India electric vehicle sales grow 20 percent, bucking slowdown trend

21, Apr. 2020

Electric two-wheelers on display at the Auto Expo 2020 at Greater Noida in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Feb. 6, 2020. (NNA)
Electric two-wheelers on display at the Auto Expo 2020 at Greater Noida in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Feb. 6, 2020. (NNA)

NEW DELHI, NNA - More people in India are supporting the nation's clean energy initiatives by going green.

While conventional vehicle sales in India continue to bear the brunt of economic slowdown, the country’s nascent electric vehicle industry has bucked the trend as it enjoyed a robust 20 percent growth in the last fiscal year.

A total of 156,000 EVs were sold compared to 130,000 in the previous year, said the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV) in a press statement on Monday.

The latest figures show electric two-wheelers have been leading the way, accounting for over 97 percent or 152,000 units of total EV sales. Electric cars and buses trailed far behind at 3,400 and 600 units sold respectively.

“Low-speed electric scooters that go at a maximum speed of 25 kilometers per hour and do not need registration with the transport authorities constituted a whopping 90 percent of all the electric vehicles sold in the country during fiscal 19/20,” said SMEV.

While the EV industry will be affected by the economic fallout from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic just like any automotive business, "the clearer skies and cleaner air in even the worst polluting cities" as a result of the country’s lockdown to curb its spread are helping to make a positive statement for the industry, said SMEV director general Sohinder Gill.

The much better air quality is "certainly leaving a permanent impression in the minds of the customers about how they can breathe easy and remain healthy if the society moves towards e-mobility," said Gill in the statement.

He also highlighted the latest Harvard University research which confirmed that PM2.5 pollution of fine particles could multiply the risk of Covid-19 deaths. That stark reality is "certainly going to make the policymakers think on how to accelerate the EV growth," he said.

Gill said, "I feel, given the right impetus by the government and the industry, the EV industry can spring back faster than the ailing IC vehicles segment."

"A pertinent factor that may work in favor of electric two-wheelers post-Covid would be the choice of switching over from crowded mass transport to the sensibly priced electric two-wheelers with almost the same cost of commuting, as of public transport,” said Gill.

He also listed factors that are favorable to the industry. E-commerce companies have realized the economic benefits of EVs and are converting their fleets. Also, e-carts are becoming a convenient and cost-effective means of short distance logistics.

"E-taxi fleets beginning to make money due to lower operating costs may bring around the inflection point in the EV industry in FY21/22,” added Gill.

He concluded, "The EV industry is taking shape and we believe that despite the Covid-19, the fiscal 20/21 will be a defining year for all the EV segments."

Meanwhile, the country’s traditional automotive industry suffered a negative growth of 18 percent in the domestic market in the last fiscal year, according to data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers on April 13.

The industry has been driving into a headwind over the last 15 months amid the country's economic slump.

According to the World Bank’s report on April 12, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the last fiscal year ending March 31 fell to 5 percent, from 6.1 percent of the previous year.

The report also projected that the global economic fallout triggered by the pandemic is expected to knock down India’s GDP to between 1.5 and 2.8 percent for the current year.