The focus should be on developing the ecosystem for EVs
Published by : Industrial Automation
Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal, Co-Founder and CTO, FAE (Fast Affordable Electric).
What is the Future of Mobility in the near, medium and long term?
Personal vehicles are no longer the instruments of freedom. Rather, more and more they are becoming a burden to the person, society and state. The cost of congestion has crossed $100 Bn worldwide. From the recognition of this problem, novel technologies are coming up to solve this problem. Pollution, noise and Slow Infrastructure development are other issues plaguing urban transportation. By 2030, there will be 65 large cities in India with a population of more than 1 million people. These cities are not equipped to handle so many people. Developing new infrastructure to accommodate the vast amount of new population is a very slow process involving policy formation, land acquisition, environmental studies, etc. New age transportation companies are coming and solving this problem by utilising the existing overburdened infrastructure to support a lot more people. In the near and medium term, mobility is going to be shared, multi-modal and electric. However, mobility is going to be completely transformed in the long term. The form factors that we see on the roads today are going to disappear. What will replace them is unpredictable. Technologies being hailed as the future, such as autonomous cars, come with their own host of serious problems. However, as a report by Deloitte says, irrespective of the form factor, the mobility in the future will have the following factors. Firstly, it’s going to be massively networked with continuous communication between vehicles, vehicles and their surroundings and between vehicles and users. It’s going to be user-centred focusing on user's needs and priorities. It has to be integrated allowing easy multi-modality. It has to be dynamically priced to ensure a balance between supply and demand.
Is the automobile industry ready for this transition?
The single largest factor driving this transition is Data. In the age of Machine Learning and Data Science, everything is a big data problem. An incomprehensible, immeasurable stream of data is being generated every moment at every place from every device, every vehicle and every person on the road. All this data is being used by cities and companies across the world to come up with new solutions. Four factors have contributed to this phenomenon – Rise of smartphones with very cheap data, Rise of digital payments, Vehicle tracking (and IoT) and Real-time data from public transport. Some companies are taking advantage of these factors and coming up with new ownership models that were not possible before. For example, some companies are allowing leasing of the vehicles fitted with remote engine immobilisers to render the vehicles inactive on non-payment of rentals. Some companies are providing remote diagnostic services in case of faults so that the customer doesn’t need to visit the service centre for each problem. None of the new age mobility companies would have been possible without the above factors. However, the automobile industry as a whole isn’t ready for the transition. Until the automobile companies adapt to these factors and provide new-age solutions for the connected generation, they cannot survive. This would require a rethinking of strategy, restructuring the company, redesigning the products and reskilling the employees on their part.
A leading automobile manufacturer describes itself as Smart Mobility Solutions Provider Not a product, but a solution?
Even the existing giants in the automobile industry need to adapt to the new era where everything is connected, driven by data, personalised for the user. When the user enters the vehicle, he now expects to get a personalised greeting, the vehicle should connect with his devices and automatically show him his schedule, his routes and times, personalised music choices, etc. Along with this, vehicles will increasingly rely on Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I), and Infrastructure-to-Vehicle (I2V) communications to make the user experience even easier. Commute is becoming more productive and less of a time drain. Only a complete solution can provide this experience to the user. The traditional product is ecoming obsolete fast.
Do electric vehicles need incentives or is it in need of infrastructure?
Electric Vehicle is a very nascent technology. The two issues plaguing their adoption today are lack of awareness and lack of charging infrastructure. They need to build trust with the users before mass adoption can happen. Poor quality vehicles in the past have created a misperception in people’s minds that electric scooters cannot carry two people or that they can’t go on flyovers. Government incentives or subsidies will definitely help increase the initial adoption of electric vehicles. But results from FAME I show us that once the subsidies are gone, sales disappear.
The focus should be on developing the ecosystem instead. Without charging infrastructure, Electric Vehicles cannot see mass adoption. People call lack of charging infrastructure a chicken- and-egg problem where without EVs, charging infrastructure is not useful and without charging infrastructure, EVs won’t sell. But the infrastructure has to come first. If infrastructure follows EV adoption instead of driving it, the EV adoption will be abysmally slow. While the upfront costs are high, the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles is much lesser than a petrol vehicle. Even the government should focus on giving more incentives and support for charging infrastructure over giving incentives for the vehicles. If the infrastructure is ready for EVs, customers will have more confidence in buying the vehicles.
What should be the ideal mix of urban transportation
The biggest problems faced by urban transportation are congestion and pollution. The urban transportation has to be shared, multi-modal and electric. There is no silver bullet solution to solve the urban transportation problem. All the new age technologies need to come together and combine all services together to solve the seemingly intractable problem of gridlock. The focus has to shift from moving the maximum number of vehicles to the maximum number of people. Minimising the use of personal vehicles is necessary for a sustainable future. A robust public transportation system is paramount for any city to grow sustainably. They ensure a reliable main mile travel for the city residents. Other services need to fill in the gap in the last mile connectivity space. Hence, Active Mobility services like cycle sharing, Services like scooter sharing, carpooling, car sharing, taxis, shared taxis and public transport services like buses, metros are all needed to solve the urban transportation puzzle. Along with these, supporting services like empty parking space finding apps or crowd-sourced real-time traffic information apps like “Waze” are also vital for urban transportation. Public-private collaboration should happen. The government should focus on becoming mobility enablers instead of mobility providers and work with new-age mobility services to ensure maximum efficiency.
Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal is the co-founder and CTO at FAE (Fast Affordable Electric). At FAE, he is focused on sustainable last mile logistics by providing smart 2-wheelers and 3-wheelers supported with charging stations and battery swapping. Along with this, he is setting up India's biggest network of low-cost charging stations under the brand "Charzer". Charzer is already partnered with multiple OEMs and has more than 500 charging stations. He has also recently started his journey as an early stage investor in technology startups.