector’s dependence on imported crude oil subject to volatile prices, warrants alternate transportation modes to synchronise with fast economic growth, urbanisation, travel demand, and energy security.
The Government of India has identified EVs as a possible solution to these issues. It is in tandem with dynamic pricing, adequate technology, and support infrastructure. The central government has taken several steps to boost electric car production and usage.
Incentives and SOPs provided by different central and state government programmes are significant boosters of EV demand. FAME-II, or Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid and) Electric Cars in India, is a government incentive-based plan to subsidise the production and purchase of electric vehicles, including two-wheelers.
Battery prices are also consistently falling, making EVs more affordable. According to government statistics between January and March of 2022, 5,888 electric two-wheelers were registered. However, the availability of suitable avenues to power EVs is essential for quicker and more efficient EV adoption.
The debate today is between fixed batteries that require robust charging infrastructure and swappable batteries.
An objective view of fixed batteries for electric two-wheelers
Charging stations are the most common way for EVs to be charged. With EVs, fixed batteries provide a greater level of battery optimisation. Charging an electric two-wheeler is as easy as plugging in an appliance, and there is no need for manual effort. It is possible to set up a charger at home, and this may be the preference of the market since vehicles are a major personal asset.
Additionally, it is pertinent to note that permanent batteries are inherently more environmentally friendly than swappable ones.
However, developing the infrastructure to set up convenient charging stations in urban areas is challenging due to issues like lack of sizeable investment and space constraints. Nonetheless, attempts are constant. For example, Hero Electric has declared that it would build a total of 20,000 EV charging stations throughout India by 2022’s end, anticipating a comparable increase in consumer demand.
Even if a charging station is easily accessible, it can charge only one EV, and the process is slow. It impacts battery health, and there is also constant apprehension regarding the distance it can cover before an EV is recharged. Although some manufacturers provide rapid chargers, it still takes over an hour.
Perhaps the most significant drawback of fixed-form batteries is that they restrict technological development. This is not just with regard to different emerging chemistries, but also in terms of swapping.
Swappable batteries: Are they the future of electric two-wheelers?
Swappable batteries in electric two-wheelers are seen as a more viable and efficient alternative to fixed batteries.
Nirmala Sitharaman, the Finance Minister, announced adopting a battery swapping strategy and EV interoperability standards in her Union Budget 2022-23 address. The commercial sector was urged to create long-term, creative business models for batteries or energy as a service.
The battery swapping concept employs a battery leasing service, separating ownership of the battery and the E2W/E3W and decreasing EV users’ expenditures.
Detachment of the two-wheeler and the battery lowers the initial cost of EV purchasing and increases competitiveness. By charging it properly, swappable batteries may increase their safety and extend their life. Users do not need to be concerned about the battery’s residual value or battery degeneration. They may also continue to reap the benefits of advancements in battery technology.
In the case of possibly standardised swappable batteries, the entire cost of the batteries is reduced via centralised battery management as well as closed-loop management. After their useful life, they may be used for solar or energy storage purposes.
Since battery swapping seems to be a more practical technique, it is necessary to standardise the process, including battery form factor, connector, and communication protocols.
The FAME-II programme is designed with fixed batteries in mind. Therefore, it has to be expanded and made more flexible in terms of swapping policies.
The ISO standards for battery changing are also in the works. As each manufacturer is unique, so are all batteries. Appealing to manufacturers to adopt a common standard for developing batteries is difficult, given the constant rise in competitiveness and innovation.
Crisil published a research along the lines of India’s goal to sell 30% of all new automobiles as electric vehicles by 2030. By 2024, EVs might account for 12% to 17% of new two-wheelers sales in India.
The two-wheeler industry in the country is all set for a massive change, with EVs proving to be more energy-efficient and economically feasible. Developments within the electric two-wheeler sector, such as burgeoning advocacy for the benefits of swappable batteries over fixed batteries, are only making way for innovation and expansion.
After all, the future is electric.