Designing For Electric Mobility

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Designing For Electric Mobility

Raphae Halim
This post was updated on .
This is a conversation that started between National Institute Of Design (URL: http://www.nid.edu/) students: Amey Hundre, Ankit Patil, and Samarjitsinh Waghela and PlugInIndia Partners and EV community members: Farah Halim, Abhishek Uchill, and Raphae Halim.

The students are in their 2nd year of their degree course and wanted to know about how electric vehicles (EVs) are being used in India. Since we are avid enthusiasts and owners we decided to plunge in and answer to the best of our knowledge.

Here are the questions:

Q1. Can you share with us, if there are, any pilot project initiatives like a township, where EV mobility infra is being implemented fairly, and is successful?

Q2. Did you find any new service networks that develop around these townships? Like battery dealers, EV dealership, Solar farms, wind farms, etc?

Q3. Based on your observations, who have been the early adopters of EV? Has there been a change in the persona of buyer over years?

Q4. How easy or difficult it is, based on your experience so far, the adoption of EV as a privately owned vehicle for a typical India family? Like for e.g. for a mid-income family who's dream is to own a compact family car, would he easily think of EV as a option today, or is he skeptical?

Q5. What bothers more for a customer when he/she thinks of buying an EV?

Q6. Considering the volume sale of EVs, how do you find the viability of EV dealership? Do the dealerships sustain to retain the support to customers, or they find a hard time, if yes, why?

Q7. Do you see EVs more in public transport (shared e-rickshaws, buses), commercial (goods transport, logistics chain) or private transport (cars, bikes, mopeds) in near future?

Q8. How successful do you think is NEMMP mission? (http://dhi.nic.in/UserView/index?mid=1347) Are they putting enough effort in promoting EV? Or you think some facets get missed out?

Right guys start replying to this thread and let's document this discussion. Others who were not part of the video / voice conference can also answer... All answers are welcome!

Regards! - Raphae (PlugInIndia)
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

Raphae Halim
This post was updated on .
Q1. Can you share with us, if there are, any pilot project initiatives like a township, where EV mobility infra is being implemented fairly, and is successful?

A1 - Abhishek: This could have been Lavasa. Mahindra had setup a charge point there but due to some disagreement in the management about who would maintain it it was discontinued. However we can still go there and charge.

A1 - Raphae: This was Bengaluru. The REVA factory that was setup there put up about 100 charge points across the city. However sales did not pick up and most of them fell into disrepair. However there are still many of them functional. But as such other than companies that use these EVs for business (taxi, delivery, etc.) we do not know of any EV enabled smart townships. This would be a great way to buffer the existing grid. Image the smart quick chargers have batteries, and the vehicles themselves are batteries with computers on wheels... Together they could link in to the grid and provide power in peak times and even supplement the otherwise "un-reliable" solar and wind systems.
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

Raphae Halim
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Q2. Did you find any new service networks that develop around these townships? Like battery dealers, EV dealership, Solar farms, wind farms, etc?

A2 - Raphae: In india we have a very limited view since the penetration is so low but we did have one opportunity that did not develop due to lack of frequent EV passengers in Khandala. One of the first charge points we setup was on the old Mumbai-Pune Highway at Khandala. This is a beautiful spot and there was even a "Duke's Retreat" resort nearby. However this was way off the busy highway and took an extra few kilometres to get there because one had to leave the new express way, take a bypass, and the way back also was also a detour. Though some peaceful souls like my wife and I loved it others who wanted to do a quick Mumbai-Pune did not. Also his rates were high. This was actually an automobile garage and so he could help with air, and other servicing too. He also had a chikki shop and told us that if we could guarantee him INR 2,500/- a day he would put up toilets, and seats, and go the whole nine yards... We could have setup merchandise shop and sold EV related accessories too. A place to have people gather to discuss EVs & Clean Tech. A midway halt between Mumbai and Pune for both communities to meet. But nothing worked out due to low frequency of "relaxed" travellers. ;-) Basically since charging EVs requires a small halt anything you can do in that waiting period can become an associated industry. With the ranges increasing this will be more of a necessity as human's too need to rest... Finally with automated (driverless) vehicles this too would be a luxury only... We have been thinking of EVs as a better way of life and hence business opportunities that align with that goal (including care and servicing of the vehicle) would come up around this new mode of transport.

An aside: Our E2O's & Pluses have a special polycarbonate material as it's body panels. This does not require paint but upon being damaged it needs fibre welding. similarly there is much scope for new materials and technology related businesses in this field. Polishing of these panels could be a cash business. If a telemetry system could be developed as the current one is proprietary and we are not able to upgrade our infotainment or critical vehicle management system.... That too could be an associated business. A parallel computer (IT) industry just around mobility. Real Time Operating Systems designed for EVs. Battery swaps, grid ties, alternate energy systems... the list goes on. Many of these things are available today but just not in the right packages and with the right standards and safeguards in place. Take D'Espat for example. They retrofit an existing EV with a better battery and squeezed 450+ Km out of a vehicle designed for just over 90Km. Antique car body (like Ambassador, or Fiat) with a modern EV propulsion system could also be a fad. That's stretching it so will stop here about this point.

Note: You can find out specific locations (including "Smoky Mountain", our first charging point with Mr. Allauddin Sheikh of 'Khandala Motor Garage') and more about our community charging network here:http://www.pluginindia.com/charging.html
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

Raphae Halim
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Q3. Based on your observations, who have been the early adopters of EV? Has there been a change in the persona of buyer over years?

A4 - Raphae: Crazy people! Those who are concerned about the environment and want to live a better life and can't just sit there. They are the ones crazy enough to vote with their money and buy a product even though it takes time for ROI (Return On Investment). The TCO (Total Cost Of Ownership) is low and this appeals to them too. They are the ones who can afford it.

For the 2 wheeler, & 3 wheeler segment many smart money conscious business have also adopted EVs as it is definitely cheaper.

Note: As the awareness grows more and more people are switching. However lack of access to charging points, parking in the cities is a problem. For intercity range and charging time is a problem. For specific things like body panel damage, or BMS errors, or battery problems, or motor calibration issues service and other-than-company support is a problem. But as these things change adoption will grow. The safeguards and policies around this eco-system and systems and people (manpower) needed to support these standards also needs to grow... not just in proportion like it normally does but just a little bit ahead... This will allow for a smooth and cost effective transition. Cost is not just cost in money terms but cost to the planet too. That is the most important price we pay. The price in lives and quality of each life.
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

Raphae Halim
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Q4. How easy or difficult it is, based on your experience so far, the adoption of EV as a privately owned vehicle for a typical India family? Like for e.g. for a mid-income family who's dream is to own a compact family car, would he easily think of EV as a option today, or is he skeptical?

A4 - Raphae: Next to impossible. I have found, and coerced, and pushed so many such families to the point of buying only to have them buy an ICE vehicle because of range, or seating capacity, or luggage space, or some other reason that makes up only 1% of their use. The confidence is not there. They don't have neutral third party confirmation. They don't see the vehicles on the road... They are not out to change the world or even themselves... They just want what others have. Nothing new! They are not "affluent" (not a question of money, it's a mind-set) enough to go for "better", they much rather be part of the crowd (herd) and go with conventional. Those that brought these cars and credited us for the choice have done so of their own accord and with use of their own intelligence. They saw a video, or read a review, or just connected in some other way and decided that our testimonial along with their own good sense was enough to get them to buy an EV.

It is only a rare few "enlightened" ones that are going for it now... But the numbers are growing and the demand is there... Soon as the products in the market start appearing along with charge point boards in all appropriate locations everyone will want one. And if the car can have a few perks like being virtually driverless they will pay a bit more for it... Not for the safely but because of the money and "human handling" costs they save.
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

Raphae Halim
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Q5. What bothers more for a customer when he/she thinks of buying an EV?

A5 - Raphae: If you look at it from an average customer it's the cost. It's not properly subsidised and the subsidy given to oil is not advertised. ICE cars are subsidised in two ways 1. The fuel, 2. The car itself. For the fuel we all know the direct part but do we also know the indirect way in which it is subsidised? For instance oil refineries use a large amount of electricity which is generated by captive power plants (for the most part). For the car - ICE cars generate income for the manufacturer(s) even after it's sold by requiring spare parts and accessories. This is not so for EVs. They require little maintenance due to fewer number of moving parts. No oil changes, lesser wear and tear on drive train, etc.

Getting back to the question. After cost, it's range anxiety. People wonder what they will do if the car runs out of charge. Then comes the lack of service and support... The lack of cars on the road... The lack of options in the market (no other products are available). Poor or bad quality and design of existing products (specially two wheelers).
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

Raphae Halim
This post was updated on .
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Q6. Considering the volume sale of EVs, how do you find the viability of EV dealership? Do the dealerships sustain to retain the support to customers, or they find a hard time, if yes, why?

A6 - Raphae: The volumes are low. The Mahindra Electric (REVA) factory was able to product 30K cars a year. They expected a demand of 50K... However only a few thousand were sold. This made it very hard to keep things going. it's only the sheer power of Mahindra's corporate muscle that's keeping it going. We are very proud of Mr. Pawan Goenka who is committed to EVs and sustainable transport. We applaud Mr. Anand Mahindra for investing himself in this sector. They are our heroes.

The two wheeler dealers are striking company deals and due to low TCO they are able to makes sales. Individual sales are low but if organisations could be convinced to get on board maybe the push for infrastructure would increase and we would get our smart grid sooner rather than later.

The services of the Mahindra Electric service centres have improved but we can still find that they do not have spares ready and in stock which is understandable because of low volume of sales at the moment.

Other companies like Ather are planning a complete door step service model. We have seen this in other sectors like power saving fans (SuperFan). New tech. has to find new ways because the old guys don't want to be pushed out of their business nor do they want to embrace the new (at least not easily).

So times are tough but we have found a tough bunch of dealers out there. Like "EV First".

PII Coverage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKHsa-sty8Y
Directory Listing: https://www.tradeindia.com/Seller-9265105-EV-First/

They are smart, innovative, and we know they will survive.

They survivors also have (remarkably) an open mindset. They are willing to share ideas, and services, and could be called OpenSource thinkers. They deal with big companies that are only interested to have exclusive verticals... The big ones don't / won't see it coming but, the survivors will win.
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

Raphae Halim
This post was updated on .
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Q7. Do you see EVs more in public transport (shared e-rickshaws, buses), commercial (goods transport, logistics chain) or private transport (cars, bikes, mopeds) in near future?

A7 - Raphae: Our Mumbai rail network is already 'Electric'. Yes, we do see public transport going the EV way. They power supply is abundant, the pollution element is not local, the TCO is super low. If the rules allow and the support structure to monitor safely and availability of spares and service to EV operators is put in place  it will certainly boom. Buses and trucks have the advantage of a large surface area being available and can thus also be fitted with solar panels making the ride even more cost effective.
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

Raphae Halim
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Q8. How successful do you think is NEMMP mission? (http://dhi.nic.in/UserView/index?mid=1347) Are they putting enough effort in promoting EV? Or you think some facets get missed out?

A8 - Raphae: The NEMMP mission is noble but needs to cover the ground realities in India too. This has to do with not only the ideal conditions but the actual state of corruption, and low quality "jugaad" work that is done. Most wiring in India does not comply with basic safety standards, let alone colour codes. EVs (especially cars) need more electricity and the devices have to perform at their rated capacity... This is almost never the case and the weakest link is that cheap low rating wire that the owner / electrician put to save a trip to the market, or a few rupees, or the effort of doing it right. Most of the places where electricity and good standards are available are so over-run with rules and regulations that we cannot access their services. These include factories like even Mahindra partner factories, and housing societies that don't understand the true benefits of EVs and needlessly make life of EV owners difficult because they want to avoid extra work. Our legal and administrative system is extremely cumbersome and presents the major obstacle in NEMMP's work. Also many manufacturers are making losses and hike the prices of their products to get the better share of the subsidy and as a result the EV buyers do not Get "tempting" price points. Most manufacturers are selfish and concerned only with profits... We need more passionate souls heading these companies. We need a foundation before we can start building high. We need more Open Source thinking. How many Chetan Mainis or Anand Mahindras has India produced? May be many but they are yet to surface. Here's to Ather and their well designed bike!
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

PluginIndia
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This is awesome information!

Thanks Raphae for collating this data!
Thanks,
PluginIndia
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Re: Designing For Electric Mobility

Amey Hundre
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