Post Submitted by- Anish Kumar Sinha (Student, IIT Kharagpur)
Electric vehicles. When you first hear this word, what pops into your mind instantly? A cute small green coloured vehicle which is slow and can only be used for city commutes? It’s not your fault. The makers of these vehicles haven’t taken any initiative to change this. Let’s take a look at the history of electric vehicles to know some facts. First of all, it is very interesting to note that electric vehicles came into existence before internal combustion vehicles. This was because the electric motor and battery were invented before the IC engine. But due to its ease of use and the abundance of its fuel, the IC engine became the popular choice. It enjoyed this popularity till about 60 years. The oil crisis of 1970s brought back the focus to electric vehicles and the environmental concerns of 1990s reaffirmed that electric vehicles are the need of the hour. Since then many companies and academic and research institutions have been trying to make exciting innovations in this sector. But I am afraid that these innovations are not made keeping in mind how the consumer uses the product. I understand there are many constraints in this sector such as battery quality and cost, motor cost etc. Despite all these constraints, I have to say that the electric vehicles are not made at all appealing to the customer. Till today, these are viewed as the second car for the family which is to be used for small commutes. There is a lack of a holistic view in this sector. It has to be understood that customers don’t always go for a vehicle keeping in mind the specifications. The value of a product is mostly viewed as the total package and not just a particular parameter such as cost or range. The companies that currently offer these vehicles tend to lack this notion. Take the car manufacturers for instance. Barring Tesla Motors, hardly any car comes to mind that the customer absolutely loves and can’t wait to get his hands on. Similarly, in the two wheeler segment, all the vehicle designs are in the form of scooter. Why is there no company that launches an electric bike in the form of a motorbike? There are some but they are all in the concept stage which, I doubt, will ever come to market. There is a complete lack of initiative from the auto industry on this front. They reason that the government is not supportive. But the ultimate decider is the customer. The product must be made for the customer and not for the government. The government will support when there is demand from the customers. What we need is a revolution like Apple and Microsoft brought to the computer industry. Tesla Motors is the only company which come close to doing something like this. But other companies must also come forward with such innovation. Indian landscape also require something along the same lines. We have the potential to completely jump to electric vehicle bypassing the IC engine vehicle. We did this sort of thing in the telecom sector too where we completely bypassed the landline revolution and jumped to mobile. We have the potential to become the first country with zero emission in the automobile sector. All it requires is dedicated initiative from the companies and the innovators. The government support will come later. India requires a Tesla Motors of its own.