The electric scooter market in India is expanding because of micro-mobility, a category of transportation that gained much recognition during the peak of our battle against the coronavirus. In a country whose population more or less survives on public transport, the pandemic has continued to shine a bright light on micro-mobility vehicles and the flexibility and safety that come with them. As we slowly reopen our economy and get back on our feet, the demand for electric scooters, bikes and rentals is more than ever and implies a significant impact on the automobile market. Populous countries like India are focusing on shifting their focus from mass-market offerings to advanced ones that benefit consumers and manufacturers alike.
Another important driver contributing to the growth and adoption of EVs, especially scooters and motorcycles, is the growing awareness of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution. Electric vehicles have the potential to reduce dependence on crude oil, and thereby lower the negative ecological impact caused as a result. The emissions produced by green vehicles are not harmful to human health, so embracing green transportation will only enhance an individual’s lifestyle and improve the overall quality of human life.
One other aspect that is starting to find an important place in the transportation landscape, is that of urban mobility. Urban mobility goes beyond basic commuting and includes the possibility of transport facilitating wide and timely access to education, culture, employment and leisure in a safe, swift, environmentally friendly and affordable manner. This is what makes electric scooters especially ideal for urban and semi-urban settings, where micro-mobility and urban mobility go hand in hand. Moreover, the reports support this claim by suggesting that the journeys made via vehicles for less than five kilometres are usually private.
The rate of urbanization, supporting infrastructure and government policies have collectively managed to persuade many areas into embracing micro-mobility and electric scooters, in turn bringing down ecological damage and road congestion. However, like everything else, there’s a flipside to this narrative too, and it is important to identify any challenges involved in the proliferation of electric scooters in India.
Besides the cost factor, here are two of the main reasons why the masses have shown hesitation towards the adoption of electric vehicles in general:
- Range anxiety: Even after an electric scooter’s battery is fully charged, its range is limited to 100 or 150 kilometres. Many electric scooters range is even shorter. This presents a challenge as electric scooters are competing against scooters that run on petrol. A scooter that runs on petrol has unlimited range because petrol stations are found everywhere. However, this can be tackled by using detachable portable batteries, like the ones you would find in all BGauss e-scooter models, that can be charged anywhere and don’t depend on extensive charging infrastructure or charging stations. Swappable battery packs are another solution to this problem.
- Consumer perception of early adopters: Many early adopters who wanted to own electric scooters, back in 2015 or so, ended up investing in poor quality Chinese vehicles whose make and overall quality was less than satisfactory. For this reason, some even today do not feel comfortable using electric scooters despite the technology inside them has developed considerably. Thankfully, the newest electric scooters are winning consumers over as they’re locally manufactured, assembled and tested. Moreover, they’re designed to suit local tastes and preferences. Indian-origin brand BGauss, for instance, comes from the parent group RR Global who are veterans in electrical solutions and have 13 local manufacturing facilities, and a production setup spanning over 1 million sq.ft. The brand aims to deliver premium yet affordable products that are powered by technology and innovation.
While the reasons above were from a consumer standpoint, there are some additional challenges faced by the manufacturers of these electric scooters.
- Fleet renewal and reusability
Ride-sharing platforms are also to introduce electric scooters in the Indian market. However, the introduction will also cause fleet renewal problems. While replacing the existing electric scooters with new ones, there need to be abundant scrapping or replacement policies that eliminate a majority of the expenses with respect to replacing fuel-dependent vehicles. One such measure by the government includes the Voluntary Vehicle-Fleet Modernization Program (VVMP) or “Vehicle Scrapping Policy” which is aimed at creating an Eco-System for phasing out Unfit and Polluting Vehicles”, by incentivizing it for manufacturers and owners.
- High dependence on imports
The key components of electric two-wheelers such as the battery, motor, controllers, etc. along with battery components such as Lithium, permanent magnets, cobalt are being imported to India. Hence, there is a concern relating to the import dependence, given that approximately 50% of the critical components are presently being imported into the country for production. However, a few large companies such as Panasonic, are exploring setting up a Li-ion battery module unit in India.
- Recycling and end-of-life management of batteries
The rapid adoption of EVs also means an increase in the consumption of lithium-ion batteries and the subsequent rise in the number of spent batteries that would require environmentally sound end-of-life handling. Once they begin losing their capacity, EV batteries can be managed in two ways: they can be repurposed for secondary applications or they can be sent for recycling directly and metals can be recovered from them using technology, industry experts explained. Therefore, a proper e-waste management system needs to be put in place for the correct disposal or upcycling of battery components.
The takeaway from this piece is that one cannot deny that the electric scooter market in India is expanding. However, it is prone to its fair share of challenges, ones that can be overcome with the collective cooperation of manufacturers, consumers and the government. This way, we can together push the cause further and ensure that electric scooters aren’t a short-term fad but the long term mobility solution that’s waiting to happen!