- Category: Indian News
- Published on Friday, 08 February 2013 15:45
- Written by Tejas Joseph
- Hits: 256
Continuing the second and final part of our analysis of the Indian LEV market's poor showing.
Energy crisis in Indian states
In an ironic twist,the surge in fuel prices acros the nation was accompanied by severe energy shortfalls in many Indian states. In the absence of a public charging infrastructure this development seems to have negatively affected the ebike/scooter market. In the case of Tamil Nadu,one of the largest states in southern India and home to one of the country's largest bicycle and electric scooter makers, the power crisis in the different cities of the state was so severe as to visibly dent the ebike market there according to industry reports. Potential electric scooter buyers were thwarted by the 8-12 hour/day power outages experienced in many parts of the state from mid 2012 on.
Bad roads as a market dampener
Again, in contrast to China and the developed nations, the relatively poor condition of Indian roads is not congenial to delicate electric two wheelers. Small town roads and those in rural areas are pot holed and bumpy for the most part. Electric scooters in particular with their small wheels and low carriages find it hard to negotiate deep pot holes and high speed breakers.
Innovation is the key: Designing for rural India has potential
Interestingly those manufacturers who decided to adress these issues (through larger wheel bases and toughened shock absorbers for e.g) are managing to attract a dedicated market proving the point that one size does not fit all. Makers of electric two wheelers in India may have to consider a variety of local factors and conditions in product-building if they are to be sucessful. The electric two wheeler market here is not a readily definable one, nor can it be appeased easily with standard offerings designed in other parts of the world it looks like.
The future, in our estimate, belongs to electric bike and cycle makers who decide to service a semi urban-rural market, which is both huge and challenging. This breed (tiny as of now) of insightful ev manufacturer will be one who deeply understands the needs of this market segment that has to deal with bad roads, power failures and a host of other conditions that make up the daily reality of an Indian motorist. These new markets respond best to product customisation and innovation. Such an approach,in our view, holds the potential to open a new ev chapter for India.
Some Factoids from the current Indian electric scooter/bike industry and market
>. The market for electric scooters/bikes is visibly showing signs of shrinking. An estimated 35,000 units were sold during 2010-2011, which rose to 45,000 units for the following period 2011-2012. The recent revocation of subsidies,debilitating power cuts and increased ownership costs project the market at no more than 20,000 units for the coming period of 2012-2013. This is surely indicative of a critical market downturn.
>. This market can expand to a staggering 100,000 units in about 3 years if the subsidies are reintroduced and a national ev policy is ratified with benefits to both manufacturers and users,says the industry.
>. The current production capacity of Indian electric scooter/bike manufacturers is underutilised owing to a non-responsive market.
>. Upto 60% of vehicle components are being developed and manufactured indigenously,including batteries. This is a significant improvement from two years ago. However,motors and controllers are still being imported by the industry from China owing to cost advantages. The industry has also not made any major R&D breakthroughs either.
>. Good technology - efficent high speed motor controllers and good battery life and range- is absolutely necessary to revive and sustain the electric scooter/bike market.
>. Poor sales have deterred new entrants into the market in recent years. Falling market shares have also caused a revisioning of market policies and future plans for the big players.
>. The most notable players in the electric scooter, bike and cycle segment in India with brand loyalty and product credibility are Hero Electric, BSA, ElectroTherm and Ampere.
Forecast for the future
The question is how long will their leadership continue? In our opinion brand names and reputations have limited influence if they are not complemented with the power of innovation and adaptation to Indian market realities. Governmental support is also a critical factor in the mix serving to decide if India will be ready for the next revolution in transportation when it comes.
- Category: Indian News
- Published on Friday, 01 February 2013 07:30
- Written by Tejas Joseph
- Hits: 331
Electric two wheelers in India losing markets and public faith.
Contrary to expectations and projections the market for electric two wheelers - or light electric vehicles (LEVs) consisting of electric scooters,bikes and cycles as a category – in India has not been very dynamic these last two years. Galloping inflation in the country alarmingly accelerated fuel prices since 2010. It was one peg upon which ev makers of all persuasions hung their hopeful hats on, assuming it would turn the tide in favor of electric transportation options. Sadly though it has not been the case.
EvFuture spoke to some leaders in the industry to understand the reasons for this downturn. We provide an analysis of some critical factors and an outlook for the future of the LEV market in India.
High costs of ownership
When compared to conventional (4stroke IC ) motorbikes, electric scooters and bikes are still expensive to own and run. Even though petrol prices keep steadily going up, the vast majority of IC motorbikes on Indian roads are still turning out decent mileage for their owners at the end of the day. Electric scooter/bike/ cycle owners on the other hand have to deal with frequent battery breakdowns and replacements,which eat away whatever gains they may have made on not buying fuel like their non-electric counterparts. The pull-back of government subsidies on electric two wheelers in mid 2012 has further added to cost burdens. In short, electric scooters and bikes are not offering the purported economic advantages that they tout.
1st Generation ev technologies
Battery quality has always been suspect in electric vehicles in general.It is particularly true for electric scooters/bikes/cycles in India. These LEVs are mostly all running with first generation lead acid- based battery technology imported from China*. They are notorious for their high costs, recurrent problems and short lifespans. A transition to high quality,long life and environment friendly batteries is imperative if serious customer interest in electric two wheelers in India is to be revived again.
* Interestingly, India is now where China was in 2002 in terms of electric vehicle technology status.
Poor after sales service has always been the bane of the LEV market from the start.The Indian motoring public are new to electric vehicles and not very knowledgeable about this medium– their technology,problems,maintenance and spares. With the exception of a handful (the oldest and biggest players) few others offer reliable after sales service support. This lapse, along with the poor quality of batteries, are two of the biggest factors leading to an erosion in customer confidence and loyalty for electric two wheelers since their introduction almost a decade ago.
In marked contrast to China (where the administration is popularising electric vehicle use through policy and promotion), India is unaccountably indifferent on this matter. No worthwhile program has emerged these last two years offering support to the industry or stimulating the market through incentives for the public. A subsidy on electric scooters ( introduced in 2010) has been revoked. It is estimated by the industry that incentives (like subsidies) can positively impact the market. A national policy for electric vehicles is still under discussion. Industry and market watchers believe that there can be no significant up-turns for electric vehicles until proactive policies are passed.Governments play a critical role in nurturing new technologies to maturity. China and many European nations are actively fostering electric vehicles through creating a preferential environment for them through supportive policies and incentives. India is singularly lacking in such visionary thinking to its own detriment.
To be continued
- Category: World News
- Published on Saturday, 22 December 2012 07:58
- Written by Tejas Joseph
- Hits: 330
The story of Denmark
Continuing our story on how favorable policies and committed government support can usher in changes, we turn our attention to Denmark, a country gripped by green concerns as much as by future transportation technologies.
Movia is the largest public transport company in Denmark. Together with BYD Europe they have introduced a small fleet of full sized pure electric buses to service commuters in Copenhagen, which has set itself the ambitious goal of becoming the world's first zero-emission capital by 2025.
The Transport Minister of Denmark, Henrik Dam Kristensen, is very supportive of the project.The electric buses provided by BYD is part of a project being carried out in cooperation with the Municipality of Copenhagen, DONG Energy, City-Trafik and Arriva. They will go on trial service on different passenger routes and loads in Copenhagen for two years.
According to Dorthe Nøhr Pedersen, CEO of Movia , "Movia's buses currently plying in the trial neighborhoods consume around 50 million litres of diesel fuel per year. The introduction of the BYD electric buses in these trial zones allows for significant improvements to the environment and overall noise levels. If BYD's buses can meet our requirements for reliability while simultaneously lessening environmental impact, we will consider introducing more of them"
Electric Buses and zero pollution
Electric buses can significantly bring down CO2, NOx and particulate air matter levels in cities as they give off no such emissions. They can also significantly reduce noise levels and are cheaper and easier to maintain. To highlight this Yongping Chen, the business director of BYD says "Our electric buses have proven that it not only reduces pollution and noise in large cities significantly, but it has also greatly reduced operating expenses when compared with natural-gas and diesel run buses."
The BYD electric bus is full sized (12m long) and able to go 250 km (155 miles) on a single charge in urban conditions. The Fe (Iron Phosphate) battery fitted in the BYD electric bus boasts the highest safety, longest service life and most environment-friendly rechargeable chemistry as it contains no heavy metals or toxic electrolytes. BYD electric buses are now in regular passenger service in several cities in China, Europe and North America, putting BYD in the big league of electric bus makers in the world along with Volvo and Bombardier.
The accumulated mileage reached by BYD electric buses worldwide at the end of May 2012 was an impressive 7 million kilometers (or 4.35 million miles).
Fallouts and adoptions
Such national programs of support for buses and other clean industrial and commercial vehicles is resulting in faster cycles of viability and adoption and the sectoral changes that these (in their turn) drive. Airports are introducing ever tougher pollution restrictions.
Lead acid batteries (that power most Ground Support Equipment (GSE) vehicles now) are being increasingly overlooked in favor of Lithium-ion batteries and super-capacitors,which could become the next generation of preferred storage devices for electric vehicles owing to their reduced pollution indexes and recycling potential.
Amongst electric bus makers there rages a debate over which is more market viable – pure electrics or hybrids? Volvo,another giant electric bus maker, is also inclined towards hybrids in a big way. Bombardier,on the other hand,feel that it will focus on electrics more since it is the future. It does not see the need to continue to perpetuate the intermediate 'hybrid' stage as the technologies for pure electric buses and other commercial vehicles (like trucks) keep getting better.
Sadly, there is no parallel to this frenzy of innovation and adaptation in the car industry!.