Indian EVs Await Government Support, But Some Owners Are Already Happy With Their Cars
Vinay Kumar works in complete customer care for Mahindra Reva Electric Cars PVT Ltd., so naturally he drives a battery-electric vehicle. He recently spoke to PluginCars.com about the experience of owning an electric vehicle in India.
While there isn’t a great deal of government support for electric vehicle owners in the South Asian nation and the charging infrastructure is limited, owning an electric vehicle in India offers significant savings compared to a gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle, he said.
Kumar also drives a battery-electric vehicle to reduce his carbon footprint, he said.
More government support seems to be on the way in the next few years as the national government has adopted a plan to aggressively boost EV ownership in India. Meanwhile, Kumar has managed to take a number of long-distance trips in his battery-electric vehicle.
While you might expect someone who works for the manufacturer to drive the most current electric vehicle his company offers, Kumar, 34, in fact drives a 2007 model-year Mahindra REVAi, not the more advanced E2O pure electric vehicle Mahindra Reva launched in March of 2013. “Since I am serving customers I do not want to go for a new model unless all the old models are no more used,” Kumar told PluginCars.
The REVAi first went on sale in India in 2001, and about 4,600 units have been sold worldwide since then. The REVA is sold in the United Kingdom as the G-Wiz. Of those total sales, about 55 percent were in India, said Kumar. Of the India sales, 40 percent were in Bangalore province, where Mahindra Reva is based, he said.
His REVAi gets about 70 kilometers (43 miles) per charge, and Kumar recharges at home and work. His total commute is about 60 kilometers. He also owns a diesel-powered vehicle. At work Kumar uses a wall mount to recharge, while at home he uses a common 3-point plug with a protection circuit. India’s electricity is 230V 16 Amp 50Hz, said Kumar.
It costs up to 80 percent less to fuel a battery-electric vehicle in India compared to a gas or diesel-powered vehicle, said Kumar. India lacks a public charging infrastructure. Mahindra Reva has installed about 250 charging posts for REVA owners nationwide, he said. They charge at 230V 16A and there is currently no faster charging option for the REVA, said Kumar.
Kumar has taken a number of cross-country trips in his REVA to check the availability of charging. The longest trip was a 3,400 kilometer (2,113 miles), 21-day trek from Chennai to New Delhi. Though he did have problems recharging at some points, “I could charge [the] car at all times and process according to the timetable prepared,” said Kumar.
The places he recharged included hotels, fuel stations, tire repair shops and the like. Hotels did not charge for the electricity if his team was staying there, he said. Other places charged three times the power consumed. “Some people don’t charge if we give a test drive for them,” said Kumar.
Waiting for Government Support
Currently there is almost no government support to encourage EV ownership in India, and EV ownership and awareness is low. The federal government halted a subsidy program in 2012, said Kumar.
In August of 2012, however, the national government announced the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020. The plan targets six to seven million electrified vehicles on the road by 2020, including hybrids. That will require up to $4 billion in investment, the government figured, with just over half coming from the government and the rest from industry. Incentives are set to begin in 2014.
The best way to boost EV ownership in India would be for the government to make it mandatory for 5 percent of vehicle registrations annually to be battery-electric vehicles, said Kumar. It should also provide a 20 percent upfront subsidy to buyers and announce a nationwide strategy for expanding public and workplace charging, he said.
Meanwhile, public knowledge in India of electric vehicles is low, said Kumar. The media covers EV-related stories when Mahindra Reva asks it to, but Indian consumers know little about the financial or economic benefits of EV ownership, he said. He figures that awareness of the benefits of electric vehicle ownership will rise along with fuel prices in the coming years.
“Since fuel costs are rising every quarter in the year, it is becoming difficult for people to purchase fuel and use [the] vehicle to their needs in daily life,” said Kumar. “If one will start using an EV, then his expenditure when compared to fuel car will be one-fourth on a daily base per kilometer driving.”
A New Model and an Owner’s Perspective
Despite slow sales of its first EV model, Mahindra Reva launched a new battery-electric vehicle model, the E2O, in March of 2013. It has sold about 350 E2O units since then. “Consumers are waiting for a subsidy from [the] Indian Government so there will be [a] price reduction by 18-20 percent,” said Kumar. The government has said those subsidies will be rolled out in April 2014 as part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.
The E2O has a range of about 100 kilometers (62 miles), regenerative braking, and a reserve power function that can be activated by calling Mahindra Reva’s call center via smart phone. The model has a connected car function that allows owners to view state of charge and remaining range using a smart phone or laptop. It comes with a wall mounted charging unit and in the first quarter of 2015 Mahindra Reva will also offer a fast-charging option for the E2O, said Kumar.
One E2O owner is working to spread the gospel of EV ownership in India. Kamlesh Mallick, who works in the IT industry, bought an E2O a few months ago. It is the first car he has ever owned. He also founded the website pluginindia.com and blogs about his E2O ownership experience.
Mallick lives in Pune, about 800 miles from Bangalore. He sees only two or three electric vehicles on the road each month in his area, he told PluginCars. Mallick recharges at his apartment using a 15amp, 230V socket and travels about 1000 km each month at a total cost of about $8.00.
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