Electric vehicles seem likely to be the investment opportunity of the century, given fast-paced changes in the techno-economic paradigm. We need proactive policy to rev up usage of e-vehicles, and reduce our heavy and rising dependence on crude oil imports to fuel the relatively inefficient internal combustion engine. In order to purposefully change gears and shift to e-vehicles, we need large-scale battery manufacturing capacity, which calls for focused policy attention.
A recent NITI Aayog paper lays out a roadmap to boost manufacture of batteries for e-vehicles. The potential is enormous. The paper estimates that by 2030, India could account for more than a third of the global market for such batteries. It suggests a three-stage plan, with stage one involving mainly manufacture of battery packs from imported cells; scaling up the domestic supply chain in a consortium-led approach in stage two; and end-to-end manufacturing at the final stage. The way ahead is to have upfront tax benefits and other incentives to step up research and development for batteries and e-vehicles.
The paper estimates that India’s cumulative e-vehicles battery requirement between 2017 and 2020 would be at least 120 GWh. Mere usage of e-vehicles effects mostly a spatial shift in pollution, from towns to the remote locations where coal is burned to produce power; to bring it down, we need to run e-vehicles on renewable power as well. Abroad, global majors have begun investing in solar-powered charging facilities for e-vehicles and we need to traverse that route as well. Delhi Metro has firmed up plans to draw much of its daily power requirement from the upcoming 750 MW Rewa solar park in Madhya Pradesh. We surely need similar arrangements in other dense urban centres, and especially for charging e-vehicles.