Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. sees energy storage costs in India becoming affordable in about three-four years, leading to a surge in the use of green technologies including electric vehicles (EVs). The Indian customer is the most value-for-money driven customer and by 2020-21 storage costs are going to become affordable, Manoj Kohli, executive chairman of SB Energy Corp., said at the EmTech India event on Thursday. SB Energy is a joint venture of SoftBank Group, Bharti Enterprises Ltd and Foxconn Technology Group. “By affordable, (I mean) there is a threshold of Re1 per kilowatt hour. After 2020, solar and wind will have technology and infrastructure to become 24×7, which I believe will be changing the future course of the energy sector,” said Kohli.
“Another point is the inflection of EVs over diesel and petrol cars,” he added. “I think in the next three years, EVs will become far more transformational, it will not only be at the top end of the market, it will be in the mid end of the market and the lower end of the market.” At present EV sales in India are lower as compared to some other parts of the world. EV sales in the country rose 37.5% to 22,000 units in the year ended 31 March 2016, from 16,000 in 2014-15. Of these only 2,000 were cars and other four-wheelers. The government wants to see six million electric and hybrid vehicles on Indian roads by 2020 under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles (FAME). It has been offering subsidies on electric and hybrid vehicles of up to Rs29,000 for bikes and Rs1.38 lakh for cars under FAME, but the plan is to make the scheme economically viable on its own.
“Storage is an important part of EVs. I believe about 50% of the cost of an EV is storage battery. With the coming together of technology and scale, prices of renewable and prices of EVs will come down,” added Kohli. To be sure, India is in the process of formulating a comprehensive policy towards building an all-electric fleet by 2030. Mint on Tuesday reported that road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, heavy industries minister Anant Geete, environment minister Anil Dave, and minister for power, coal, new and renewable energy, and mines Piyush Goyal are expected to attend a meeting to be chaired by finance minister Arun Jaitley to discuss the policy. The effort is being driven by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Any shift to EVs will help reduce pollutants and fuel imports. This assumes significance given India’s energy import bill of around $150 billion, which is expected to reach $300 billion by 2030. India imports around 80% of its oil and 18% of its natural gas requirements. The country imported 202 million tonnes of oil in 2015-16. Citing the example of the telecom industry, Kohli said that if the price of a handset can be brought below Rs1,000, there is no reason a similar thing will not happen in the EV space. “That (drop in price of handsets) happened with technology and scale,” he said. Another area of importance for SoftBank is the Internet of Things (IoT). “It is very clear, in the next 10-15 years every person will have 1,000 devices connected to him and her. And that will be a huge change. Together, all these three things starting from renewable energy, EV and IoT… SoftBank is on the intersection of all these three major transformations across the world,” he added.