The Automotive Research Association of India (Arai) has successfully tested lithium-ion batteries developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre for use in two- and three-wheelers, a development that is expected to provide a fillip to India’s electric vehicles (EV) push. The government is now planning to transfer the technology to companies for commercial production of these batteries, and will also set up a central agency to lead the country’s EV programme. This was decided at a meeting chaired by road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday. India’s initiatives on solar energy and electric vehicles are closely linked. The country plans to generate 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022. Of this, 100GW is to come from solar power projects. With storage being the next frontier for India’s clean energy push, the batteries in EVs offer a potential solution.
India’s EV programme would help with grid balancing, besides complementing the government’s push for solar power, which is generated during the day and can be stored in EV batteries. “The technology should be transferred to companies in the private or public sector or joint ventures for commercial production of batteries. Bhel (Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd) is interested, but more companies should be roped in,” a government official said, requesting anonymity. Bhel is exploring the feasibility of manufacturing cells and batteries with technology developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) for application in electric vehicles, as reported by Mint on 31 March. Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre is part of Isro.
Enthused by the market potential for EVs in India, state-owned firms such as Bhel, Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL) and NTPC Ltd are looking at new businesses catering to the space. While Bhel, India’s largest power generation equipment maker, wants to manufacture electric vehicles such as buses, cars, two-wheelers and boats, PGCIL, the power transmission utility responsible for establishing green energy transmission corridors, is considering setting up charging stations for EVs. Also, Vedanta Resources Plc is firming up its clean energy plans for India, encouraged by the opportunities offered by the country’s growing green economy. As part of the strategy, the firm is looking at developing battery storage solutions.
“The need for bringing all issues related to non-polluting vehicles under one agency was also pointed out. At present, there are multiple agencies involved,” added the official cited earlier. Experts say solar power and EVs are a great combination. “EV on a clean fuel source is a better option for India. It is very important to have an enabling provision and one agency to spearhead the programme. There should also be continuous innovation to bring the cost of battery down and enabling support for infrastructure such as charging stations. It should be available across the country within a definitive time frame in order for EVs to take off as a mass product,” said Abdul Majeed, partner and national auto practice leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Queries emailed to cabinet secretariat, ministries of road transport and highways, Isro and the department of space late on Sunday evening remained unanswered. Arai director Rashmi Urdhwareshe didn’t respond to phone calls or a text message.
The Friday meeting was also attended by cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha, road transport and highways secretary Sanjay Mitra, secretary in department of space Alur Seelin Kiran Kumar, director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre K. Sivan and Arai’s Urdhwareshe. Any shift to electric vehicles will help reduce pollution and fuel imports. India’s energy import bill is expected to double from around $150 billion to $300 billion by 2030. The government has been trying to push sales of electric vehicles and has set an ambitious target of selling six million by 2020.