Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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India’s automotive sector stands on the cusp of a revolution, as the government, auto manufacturers, and buyers all have an eye on electric mobility solutions that are not as far off into the future as you may think. But whether you’re considering buying an Electric Vehicle (EV) for its low maintenance and running costs, green credentials,
or high-tech nature, it’s not a decision to be taken easily. After all, buying a car is still a momentous occasion for any household, even if our per capita income has gone up over decades past.

Up-front costs

Let’s address the biggest elephant in the room; sticker shock. EV’s will one day be commonplace, but until then, they’re jostling for place on the proverbial store shelf alongside more conventional cousins that run on Internal Combustion Engines (ICE).

To compare apples to apples, Tata’s capable Nexon is priced from `6.99 lakh (ex-showroom), but its electric cousin boasts a price tag of starting at ₹13.99 lakh (again, ex-showroom). And so while you’re most definitely future-proofing yourself by buying an EV over ICE variants of the same car, the upfront cost is quite a stretch.

But then, there are upsides to this too, such as…

Low maintenance and running costs

Maintenance costs on an EV are significantly lower than that of a conventional vehicle since there are much fewer parts in the mix. Costs associated with the engine, fluids, and filters go out the window, and that’s before you even consider running costs by itself. Even as diesel and petrol prices have soared northward over the course of this year, electric cars can be run at substantially lower prices.

Let’s again take the example of the Nexon EV we mentioned earlier. Considering a cost of electricity of ₹10 for 1 kWh (you might be enjoying cheaper electricity, so substitute that cost with your electricity tariff), it costs just a little more than ₹300 to fully charge the Nexon’s 30.2 kWh battery. Assuming a 200 KM real world range (as against the rated 312 KM range), we get a per kilometer running cost of a measly ₹1.5 per kilometer, very
conservatively.

And remember, as EVs become more commonplace, larger batteries will too, leading to more reasonable prices to “refuel” and run the car than these already meager costs. There is, however, a fly in the ointment…

Charging infrastructure

While the charging infrastructure is improving all the time, it is still in a nascent stage. Even in India’s metro cities, the infrastructure simply doesn’t fully exist, and is being created even as we speak. Head into India’s hinterland or out on the highway, and that becomes even more sparse. And don’t for a moment think it’s just a simple case of plug and play; you can charge an EV using a standard wall socket, but it’ll be like filling a bucket one drop at a time. Possible, but painfully slow.

Globally, 70% of EVs are charged at homes and offices using AC slow charging, and India can expect to do likewise. Faster DC chargers can be part of public charging networks in urban and highway areas, which suffices
most use cases as EVs can easily do the home-office commute, being topped off every other day as need be.

Range anxiety is a real concern for those highway trips though, although one can expect this to change in years to come as an enabling ecosystem starts to be created. Until then, it’s a case of…

Kitna deti hai

Back in the day, Maruti carried out a memorable campaign with ‘kitna deti hai’ as the catchphrase, highlighting the fuel efficiency of its vehicles, and capturing the public imagination. With EVs, it’s more a case of ‘kitna chalti hai’ since range anxiety is the bigger concern on account of limited infrastructure. While ICE vehicles might cost more to run, they will run longer; a 40 liter tank will still give you a 600 kilometer range at 15 kilometers to the liter, a range that most EVs simply can’t match. For now.

So, should you get an EV?

Your requirements will dictate the answer to this question. Are you primarily a city dweller, or have other vehicles at home to take out when the EV is running low on “fuel”, or for when you need to make a long distance trip? If so, getting an EV would make a lot of sense for city use. Sure, it’s new and exciting tech, but as mass adoption increases and costs decrease, it will lead to an increase in the availability of charging infrastructure. There’s a lot in the offing on the electric mobility front, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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