Two-wheelers, in general, have always had a special bond with the Indian consumers. Being the ‘vehicle-of-choice’ for common Indians, the IC Engine 2-wheelers enjoy this distinct status supported by attractive vehicle economics (in terms of both price and fuel) and a fully-developed market.
For any EV, battery is the most differentiating component. The battery is your electric scooter’s ‘fuel tank’. It stores the energy that is consumed by the DC motor, lights, controller, and other accessories. It accounts for 40-50% of the total vehicle cost and plays the most important role in a vehicle’s performance. It can draw the line between success and failure of an electric vehicle.
Target to be achieved
The Government of India along with NITI Aayog is targeting that two-wheelers with an engine capacity of up to 150cc manufactured in India should be electric by 2025, and 30% of cars sold after 2030 should be electric.
However there are few challenges faced by 2 wheeler batteries in India and the above target could not be achieved without eliminating these challenges. Following are the challenges faced by 2 wheeler batteries in India
- High Cost
The price difference of EVs and conventional vehicles stands between 35-60%. If a vehicle cannot compete with the price range of an internal combustion engine (ICE), nobody is going to buy it. Unless EVs show significant benefits in terms of fuel savings and tax subsidies Indian auto buyers will be reluctant to spend money on EVs.
The owner can only get an ROI if these batteries offer a long battery life and don’t have to be replaced frequently.
However due to subsidies and economy of scale, the price of batteries is reducing. From 2010 to 2019, the battery prices saw a massive drop from USD 1,160/ kWh to USD 156/ kWh further down to US$75 over the next 4-5 years.
- Limited Battery Life
A typical Li-ion battery will be able to handle 300 to 500 charge/discharge cycles before diminishing in capacity. For an average electric scooter, this is 3000 to 10,000 miles! Diminishing capacity doesn’t mean lose all capacity, but means a noticeable drop of 10 to 20% that will continue to get worse.
This will add towards battery replacement cost. High range 2 wheeler batteries generally last for 2-4 years. The battery replacement cost associated with, specifically, high range E2W models after four years of use is expected to be INR 40,000 – 45,000. This is beyond the other wear and tear costs of these EVs.
Batteries sold as an integral part of EV attract 5% GST whereas those sold separately attract 18%. This is a critical barrier for those customers who wish to buy battery back-up or those who look for battery change in the future.
- Long Charging Time of batteries
The long charging times of EV batteries compared to the shorter refueling times of ICE vehicles is also often quoted among the main issues delaying wider adoption of EVs. However, charging at high rates has been shown to accelerate degradation, causing both the capacity and power capability of batteries to deteriorate. The heat generated during fast charging due to resistive heating is often difficult to remove in a uniform and efficient manner, leading to accelerated degradation and safety concerns.
Batteries have to be designed in such a way that faster charging can be adopted without uneven heat generation in 2 wheeler batteries.
- Price of Li ion batteries is costlier than Lead Acid batteries
Li ion batteries are widely gaining popularity due to increased energy density and high cell voltage. Li-ion batteries at its current price cannot compete with Lead- acid based technologies (for stationary applications and 2/3 wheeler EVs). Li-ion based battery technologies at its current price is 2-2.5 times more expensive than lead acid battery technologies. Lead acid batteries are readily available and easy to maintain and hence, Li-ion batteries will need to match the price and availability parameters to compete with lead acid batteries.
- High dependence on Imports
The key components of E2W such as the battery, motor, controllers, etc. along with battery components such as Lithium, permanent magnets, cobalt are being imported to India. The industry fears that there will be a huge disruption in the whole automotive supply chain. Hence there is a concern relating to the import dependence for batteries and the possibility that battery imports may just replace oil imports. Nearly 50 % of the critical components have to be imported into the country for production.
Individual Li-ion cells in an e-scooter battery pack are made by just a handful of different internationally-known companies. The highest quality cells are made by LG, Samsung,
Panasonic, and Sanyo. These types of cells tend to be found only in battery packs of higher-end scooters.
It is high time that local manufacturing of Li ion batteries has to come up on a massive scale and dependency on China and other countries for import has to be reduced. There is a need for a deregulated market for batteries. Looking at fluctuating international relations particularly with China and impact on trades due to global pandemic, these above steps can only ensure proper and continuous supply of EV batteries.
- No local reserves of Lithium, Cobalt and Nickel
Lithium has high reserves in the Lithium Triangle situated in South America. Nickel has high reserves in Indonesia. In India some Nickel reserves are situated in Orissa. So, in a way we need to depend on imports for supply of these materials used to make Li ion batteries.
- Lack of indigenous Li-ion based battery solutions
There is a lack of indigenous Li-ion based battery solutions. Indian manufacturers have only recently started investing in Li-ion battery manufacturing setups and this is a delayed reactive step to the global movement towards localized Li-ion battery manufacturing trend. Indian manufacturers need to be proactive and step up their R&D game to be leaders in the Li-ion battery race. Manufacturers need to be looking at local technology developments like the ones by ISRO for non flammable Li based battery solutions.
- Lack of standardization in terms of Charging Infrastructure
On the charging side, for two-wheelers’ batteries, there is a lack of standardization in terms of charging protocol. It doesn’t allow people to make investments. Setting standards will go a long way in getting the infrastructure up and running. If there’s long predictability in policy, it allows Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) or vendors to invest because there is predictability of the market for 5-6 years.
- Lack of proper Government policies
The latest version of FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles), also called FAME-II, had the most unfavourable impact on E2W, leading to a
huge decline of 34% in YOY sales of electric scooters in 2019 to 32,400 units. As per FAME II, only the E2Ws with a minimum top speed of 40 kmph and a range of 80 km per charge would qualify for subsidy incentives. When this criterion came into effect in April 2019, it rendered 90% of the E2W being produced then, ineligible for subsidy.
Govt. policies and subsidy measures will play a vital role in cost cutting and improved adoption of 2 wheeler batteries.
10.Poor Road conditions
In India, most batteries have to deal with high ambient temperatures and endure higher shocks owing to poor road conditions. In a major proportion, these batteries are imported. Thus, they are neither designed nor built for India, hence they degrade much faster. It leads to reduced state of health (SOH), which is a measure of how much energy a battery can store.
Furthermore, a shared and commercial use of scooters often promotes poor driving habits like faster acceleration & deceleration, frequent stops and erratic charging behaviour. This can impact the energy consumption from a battery by as much as 30%, not only reducing its life but also it’s SOH.