EV Trends: Three - Wheelers,The Shining Star In The Indian EV Story

Akshay Kashyap, Founder & Managing Director, GreenFuel Energy Solutions GreenFuel Energy Solutions is one of the largest suppliers of automotive components to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)for vehicles that run on alternate gaseous fuels.

while envisioning future trends for the electric vehicle market in India, it is the often overlooked three-wheeler segment that I see as being the shining star with the potential to take the market by storm.

In sheer size, the potential in this market is vast. Approximately 78 percent of all vehicles sold in the country is two and three wheelers. In addition, government policy has prioritized this segment for the overall transformation of the auto sector towards emissions free transportation. The next three years will be crucial for the industry, with the three-wheeler segment likely to take the lead in gathering impetus for the industry as a whole.

The three-wheeler segment is divided into e-rickshaws (passenger carriers)serving last mile passenger connectivity and L-5 three wheelers (utility carriers) with motors up to 5kw serving mainly cargo and logistics for last mile connectivity.

A panel led by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant has recommended a complete switch to electric three-wheelers in a phased manner, starting from April 2023.The government is also committed to encouraging a rapid transition to electric vehicles through the adoption of a comprehensive scrapping policy and the ‘polluter pays’ model. The steering committee on transformative mobility has also proposed doubling the subsidy for electric three wheelers under the FAME II scheme to bring parity in the initial prices of electric three wheelers and Internal Combustion Engine(ICE)three wheelers.

At the state level, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Kerala have adopted pro-e-mobility policies to reduce the impact of emissions
from gas fuel based vehicles. Across the board the impetus to transition to electric mobility is likely to be led by the two and three wheeler segments.

Cost drives energy markets. Clean energy storage systems have gained momentum as technologies have advanced and manufacturing costs have dropped particularly for lithium-ion batteries. Lithiumion battery costs declined by 85 percent between 2010 and 2018 and are forecast to decline by another 50 percent by 2030 according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with major implications for the utility and electric vehicle market.

The three-wheeler segment is divided into e-rickshaws(passenger carriers) servinglast mile passenger connectivity, and L-5 three wheelers (utility carriers) with motors up to 5kw serving mainly cargo and logistics for last-mile connectivity

Currently in India, while drivers of e-rickshaws make decent returns, their profit potential is inhibited by lead acid battery technology that allows them to mostly run only single shifts, leading to reduced earnings. Here the creation of a battery swapping ecosystem is an excellent solution. A battery swapping (or switching) station is a place at which a vehicle's discharged battery pack can be immediately swapped for a fully charged one, eliminating the delay involved in waiting for the vehicle's battery to charge. A battery swapping system also eliminates the requirement for heavy investment in infrastructure, while instead giving rise to micro entrepreneurs. This way drivers' earnings also go up he pays daily and does not have to bear upfront costs.

The adoption of well-engineered Lithium Ion technology in place of outdated Lead Acid battery technology will also increase profitability. The availability of reasonable organized financing for this sector is the need of the hour as the initial cost of acquisition of Li-ion batteries is a deterrent to move towards this technology.

Based on battery type the electric three wheeler market can be broadly divided into Lithium Ion and Lead Acid. At present the electric three wheeler market is dominated by Chinese products utilizing lead acid battery technology that does not make the mark in terms of quality and further are not backed by standard after sales service support or warranties. Sadly in India this is being ignored, and cheap products from China are being imported and assembled without consideration for engineering and safety. This can derail the EV story.

In all of the above, the key component is high standard battery technology as a requisite for predictable battery life and performance for the right kind of returns to the end user. Today Li-ion is the best known technology however within that, for EVs we believe NMC chemistry is especially suitable for swapping due to its significantly lower weight. However using such technology requires high levels of engineering to ensure safety reliability, and performance, which is why Lithium-Ion battery packs specially engineered and tested for Indian conditions can effectively partner and service both the E-rickshaw and L-5 markets.