Home to one of the largest automobile markets in the world, India represents an enormous opportunity for electric vehicle (EV). Depleting oil reserves, escalating fuel prices and threatening air pollution levels have compelled governments across the globe to look at EVs as a long-term solution for a sustainable transport system. In this issue of Kolkata on WHEELS, we will tell you about the evolution of EVs, the state of the global EV market, the need for EV adoption in India, and most importantly, the cost of running an EV. Evolution of Electric Vehicles: From 1837 to the Present As the nomenclature suggests, electric vehicles (EVs) operate at least partially on electricity. As oppose to running conventionally on fossil fuel-driven internal combustion engines, these vehicles are powered by electric motors for propulsion. The electric motor in turn derives energy from rechargeable batteries, solar panels or fuel cells. It might fascinate you to know that electric cars have been around for more than a century. While flipping through the pages of historical data, it surfaced that the first known electric car dates back to 1837 and was built in Aberdeen, Scotland. The vehicle, weighing 7 tons, could carry a load of 6 tons at a speed of around 4 miles per hour over a distance of 1.5 miles and was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Society of Arts Exhibition way back in 1841. It is interesting to note that rechargeable batteries were invented in 1859 and other innovations centering around electric vehicles slowly, but steadily, started gathering steam. Back in the end of 19th century, battery-powered electric cabs started operating on the thoroughfares of New York and London. In London, for instance, Walter C. Bersey built a fleet of electric taxis, called ‘hummingbirds’, which became operational in 1897. Around the same time, the New York-based Samuel’s Electric Carriage and Wagon Company designed around 62 electric cabs. Despite its early popularity, lack of proper charging infrastructure and simultaneous improvements in road infrastructure resulted in the dwindling popularity of EVs globally in the first half of the 20th century. At the same time, with the advancements of the automobile industry, car owners were increasingly looking for vehicles with greater travelling range and higher speed than electric cars could offer at that point in time. However, by the 1960s, EVs once again began to generate interest among many leading auto manufacturers. In 1959, the American Motor Corporation entered into a joint research agreement with Sonotone Corporation to develop an electric car powered by a ‘self-charging’ battery. In the decades that followed, a number of electric car concepts were showcased in various motor shows around the globe, including the Scottish Aviation Scamp (1965), the Electrovair (1966) and the Electron (1977). In 2004, Elon Musk - founded Tesla Motors and started working on the Tesla Roadster which was the first highway-legal all-electric car running on lithium-ion batteries. Over the next decade, several automakers have joined the EV bandwagon with Tesla, Nissan, Renault, Chevrolet, Ford, Volvo and Toyota leading the race. What Is An Electric Vehicle? Positioned as the future of mobility, EVs come equipped with onboard batteries which can be charged using electricity. These batteries store and use the energy required to power a set of electric motors which propels the car forward. When fully charged, a standard electric vehicle is capable of covering a distance between 140 km to 170 km before it needs to be recharged. An important feature of electric vehicles is that it can be plugged into off-board power sources for charging. Essentially, there are two types of EVs: all-electric vehicles (AEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). AEVs can be further classified into battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Both BEVs and FCEVs are charged from the electrical grid and are usually capable of generating electricity through regenerative braking. Because these types of vehicles don’t consume fossil fuels such as petroleum, they do not produce any tailpipe emissions. On the other hand, PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) are fuelled primarily by petrol and only supplemented with battery and motor for better efficiency. In PHEVs a battery which can be plugged into the electric grid for charging is used to power an electric motor, while petrol drives the internal combustion engine. Many a times, the PHEVs utilise electricity for shorter ranges (around 9.6 to 64.3 km). Once the battery is depleted, they switch to the internal combustion engine for greater speed and range. There are also the conventional hybrids such as Toyota Prius, which is fitted with a petrol tank and also has a battery that gets charged every time the vehicle brakes. However, this category of vehicles cannot be plugged-in to recharge its battery. The Current State of the Global Electric Vehicle Market Several governments across the world are actively looking for ways to benefit from the ongoing global EV revolution. Thanks to the push from local governments and corporate, the sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28 per cent between 2018 and 2026. Here are some statistics that highlight the sector’s rising potential: (sourced from reports published by various automotive bodies)
- New registrations of electric cars clocked a record high in 2016, with over 7.5 lakh sales worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
- Norway currently boasts the most successful deployment of electric vehicles globally with a staggering 29 per cent market share; it is followed by the Netherlands at 6.4 per cent and Sweden with 3.4 per cent. Recently, Norway grabbed the headlines for setting a new world record, with electric and hybrid vehicles accounting for nearly 52 per cent of its total car sales in 2017 against 40 per cent in 2016.
- Trailing Norway on that list are China, France and the United Kingdom, all of whom have electric car market shares close to 1.5 per cent each.
- Interestingly, in the year 2016, China accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the world’s total electric car sales. In fact, if reports are anything to go by, Chinese OEMs produced 43 per cent of the 8.73 lakh EVs built worldwide in 2016 catapulting them in number one position in the electric mobility race.