EVs Are Here, How Will the Automotive Industry Gear up to Them?

Back in the day, the thought of a fully electric-powered vehicle seemed like a futuristic, far-fetched idea but the past decade and a half has witnessed a steady growth in electric vehicles (EV), with 2018 being the golden year for EV evolution.

In view of the fact that EVs are environment-friendly and electricity is a cheaper alternative to fuel, many nations are aiming at going fully electric by 2030. Tesla Motors’ CEO, Elon Musk, went as far as to say “We will not stop until every car on the road is electric.”Tesla has been inducted to the taxi fleet in New York recently. However, US is still dominated by ICE vehicles.

Challenges facing the Industry

While the future of EV is promising, a couple of major deterrents testify that the going won’t be very easy for the Automotive Industry –

  • The introduction of EVs will require upskilling the workforce. The ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) used in most cars comprise more than 2000 moving parts and the manufacture and assembling of such contribute to the employment of around 60% of those in the Automotive Sector as compared to EV vehicles that have very less moving components.Hence, EV may not impact job creation.
  • Another major concern is public resistance. In view of the cost of ownership, vehicle quality, driving range ‘anxiety’ et al, the misgivings of the people is an inevitable blockade that will need to be dealt with.
  • Then there’s the problem of charging the EVs, from the charging time to installation of sufficient EV charging points. Being stranded in the middle of nowhere if the EV runs out of charge isn’t an altogether unreasonable fear. However, installation of fast-charging units - known as level 2 - and DC fast charging is gradually increasing and the earlier disparities between charging time and driving range are decreasing (with fast-charging stations making a range of 60 to 80 miles possible for every 20 minutes of charging). Subsequently, a turnabout from fuel-powered vehicles and petrol pumps to EVs and their charging units will be the Automotive Sector’s very own Industrial Revolution.  
  • Rural and semi urban centres will see new power generation plants and air quality may deteriorate in such places.                        

How will the Industry adapt?

The foremost idea that has been proposed is that of embracing a technology-agnostic approach i.e. to be unbiased towards the various technological tools and of taking an honest look at all the available solutions that will best serve the needs of the environment and people. The next decade will see a good mix of EV’s and ICE vehicles with ICE vehicles dominating the sector.

Moreover, some Indian OEM’s are up for the challenge and have redirected their investment in ICEs and R & D towards the manufacture of EV components. An investment of $2 billion was made by an European OEM with the aim of improving public awareness and the installation of charging infrastructure.

Some analysts are of the opinion that the demand for ICEs will only grow in the next decade-and-a-half and therefore, component manufacturers will constantly need to increase investment and capacity.

Though the simplicity, ease of maintenance, and environment-friendly features of EVs make them an attractive alternative, their repair infrastructure is much more complex as compared to fuel-powered vehicles. Currently, engineers skilled at doing so are scarce and hence partnering with third-party mechanics or garages is inevitable. Also, it is imperative to invest in new talent if the Industry is to adapt to such a massive change. The technologies should co – exist to ensure that the customer makes the final choice.

While newcomers will definitely seek to enter the market, current manufacturers have a clear head start owing to their experience, knowledge, and networks. Ultimately, the role of the electric vehicle in the public sphere will have to be re-examined to maximize its advantages.