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Electric Vehicles in India: Tackling the challenges

September 9 marks World Electric Vehicle Day and the start of the G20 Summit in India. Climate change is an alarming issue that concerns nations. Both developing and developed nations are taking action to reduce air pollution. During the G20 summit, leaders will discuss the energy transition to low-carbon alternatives which indicates towards adoption of Electric Vehicles for public transportation and personal use as one of the crucial measures to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In the recent past, India has taken several steps to reduce pollution such as the “Odd-even scheme” in Delhi and “Less Traffic Day” in Karnataka. The introduction and push to adopt electric vehicles, especially for public transport has been a decision in the right direction. The advantages of electric vehicles overshadow their adoption struggles. 

For a developing country like India, it is a pivotal moment as it should essentially focus on eradicating the adoption struggles related to EVs. Additionally, the use of electric vehicles increases its requisites for proper disposal, recycling, and reuse of batteries, which if not handled correctly can severely impact the environment. Rampant increase in EVs also puts a burden on the electricity demand as well as requires Electric Vehicle Supply Equipments (EVSP).

According to Sharif Qamar, Associate Director, TERI, “The pace of electrification has increased significantly in the last few years. We are looking at a second consecutive year when the EV sales will clock the one million-plus mark. Some of the recurring challenges include low penetration and up-time of charging infrastructure and higher upfront cost of EVs. The consumer anxiety related to range is more or less addressed as OEMs continue to launch high-range EV models along with fast-charging options.”

Management of battery waste

Different types of electric vehicles such as two-wheelers, four-wheelers, e-rickshaws, e-buses, etc. use distinct batteries such as Lithium-ion batteries (LIB) and Lithium iron phosphate batteries. Lithium mining is a costly affair and requires 5,000 gallons of water to extract one ton of lithium. 

After the battery’s shelf life is over proper measures should be adopted in order to recycle or reuse it without negatively impacting the environment. 
“Batteries with a State of Health (SoH) of 80% and above are accepted for use in electric vehicles, which is often termed as the first life of the batteries. The second life of batteries, with SoH between 20% and 80%, is deployed for multiple use cases from energy storage to telecom services. Therefore, the ‘shelf life’ of batteries is significantly higher than often perceived.”

India’s EV sales are an admirable feat, From only 1,70,812 EV sales in FY2020 an upward-moving trend has been recorded. In FY2023 total EV sales accounted for 12,47,120 with a 174% YoY sales increase according a research conducted by JMK.

“The Government of India has already notified battery recycling guidelines as per the Battery Waste Management (BWM) Rules 2022. The rules cover all types of batteries, including electric vehicle batteries, portable batteries, automotive batteries, and industrial batteries. The BWM Rules also talk about extended producer responsibility, where the manufacturers are entrusted with the job of scientifically disposing/recycling the batteries.”

Does EV adoption lead to a burden on the power supply?

Before buying an EV a major concern that arises is a lack of power and charging infrastructure across India. The availability of public charging stations for EVs should be as easy to access as petrol pumps. As per 2021 data the busiest highway in the country, the Mumba-Pune expressway had just one charging station.

“Moreover, since 70-75% of the expenses of electricity distribution companies comprise the power purchase cost, this should encourage utilities to adopt coordinated-charge scheduling schemes for EVs in order to maximize their revenues. We should see this more as an opportunity, including improvement in local air quality, rather than a problem.”

TERI conducted research “ study on the impact of EV adoption on grid or electricity load stability in Delhi” according to which the load factor in the system could improve significantly in case of a coordinated charging scenario which results in a higher degree of uniformity in the distribution of load across a given day.

Despite the rising demand and growing production of EVs in India, it is imperative to address the barriers to the potential growth. up-time of charging infrastructure, range anxiety, higher upfront cost of EVs, high cost of EVs as compared to fuel vehicles, and lack of charging infrastructures are some of the challenges that lie ahead of India’s EV market. A step towards introducing a battery passport which the European Union recently passed legislation on can enhance transparency in battery manufacturing, its use, and disposal. By tackling these problems India can achieve its goal of having zero emissions by 2070.

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