The article is contributed By Vikash-Mishra, CEO and Co-founder of Moeving.
Animals, especially horses, have been central to transportation for a millennium. We humans had built our entire mobility infrastructure to suit this mode of transportation. However, when the modern car came into existence in the early 1900s, it replaced horses at an unanticipated pace. In a few urban settings like New York, the transition took less than a decade. People had to completely rebuild the transportation infrastructure, including fuel pumps, service stations and roads. And, this happened while the world was fighting World War I.
A hundred years later, today, the transport industry is coming full circle. The world is at the cusp of another transportation revolution, one that promises to eliminate emissions related to transportation and make it sustainable again. This time, the ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) engines are at the receiving end. As of today, it might look like an insignificant trickle globally but the tipping point for Electric Vehicles (EV) is not far. With much of Europe already reaching double digit percentage sales penetration, steadily globally uptake of EVs driven by technology innovation, will do to ICE vehicles exactly what happened to horse-driven vehicles; obsolete. The speed at which the transition will take place in this decade, especially in high-density areas like larger cities, means we will witness a time when EVs will outnumber fossil fuel vehicles by several times.
The transition will not be a simple passing of the baton though. We will have to reimagine the entire transport industry like we did when transitioning from horses to cars. Working in siloed partnerships will not lead to meaningful at-scale growth, but taking a holistic ecosystem approach to tie all the loose ends can lead to faster adoption of EVs. The form factor of EVs, which has started as an extension or as a mirror image of the ICEVs, will transform significantly. These will be largely triggered by economic dynamics (policy push towards manufacturing, new age financing of vehicles, natural realignment of cities in line with MRTS, etc.), technology interventions from AI, IoT (leveraging data science for better vehicle quality, autonomous technologies), battery form-factor (flexible batteries allowing EV form factors fluidity), as well as fast charging technology (adding to range and reducing downtime). However, the biggest impact on how EVs evolve will be triggered by changing human behaviour. As people move from ownership to access, and as more move to hybrid working styles, the way people view mobility will change.
Like during the transition from horses to cars, there will be massive disruption with some clear winners and heavy losers. Like in the 1900s, transportation infrastructure was rebuilt, during the EV disruption, given the higher upfront vehicle cost but lower vehicle built-up complexity, we need to further optimize our EV infrastructure investments, for example in terms of charging and maintenance, and build highly distributed, accessible low cost infrastructure with an ecosystem approach. There will be limitless opportunities for early adopters who can visualise some of these changes early enough. This is true for people and organisations, but even more so for nations. India, due to its unique position (very low per-capita personal vehicle density, evolving urban infrastructure, robust start-up ecosystem, abundance of rare earth metals, growing renewable energy focus) can become a global hub for EV manufacturing and adoption if it plays its cards right.
With the Indian government pumping in over a billion dollars into the ecosystem, it is now time for the private players to come together to imagine a new transport ecosystem, one that is built ground-up keeping larger climate goals in mind, and build it with the urgency that the sector demands.