By Aditya Vivek Thota
Once, there was an idea, a vision to make India fully electric in transportation by 2030. However, now with more than ten years left to reach the target, it still seems far-fetched. I raise three important questions to understand the current scenario. How aware is the public and the consumers of Electric Vehicles and various initiatives and developments taking place in this field? How much are the automakers and various companies involved in the development of products related to Electric Vehicles aware of the actual expectations of the public? Are we working towards the development of cost-effective, consumer-friendly and efficiently marketable technology that could meet the requirements of all sectors or population?
The international market for Electric Vehicles
The market for Electric Vehicles is expanding rapidly as we talk at this moment. There were over 750 thousand sales of Electric Vehicles worldwide in the year 2016. Countries with huge populations like China were successfully able to capture a market share in Electric Vehicles. According to a report by the International Energy Agency, “In 2016, China became the country with the largest electric car stock, with about a third of the global total. With more than 200 million electric two-wheelers, 3.3 to 4 million low-speed electric vehicles (LSEVs) and more than 300 thousand electric buses.”
The scale of penetration achieved by Electric Vehicles in the transportation sector is still, however, very small and a little discouraging.
Why Electric Vehicles now?
One of the main credits for commercialisation of Electric Vehicles goes to Tesla Motors. With changing trends in the industry and environmental concerns, the inevitable end of petrol and diesel vehicles is doomed to happen. It was never a question of if, but when. With the price of Lithium batteries steadily decreasing, the price of the Electric Cars is also decreasing. The two major hurdles which can be identified in India that could inhibit widespread use of Electric Vehicles are the lack of proper public charging infrastructure for Electric Vehicle and the lack of awareness among consumers of Electric Vehicles. However, everything is set to change in days to come. NITI Aayog has, in fact, laid a roadmap for the future.
A field study on consumer perceptions
IIM Ahmedabad is undertaking a Pan-India project to understand the same and will be releasing the full report later. I recently carried out a small-scale field research regarding the same in Chennai. The target audience was the professional working population who actually constitute the decision makers of the society and can move the market trends for Electric Vehicles. The idea was to understand the travel patterns, preferences given by consumers while purchasing a new vehicle, the expectations of consumers on Electric Vehicles and finally the awareness levels of the general public.
It is interesting to note that most general consumers aren’t really calculated enough to know their exact requirements and don’t have the proper expectation of how much they are going to use their automobile for. Professionals in the marketing sectors had high travel patterns and the daily distances travelled were well above 50km.
To summarise in a single line, low cost, low maintenance and service cost, high resale value, and mileage are a few parameters that are preferred among consumers. Consumers from higher economic classes seem to prefer performance over cost.
Consumer expectations for Electric Vehicles
Consumer’s expectations are an open challenging the automobile manufacturers. One primary concern is the battery life. Low-cost battery with high durability is expected. While many aren’t really aware, the concerns over battery seem to be the main reason for not opting for Electric Vehicles. A marketing strategy emphasising on the battery parameters is sure to strike a chord with consumers and at the same time, the Research and Development departments should work towards developing more efficient battery technologies. Among the other important parameters include performance as good or better than their petrol and diesel. One noteworthy insight here the expectation of public infrastructure to support the smooth rollout of Electric Vehicles.
After spending about a month in the field study, if there was one thing that was clearly signalled, it was the fact that hardly anyone in India is aware of Electric Vehicles, various developments in this field, and the government initiatives pertaining to the same. The primary focus should now be on running campaigns and building awareness about Electric Vehicles.
Ending the fear of short battery life
How many of us know about the various charging technologies available right now? Researchers have developed special techniques called quick charge through which the battery can be charged very quickly. It is a general misconception that it takes a lot of time to charge. The distance travelled per full charge has been steadily increasing with advancements in technology. Plans are being made to provide proper public charging infrastructure as well which was thought to be a major hurdle to bring these automobiles to the market.
Featured Image Credits: Wikimedia
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