EV Conundrum!

 

Lithium2

I am back to my favourite topic, Electric Vehicles or EV! A couple of days back there was a meeting called by NITI Ayog to discuss and decide EV policy for two-wheelers, in India. I am going to write only about the Indian scenario. My observation is that the electric four-vehicle of similar specification as the IC engine costs almost double the price. Plus per charge range of these vehicles is about 110 km. The specs are not good enough for the car to be used for out of station travel. With these limitations, it is going to be challenging to sell such vehicles. But in two-wheelers, I have observed that the price of EV’s is comparable with IC engine version. Distance travelled using two-wheelers is much less compared to four-wheelers. In India, parking two-wheelers at home is manageable compared to four-wheelers.

There are many angles to this issues. First and foremost is the fuel. With limited petroleum product reserves, there is bound to be a tough situation for the whole world if no action is taken, we will have difficulties. Add to this a new dimension; the US has threatened India to stop buying oil from Iran or else! If the US is so much worried about the whole world vis a vis Iran, then they should sell Oil to India at the same price as sold by Iran and that too in Rupees! But the US can get away with anything in diplomacy.

Petroleum product based fuels are adding to pollution is a known fact. The whole world is trying to reduce pollution by tightening the pollution norms, but apparently, there are limitations of investments to achieve the goals. Again the US has opted out of the body which is trying to track pollution world over. Again, it is the act of a bully.

All the nations are trying to reduce pollution in their cities and India is also trying its best. NITI Ayog meeting was held for the same purpose. Four-wheelers are still miles away from reaching the balance between the price targets and the cost. As four-wheelers will be expensive, their sales will not match current sales volumes at a price expected today. The second most crucial aspect in India is the challenge of charging the car batteries. Majority of the cars in India are parked in public places. Many of them are parked on roads and streets. How to provide a facility to charge batteries for such vehicles? Do we provide charging points on roads like we have parking meters? I don’t think that is a practical way of doing it. Another issue is that fast charging techniques are coming up but are still not good enough. With such limitations, NITI Ayog is trying to put pressure on the two-wheeler segment.

As already discussed, EV’s in this segment will have a comparable price, and because of lesser parking issues, charging the batteries using home electrical outlets may be possible. Charging is manageable; costs are manageable, and the number of these vehicles produced is very high. The number of two and three-wheelers manufactured in the latest financial year is 30 million plus. Total of fuel used by these vehicles is massive.  If totally converted to EVs, there can be a significant impact on pollution.

There are two groups in this segment. First and the main is the group of established manufacturers like Honda, Hero and Bajaj. They are already developing EVs. The second segment is the startups who are in the process of developing EVs. They have no hangups and are trying to support the government. But the established ones have the issue of scaling up. NITI Ayog is insisting that by 2025, majority two-wheelers manufactured should be EV’s. The Giants have a vast experience in manufacturing and can visualise or foresee the issues. Startups really don’t have manufacturing expertise and experience. They probably do not understand the meaning of manufacturing 2.5 million vehicles a month.

Now here is a complicated situation. Established manufacturers have to keep on producing IC Engine vehicles and ramp up EV production. Tremendous efforts and money will be needed. Startups may know the EV technology but do not have the wherewithal to manufacture one hundred thousand vehicles a month. Selling these numbers without the right experience is going to be very tough. What about funding? They are solely dependent on financing by VCs. Today I read an article about VCs trying to go away from electric vehicle manufacturers, in China, as there are too many variables. These startups will never get bank funding. Don’t forget that even Tesla is still a VC funded company! They are already facing production bottlenecks, and their sales are going down!

Will Lithium producers make a cartel like the petroleum cartel? It is a million dollar question. India does not have Lithium reserves, but China has done brilliantly. They have taken controlling shares in many mines across the globe. Till foreseeable future, it looks like the Lithium, and to some extent, Cobalt is going to be the key elements. Their control will be the key to success.

https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/india-lithium-ion-battery-market

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The cost of the battery pack was the US $1000/ kW-hr in 2010. In the year 2016, it came down $273. At this rate, the EV’s will become affordable over a period. By 2020 it is expected to be sub $200/. By 2026 the price is projected to be $100/. But till that time it is going to be a tricky question about change over. Those who can afford will buy the EV’s, but the mass production models will take some time to become affordable. In the countries, where parking of cars is an issue, it is difficult to predict what the solution will be.

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One pertinent point discussed by NITI Ayog was that if the pollution goes out of hand, then the courts will intervene. Once that happens then, the discussion will be between manufacturers and the courts. NITI Ayog suggested that some policy decisions need to be taken while interested parties are involved in the debate; it will enable both sides to come to an excellent resolution.

It is more of a chicken and egg situation. It is known that EVs are good for pollution management. On one side, nobody even knows which startups will even survive five years hence. Hence there is no point in putting your money on them. But the existing giants have their issues. They need to run their current business, which has its unique problems. They have to simultaneously scale down and scale up for old and new business. Hence they have shown their apprehension with the year 2025. How will they come out of this conundrum is anybody’s guess.

Are Electric buses the real solution for pollution control and to take people away from personal vehicles?

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End of the road for Diesel cars!

Maruti Suzuki declared today that they would not manufacture cars with diesel engines starting from 1st April 2020! That is the day on which BS 6 norms for pollution will be implemented in India. This time the government is very stringent, and it is declared that from this date, only the cars BS 6 norms will be registered. Forget the selling; there will be no registration of cars other than BS 6! It is a great thing that the government means business, now!

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But is this the beginning of the tumultuous scenario in the automobile domain? Is it a mini tsunami? Has this statement started indicating the way things would happen in the auto industry? All these years life was much more straightforward; introduce a new model, play around a bit with the price and periodically change pollution norms when government forces you. The smooth ride was the norm! But a statement by Maruti says that the cost of development of BS 6 compliant diesel engine and the cost of making the BS 6 engine will be so high that in the small car segment, customers may not be able to afford them. Currently, the price difference between petrol and diesel model of a car is around Rs. One Lac. They feel that this difference could be Rs.2/ lacs for BS 6 cars ( ten lacs is a Million). On a vehicle costing Rs. 5 to 6 lacs, difference of two lacs will be too much, and customers may not be able to afford these cars. For cars/SUV’s costing Rs.10/ lacs and above, though the difference will be similar, % increase would not be high. How this sector will perform from next financial year needs to be watched. For SUV (both mini/standard) good news is Maruti Brezza will not be sold; hence manufacturers will rush to pick up the market share up for grabs. Maruti, however, has left the option open for 1.5 L diesel engine cars, used in Brezza.

Diesel engine cost issue due to BS 6, was expected. Volvo has already declared that they will stop making diesel cars when the norms change from Euro 6 to Euro 7, because of the cost of development and the price of the vehicle. Compared to trucks, the number of cars sold is much higher hence a smaller number of diesel cars will be better from the pollution angle.

Why did people use small cars with diesel engines? The lower price of diesel was the main reason. These cars cost approximately Rs. One lacs, plus plus, more than petrol cars. If the usage of vehicles was not enough, then owning such a car was not cost effective. On top of this, diesel engines have periodic mandatory maintenance cost which petrol cars don’t have. In many cases, it was not viable to own a diesel engine car.

With the imminent entry of Electric Vehicles in large numbers, the market is expected to be shaken further. In the late ’90s of the last century, Toyota came up with Prius, their first Hybrid car. (For those new to this subject, a hybrid car is one which runs on petrol and battery combination; each manufacturer has its own combination of the technology) It was expected that Hybrid would be the future and Toyota was expected to be the leaders. Yes, they are still the leaders in Hybrids. But a maverick called Elon Musk decided to plunge into EV’s. General Motors had manufactured around 500 EV’s at the beginning of this century, but then what happened? Petroleum lobby made sure that this initiative was killed. A few years later GM scrapped the vehicles.

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Combination of Tesla’s efforts, cheaper battery sets (hopefully!) at some stage, fast charging technology are pushing humans towards EV’s. Range per charge still remains the primary concern. Add to this reduction in the price of solar systems is making cheaper fuel for the EV, the Electricity. Now, what is adding to making it more difficult for petroleum products further, are the pollution norms for diesel cars?

What will be the future of diesel engines in the car segment? In India, the overall car segment is under pressure. In the last financial year, four lac more old cars were sold than the number of new cars that were sold. It looks like more small vehicles are being sold in II and III tier cities. Will Maruti’s prediction about diesel engine cars affect thinking by other car manufacturers? Will they also go away from diesel engine cars? Only time will tell.

The current financial year is going to be very tricky for car manufacturers. Let me explain what is involved, as the last date on which the BS IV car will be allowed to be registered. That date is 31/3/2020. To achieve this target, they will have to attempt and sell BS VI models from 1/1/2020. To meet this date, they will be required to push in BS VI vehicles from 1/10/2019. During this transition period, there will be tricky scenarios. BS IV cars will be produced less and less, but customers may want to buy them, as these will be cheaper than BS VI models. There is a possibility that in certain areas there will be customers and no cars; in other areas, there will be cars but no customers. All unsold BS IV cars will have to be sent back to manufacturers for conversion to BS VI at a considerable cost. Predicting requirement from 1/10/2019 to 31/3/2020 is going to be a nightmare for sales teams and along with them the dealers. The trend of lower sales is going to add to the difficulties further.

Will everything be hunky dory after 1/4/2020? That is again a very tough question. To achieve better fuel efficiencies and to go away from petroleum products, there will be efforts to introduce hybrid cars. But except Toyota, nobody has real expertise in this area. The predicted numbers for 2030 are 30 % EV’s, 30% Hybrids and balance IC engine cars, mostly petrol and CNG version. Does it mean that it is a death knell to diesel cars?

Another prediction by Maruti is that for small EV’s, where numbers are high in the typical small car segment, the volumes can be tricky as the price could be between 9 to 12 Lacs. This price is based on battery packs being manufacture in India. Larger cars will cost much more, but the high-price segment is less sensitive to the price tag. How the volumes will be achieved in EV’s, will be difficult to predict. I have not even discussed the charging station infrastructure issues! In India, most cars are parked on the roads for the night, so how and when will the charging be done?

At least in India, there is a significant turmoil about where the car market will go? Will Maruti continue to lead the pack? Will others follow Maruti and go away from small diesel engine cars? Only time will tell.

Electric Vehicle-another revisit!

During a surprise visit by my grandnephew last night, we went for a quick bite of Idli-Dosa. He works for Tesla. We, of course, discussed the merits and demerits of the Idli-Dosa one gets in the bay area. As usual, it was concluded that you can’t beat the “original” stuff you get in India (it need not be from Chennai, even Pune Dosa is better!) The main subject of discussion naturally, was about EV’s. The original EV maker is Tesla! In such a debate, there never is any conclusion. What one does is exchange information and knowledge. So here we go!  

The development and now the production of EV’s is gaining momentum for higher and higher volumes. China is leading the pack, and almost 50% of global EV production is done in China. Technology wise Tesla is way ahead of the competitors. Tesla vehicles smoothly go 300 miles and above per charge. In fast charging technology, Tesla is ahead of others; they can do it in 30 minutes. Looking at our Pune Bombay travel on Expressway, if the 30 min/300 miles combination is achieved by our car manufacturers, then it is easily possible to make a round trip, the way we are doing with IC engine cars today. The same is possible with Nashik, Kolhapur, Aurangabad. But our car manufacturers are still lagging behind Tesla in the above combination.  

How fast can the EV’s come in daily use and what could be the limitations for them? What will affect the quick proliferation of EV’s? Other than Tesla all giants like Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford, Volkswagen, Fiat have the knowhow to make cars in large numbers, In fact, they have decades of experience in this field. But they are behind in Electric drive technologies and batteries needed for EV’s.  Tesla will struggle to reach large numbers like other giants. Elon Musk twitted Tesla achievement of producing 6000 in a week for the first time in the history of Tesla; Ford Europe CEO congratulated him on the twitter, “Elon congratulations on the great achievement! For your information, we achieve these numbers in four hours”!  This shows that replacing IC engine cars by EV’s in a significant way is not going to be so easy, yet. 

Except for Tesla, most companies making EV’s are having joint ventures, different joint ventures in different countries. Toyota has joined hands with Suzuki in India. They have jointly come together in India with Toshiba to make battery packs! It is interesting to note that Suzuki will make EV’s in India for Toyota too! For EV’s, Toyota is providing technology to Suzuki. Toyota has joined hands with Mazda for making EV’s in the US. What Google and Apple will come out with, is anybody’s guess. But there is a big drive going on for driverless cars. It is expected that in the US driverless cars or their variants may come faster than EV’s.  

Other than the points mentioned above, what factors will decide the proliferation of EV’s. If we see country wise, smaller countries might be able to handle this better because of geography. Creating charging infrastructure, changing laws, changing insurance policies will be much easier to incorporate. With the same logic, the EV numbers will go up in large countries, states or regions. Like in the USA, proliferation will be quite swift on the west and east coast but will take time in mid-Americas because of low population density and vast distances; add to that mountainous regions. 

One exciting event took place. A couple of weeks back, Tesla has opened up all its patents to the general public for use. Musk declared, “We are aware that Tesla alone can not achieve the car volumes required to improve the environment. We are opening up all our patents to everybody with a hope that this will improve EV production volumes fast.”

Similarly, in India, this will occur around metros like Delhi-NCR, Mumbai-Pune. Chennai-Bangalore, Surat-Vadodara-Ahmedabad. There are more such areas in India. But India has similar problems with long distances in rural areas with less car usage. But it will take some time of coast to coast driving in the US, and Kashmir to Kanyakumari drives in India to happen regularly.

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The graph above shows the reserves of Lithium in Metric tons in the year 2017. Lithium could be the next oil, and the top four could form the next Cartel, the Lithium Cartel. The battery pack is going to be the most crucial part that is going to limit the production of EV’s. As per current technology available, Lithium is the raw material for batteries. The four nations above are going to be next Arabs for the auto industry. The auto industry is one of the significant consumers of petroleum-based products. As EV production goes up, Arabs and other cartel members will come together and reduce petroleum prices; using IC engine cars will remain more attractive. This will make it attractive to make IC engine cars. So, what will be the product mix in 2030? That will be decided by many factors. 

The product mix in the year 2030 is predicted to be 35:35:30 of EV’s, Hybrids and IC Engine cars. The combination could vary a bit, but the general proportion will be as above. EV’s will be controlled by how car manufacturers other than Tesla adopt and ramp up with the limiting conditions of per charge mileage, least possible charging time and availability of battery packs.   

Hybrids are a combination of Electric drive and IC Engine drive. Hybrids are forced by the requirements of environmental norms; hybrids have a better carbon footprint compared to IC Engine vehicles. The volume of EV ramp-up will not be sufficient to achieve global improvement of environmental standards; hybrid will provide some relief.  

IC engine cars will contain a predictably higher percentage of Petrol cars. Diesel Engine cars are expected to get a major jolt by the year 2022/23 when Euro 7 norms come into existence. These norms will be extremely challenging for diesel engine manufacturers. The cost of development and manufacture of Euro 7 compliant diesel engines can be prohibitive. Volvo has already decided not to manufacture Euro 7 compliant diesel engines for cars.  

It appears that if Electric buses are made available, they will be quite useful and practical. In Pune, about ten Electric buses have started plying on the roads, about ten days back. On the first day, approximately forty thousand people travelled on these buses. Bus application is going to help the improvement of the environment in a big way. Today most of the buses everywhere are run on diesel. They are very polluting, extremely noisy and many times people travel in them because of the lack of other viable options.  

One interesting aspect I must mention. When EV’s are produced in large numbers, industries like casting, forging, heat treatment, furnaces will move towards extinction. Same will be with the car service industry. But as almost 70 % of cars are expected to have IC engines even in 2030, these industries will have more time to handle the life-threatening change.  

My personal experience with EV’s is minimal. I have visited Tesla showrooms a couple of times during my visits to Seattle. In our condo in Pune, a couple of people own Electric Scooters. I drove one of them for a few minutes. The feel was excellent. I have enjoyed a few rides in the Toyota Prius, the Hybrid, and it was a very pleasing experience. 

I am looking forward to owning an Electric Vehicle.  When? It is anybody’s guess!

 

Why technologies are replaced?

How does technology evolve? How long does it take for technology to become commercially viable? What are the pluses and minuses of this evolution? Who will win these races? All these questions always come to mind, but I am really not sure if there is a right answer for this. There are divergent technologies, and there are convergent technologies. What I mean is that some techniques start as all-encompassing technologies but end up into a particular technology or an application. Whereas some begin with a very focused technology but end up into divergent usage of the technology.  But the ultimate question is why technologies are replaced?

I am really not sure if the inventors of these are also sure how long the product developed will last in the market. It is possible that I may interchange the word technology and product. Some products have a very long life, and some have a very short life.  

Telephones 

The typical case is the telephone. The phone was invented more than hundred years back. Over a period, it became popular and useful; later it became mandatory in our lives. World over the proliferation of phones was quite fast and penetrating. I remember that during my visit to the USA in 1981, there were telephone booths at Carlsbad Caverns 800 feet below the surface. However, in India, it got delayed. Till 1984, I did not have a phone at home. In that year too we got it by making a misleading declaration of medical emergency to get it. Rest as they say is history. But nobody had expected the revolution that will come when the Telephone’s cousin Cell phone came around. As usual, it started as an expensive toy; they charged Rs.16/ minute to make and receive a call in 1997. The cell phones could store 100/200 numbers in the directory. Now 20 years hence, calling is free, data is as good as free, and storage space is as good as unlimited! Proliferation in India is 80% plus. Telephone, which is now called landline has now become a distant, poor cousin of the Cell phone. The cell phone has democratised the society. Now almost everybody has a cell phone. Along with this by providing decent cameras, cameras are also democratised. After ten years in what format cell phone will be available and what it will do is tough to predict.  

Credit and Debit cards 

Another product whose technological days seem to be numbered is credit/debit cards. These came into vogue on ‘70 s and ‘80 s. But the first one in use was Diners Club credit card in 1950. Initially, it took time to spread but later on it came up with magnetic tape authorisations, and now embedded chips have replaced the tape. With the introduction of debit cards, card business was also democratised. By democratised, I mean that the proliferation and spread have gone beyond 70% in the country like India with a very high population. But now the cards are getting a run for their money. With net banking, UPI, PayTM et al. making payments has become really easy. The only advantage with Credit cards is some Credit that people get when they use credit cards. But with QR code Technology the chip technology authorisation may become obsolete. Check the link below 

https://www.bing.com/search?q=QRCode&form=WNSGPH&qs=SW&cvid=7c3ff0870d024924a802ecbfc4cc27a3&pq=QRCode&cc=IN&setlang=en-US&nclid=24A557D17F20EE04675E8683A3F58054&ts=1546314473043&elv=AY3%21uAY7tbNNZGZ2yiGNjfMOcjiriOwJ1nqF69MVaiRhknXKq2yVeO57P6iMx77Fso5jrbCq%21wVi3FpaWVUx2j6Gw8VgYd6zPRlWeMWfOlVK&wsso=Moderate 

Click this link, you will see a box showing QR code generator. Type whatever you want and scan the generated code! There you are!  

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I am giving below a link for QR code reader app for android

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tw.mobileapp.qrcode.banner&hl=en

This one is for iOS

https://itunes.apple.com/in/app/qr-reader-for-iphone/id368494609?mt=8

Download this or any other on your cell phone and scan the QR I have shown above! This is just for fun!

The QR code and touch type authorisation are the next technologies which can derail the business of Credit cards, but I am sure they will also come up with their own systems to remain in the race.  

Hotel Room Keys 

Another technology that has changed is the for room keys in the hotel.  

 

Hotel rooms had large locks and keys, which then graduated to brass keys, latch keys and so on. Then came the locking systems where customers were given a card, and the key for the room was “prepared”!  

Magnetic credit card size hotel key cards may soon be phased out in favour of smartphone app digital keys reasonably quickly. While key cards felt like a massive step into the future when they were first introduced, they do have their issues. 

Many large hotel chains like Starwood, Hilton, and Hyatt are already making the transition to digital apps in many of their establishments. Guests directly download the relevant app and enter and lock their rooms via Bluetooth. 

Car Mirrors 

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Many higher-end cars tend to come with camera-and-display setups as standard. Primarily, to provide functions like aiding the driver when reversing or parking. 

While each manufacturer will give the technology a different name but these technologies are all essentially a form of CCTV for the car’s immediate vicinity. These systems also tend to provide the driver with other information like speed, direction, and obstacle proximity etc. 

In fact, from May 2018 it became mandatory for all manufacturers to include backup camera systems for all new cars, in certain countries. Other manufacturers, like Tesla, have also announced they plan to replace all side-view mirrors with cameras in the future. 

This will provide various benefits to the driver but also make the vehicle more aerodynamic. Physical mirror replacement will also work in tandem with the drive, excuse the pun, for fully automated driverless, or partially automated, vehicles in the future. 

Photographic Films 

Kodak was the company which was linked to photography. It had so much hold on technology and market that generic name for photo films manufactured by any company would be called Kodak films. 

What happened to Kodak? They apparently dug their own grave, unknowingly.  They developed the digital camera and apparently forgot about it. Maybe their marketing arm did not understand and visualise the market potential for digital cameras. Kodak really never knew what hit them. Other manufacturers picked the digital camera technology and galloped ahead. Then the cell phones with the cameras started coming to the market, and they have become the norm for smartphones. Camera technology and camera film existed for a long time, but digital camera simply pushed them aside.  

This is a classic case having invented the technology and lack of vision from the pioneer company. But why are technologies replaced? Ease of use, safer and there is cost benefit. With the advent of IT and computers, many manual systems are getting replaced with software; software once established is effortless to use and cost-effective. The new technologies are superior too! There is one crucial aspect; nobody can stop the progress and onslaught of the latest technology, in any field. Some technologies come like typhoons or floods. Society has to accept it and go along with it. Those who ignore can become new Kodaks!

 

 

 

Lathe Joshi!

Lathe Joshi is a film about one Joshi, who is an expert lathe machine operator. As per the famous rule of this world, “Change is the only constant”, one day his world changes when the workshop owner decides to close his workshop as it is not profitable. Joshi loses his job. But he is not willing to change. He does not want to acquire new skills, nor does he want to retire and join a bhajani mandal to pass his time. He tries to buy the lathe from his old owner but it does not work out. His wife, and son change as per needs of the modern world; though they struggle initially, later they settle down with a reasonable success taking up modern work. They change with the time. Joshi who is known as Lathe Joshi remains Lathe Joshi and has a tough time in later life as he is out of tune with his family, who try to help Joshi. 

We see many Lathe Joshi’s in this world! Last 50 years of previous century changed our world drastically but the changes in the 18 years of this century are breath taking to even reasonably techno comfortable people. Many new things, modern things are making life easy and tough at the same time. Many gadgets that were standard in any office, have become extinct e.g. type writers, filing cabinets, typists, filing clerks. Now every person whether he or she likes it or not needs to reskill, retrain. If it is not done then it will not take time for these people to become Lathe Joshi.  

But is it necessary to change everything old? No way! Everything in the world does not become modern. Old values of love and empathy remain intact! We should all respect each other as human beings. In many areas, what changes is the method of doing things, processes being followed but basics don’t change.  

When anyone goes to take a loan from a bank, that company or the individual needs to provide various documents. These documents now can be submitted electronically, processed electronically and approved electronically. I am sure loan departments of banks are shrinking. We see the same thing while making payments and withdrawing cash. It is said that in next five years number of physical branches of banks will reduce drastically! More Lathe Joshi’s?  

Modern technology makes buying a totally new experience. Amazons and Flipkarts are changing the way we buy things; items bought still need to be shipped so shipping industry will not change. In fact, there will be more and more jobs available in this sector. The courier service, tracking of parcels will become more efficient. But in logistics basics don’t change! Whenever we have any issues with these companies, we chat with their representatives. These “representatives” are many a time BOTS, robots who can chat with you. There could be one human supervising 10 BOTS, same as self-check-out counters in the malls. As far as humans are concerned, obsolescence will happen! Retraining for people in this field is a must!  

Obsolescence looks to be the name of the game but it is difficult to predict what will happen in future. When experts find it difficult to predict, for common person it will be almost impossible to predict and judge about future. Look at the automobile industry. Since last decade, people have been talking of Electric Vehicle (EV). But it looks like finally everybody is jumping the bandwagon. In an IC Engine vehicle there are hundreds of parts in the drive train, which is in between radiator in the front and the exhaust system at the back. These hundreds of parts will be replaced by about 18 parts in the EV. Out of these 18 parts 10 will be electronic controllers! What will be the scenario in 2030/2040? This change is bound to happen once the inflection point is reached.  

An inflection point is an event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy or geopolitical situation and can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result. Companies, industries, sectors and economies are dynamic and constantly evolving. Inflection points are more significant than the small day-to-day progress typically made, and the effects of the change are often well known and widespread.  

The automobile sector changes, will affect this world in both good and bad ways! Good way is that air pollution will reduce drastically due to lesser use of petroleum products. World will become free of OPEC hegemony. But the bad part will be that  hundreds of thousands of parts currently used in the industry will not be needed. These industries will become obsolete, even though they may want to change. The industries like casting, forging, heat treatment will shrink in size, drastically, world over. This obsolescence will be simply path breaking and breath taking. Top manpower, highly skilled, will become Lathe Joshi’s in very large numbers! Even though they may be willing to change, system will find it difficult to accommodate such large numbers.  

Friends there appear to be obsolescence of two kinds, one is like our friend Lathe Joshi. He simply refused to change and adapt. He did now want to go with the flow and change. Lathe machines were replaced by modern system performing many things simultaneously. But the changes I have mentioned due to EV, are mind boggling. I was chatting with a younger friend running a service industry and manufacturing machinery, for auto industry. His is a core automobile business. He is running the business very successfully. While we were discussing life in general in a party, I asked him a pertinent question about effect of EV’s on his business model. He said, “Pramod, I simply shudder to think about it. I am in business for 25 years, I have funds, I have technology and I have risk taking ability. Business  men running auto ancillaries today, will have to adopt from 2030 onward. There will be thousands of people with my background running businesses very successfully today. How can they re-skill themselves? How can they retrain themselves? It is going to be extremely tough. Luckily by that time, I should be around 70, so it will be left to my next generation to bother about these things.” He smiled and said, “I will make sure that I have retired by then”.  

If a smart person like my friend who employs 100 people, does not know what to do ten years hence, what will these 100 people know about their future?  I am definitely a positive guy but as of now, I am also flummoxed! Yes, there will be solutions, but people will have to make massive changes in their thinking. In whatever new industries come up, people will have to retrain massively to join them. When a lathe was replaced by machining centers, it affected a small group of people world over. But the advent of EV’s is going to create a tsunami and will create more Lathe Joshi’s in the initial period, as there will be millions and millions who will have to adopt! Retrain, re-skill from today? What skills will not be obsolete 20 years hence, I do not know!  

 

EV’s! The Eco System Disruptions!

Below is an article which informs us about governments seriousness regarding introduction of EV’s in India. It is hoped that at least 30% of all new new vehicles by 2030 will be EV’s. Last year, government ordered 10000 EV’s and there is a plan to order the same quantity this year too! Government is also encouraging bus fleets to buy Electric buses. Himachal Pradesh has ordered 25 such buses and are being run in hilly areas. I saw a few of them plying, during my recent holiday in Manali.

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/centre-launches-national-e-mobility-programme-10-000-more-e-vehicles-to-be-procured-59845

What EV’s are going to do to various Eco Systems? When we discuss EV’s, discussion is about pollution, how long petroleum products will last etc. There is also a discussion about petroleum cartel holding human race to ransom. But there are many more disruptions that need to be considered. These are not only for individuals but for various agencies like government, businesses and many other systems. These need to adapt, change and modify to suit new environment created by the EV’s.

Take the case of governments tax collection. Tax collected on petroleum products are so huge that these are almost 100% of the price of the petroleum products. At every stage tax is collected. From refining, to distribution to sell. Both central and state governments will start losing this revenue when critical mass of new EV’s is reached. 2030 as indicated in the above mentioned article, may be that year. Government needs to find methods to make up for this revenue loss. Not all revenue will be lost but there will be a loss of big chunk. Another issue is the “fuel” that will replace petroleum products will be electricity which traditionally is being manufactured in Public sector. This fuel cannot be taxed very heavily,  as its usage will be multi-purpose, vehicles, industrial and domestic usage.

Another major change that has to happen is the growth in production of electricity. If this continues to happen using petroleum products, then pollution will come out of chimneys instead of car exhaust systems. Main thrust appears to be on solar systems but they will also have their own issues which need to be tackled in parallel with increase in production. Another method that is being undertaken is nuclear power. This will also help the ecosystem to achieve the same goals.

Why would people switch over to EV’s? In case of buses, since it is a public transport this can happen faster if funds are made available. These organizations are anyway public sector. Of course, cost of the vehicles needs to come down. From present knowledge, it appears that maintenance cost will be lower. With decrease in Electricity price, battery replacement costs may also become quite manageable over a period of time, due to mass production.

But the real numbers will be coming in cars. Why will people change over to EV’s, the cars? Cost of ownership is the going to be the answer. This is made up of Price of the Vehicle, Cost of servicing, cost of repairs, resale value and ease of use. To me the last factor is also very important though it is not a tangible factor. All other factors have been there in IC engine cars too! But this is a new factor that has come up. We are all used to just using the key to go where ever we want; if required, we go to the petrol pumps and fill it up! With EV’s it may not be as simple, to start with. We need to plan, we need to have cars that will give more mileage per charge. The current charging technology available takes about 30 to 40 minutes minimum, to fully recharge. How fast this technology will improve? Will the charging time reduce to 5 minutes or some such time? Only time can tell. This brings us to charging stations, which is going to be a factor by itself!

EV’s will need charging stations, bus operations will have their own stations. But cars will need a huge number of charging stations. In India, we should not forget two Wheelers. Two-wheeler companies are also thinking big in terms EV’s and those numbers could be large. First and foremost is going to be the charging time! Unless this reduces drastically, number of charging stations needed will be a big challenge! So, to me this improvement to around 5 minutes or less is almost mandatory! I am sure the improvement in battery technology will increase the capacity of batteries which in turn will increase per charge running of vehicles. Who should invest in charging stations? Who will invest in charging station? Current Oil companies can take up onus of this, being public sector companies. Chicken and egg situation will prevail in initial phase. Charging stations first or EV’s first will be the dilemma! ROI on charging stations will be tricky and priorities is going to be an issue. Till IC engine vehicles are manufactured, they will keep on having the pressure of exhaust pollution control. By 2030, something equivalent of Euro 8 or 9 standards will be prevalent.  Car companies and Oil companies both will have to invest a lot on pollution control during this phase, along with investments in EV’s. This is tricky because nobody can predict the speed at which proliferation of EV’s will take place. Lest we forget, EV’s are Zero pollution vehicles!

About charging stations, will the government agencies build them or private agencies build them? Private companies have an option of not building them. There will be  individuals who may have proper parking space in office or at their home. They will build their own station but that number is going to be small, at least to start with. But looking at vehicles parked on roads even at night in cities, common charging stations, like petrol pumps, looks to be the only way. Can there be a “Charging Station Cess” on all new vehicles sold? Will it be acceptable to burden IC’s engine car buyers to benefit EV buyers? Can local governments take part in this, in cities where EV’s will be sold in large numbers? When will they know the trend? When will they decide to do it? All these questions do not have easy answers, but these issues need to be resolved.

The drive train in IC engine cars, starting from Radiator and ending with Exhaust pipe, will be replaced by about 18 parts, maximum. Out of these, the motors and gear are the only so called moving parts! When there are less moving parts, there will be less repairs needed! In fact, Tesla is offering life-long warranty for their cars. So, the car service industry will be the first victim of EV introduction. Today major chunk of repairs after warranty period is over, are the drive train parts. When these repairs are simply not needed, will the service industry be viable at all? Will manufacturers offer the paid service life long, through owned outlets. This is already happening in spare parts business, where component manufacturers find it difficult to compete with the vehicle manufacturers.

Another major disruption will be component industry and their basic vendors like casting, forging industries and their allied industry. These industries today, employ millions of people. Since there will a major disruption in this eco system, things are going to be tough. If a certain business simply ceases to exist, what do you do in life? Not everyone plans 10/15 years in advance. By the time they realize this, it could be too late! This group of business men will have business knowledge but may not have where withal to completely switch over to something new! How many will be smart enough to change to a totally new and/or unconnected business?

Friends, I have seen my city Pune change from use of carriage pulled by horses (called tanga), to auto rikshas, to Ubers and Olas. Tangas simply don’t exist now! I have observed that riksha business will also taper off over a period of time. Riksha is not an elegant mode of transport and it appears that young generation does not want to come in this business, as it is NOT COOL! The advent of Metros in the city in next three years will push Rikshas and even Uber/Ola! I will definitely use a Metro, if possible! When I talked of major disruptions, I was talking of obsolescence too! History has been harsh, and there is no replacement or option for obsolescence. If a system has to go, it has to go whether it likes it or not! It is like death, one has to accept it. Welcome to the brave new world of EV’s.