By on August 29, 2012

Electric cars haven’t taken the market by storm, despite a hurricane of propaganda, and despite of tsunamis of government subsidies.  Now, India is joining the fray. India will spend some money to entice its citizens to go electric. Like the U.S. and China, India expects them to do so by the droves.

India’s government has approved a 230 billion rupee ($4.13 billion) plan to accelerate the production of electric and hybrid vehicle production, says Reuters.  The money will be spent over the next eight years. The target is ambitious: 6 million vehicles by 2020.

It will be an uphill battle. Most manufacturers in India focus on low-emission cars,” citing the prohibitively high costs of new technologies and an almost non-existent support infrastructure,” says Reuters.  India’s only electric-focused carmaker is Mahindra Reva, and even its Chairman is doubtful: “The question is the viability … The cost of the car and how much the consumer can pay, there is a gap,” Pawan Goenka told Reuters.

The plan sounds more doable when we hear that out of the 6 million green vehicles by 2020, 4 to 5 million are expected to be two-wheelers. In neighboring China, around 25 million electric bicycles are sold each year, the sales of electric cars however don’t want to get going.

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18 Comments on “India Predicts 6 Million EVs – Most Of Them On Two Wheels...”

  • avatar

    Where I live, there’s a healthy contingent of Chinese expats, so a few electric bike shops have come and gone. Tried a few, they’re fun, but ultimately, not very practical as bikes. I’d recommend them for a more elderly person (not necessarily older, just not as young).

    The problem is that most electric bikes are either prohibitively expensive or dreadful to use once the battery runs down. The worst examples are the ones that look like scooters, where the pedal power is really just token way of meeting minimum bike regulations. Once the charge is gone, you’ve got a heavy device that doesn’t pedal properly and is virtually useless going up hills.

    The other constrain is that by law, ebikes are limited to 30kph where I live. If you’re healthy, you can cruise between 20-25 kph depending on the terrain. Like I said, the ebike keeps a less physically fit person on a bike, but with not much in practical gains if you bike regularly.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m in reasonable shape, I like to bike and I can cruise at 20-25kph for a while but there are times when I don’t want to arrive sweaty.

      There are also situations where electric boost would improve my safety, by keeping me moving with traffic flow (it’s tough to maintain 25kph uphill) or getting me out of a ticklish stretch of road more quickly (there’s stretches that I only bike between traffic light cycles, when there’s no traffic).

  • avatar

    For India, this is a pretty sensible idea.

    I’d like to see more encouragement of electric bikes, here, too. Bikes of all kinds are perfeclty sensible transportation and electrifying them extends their practical range, capability and useability. Given the small size of the battery needed to do it (as opposed, for example, to a Volt-sized battery), it should be a cost-effective thing to do.

    However, electric bikes are all too often:

    – Crappy bikes. A good e-bike should also be a good bike when the battery is dead (or removed).

    – Powered by lead batteries and therefore heavy. It’s common enough to find a dozen or more pounds of battery riding up over the top of the rear wheel, which doesn’t make the bike easier to manage.

    – Insufficiently braked. Calipers won’t hack it, on account of the increased weight and speed. Discs are a real necessity.

    – Usually not regeneratively braked. This would make a big difference in range and effectiveness and should be do-able at low cost.

    – Unaccountably expensive.

    I have a pretty fair Trek bike for commuting (with discs and the frame is strong enough to electrify), which runs about $680 at retail. I would expect somebody (ideally, Trek) could put together a decent package for $1-1.2K or so but there doesn’t seem to be anything on the market at that price that’s based on a bike this good.

    I would have to guess that manufacturers just don’t believe the market is there.

    But if gas was selling at European prices…

    • 0 avatar

      Volume would bring the price down, but regeneration is weight prohibitive right now.

      It’s true though, if you spend under about 1700, you won’t get a good ebike.

    • 0 avatar

      One simple change that would do more for utility bicycling than any other, is to prosecute and punish bike thieves and car thieves the same. As it is now, noone in their right mind will park a bike anywhere, even for five minutes, since anyone who feels like stealing it, can do so; safe in the knowledge the tax feeders will do exactly nothing; except punish the bike owner, should he attempt to do something about it.

      This is even more so for electric bikes, as they are more expensive, have more expensive parts, and are more appealing to the class (or lack of) of people that buy stolen stuff.

      We are no longer blessed with the kind of governments our forefathers used to enjoy, who would politely stand aside as you hung those who stole your mode of transportation when it was tied up outside wherever you were going.

  • avatar

    I was at a home show a couple years ago and there was a guy selling electric bikes, I spent the afternoon test riding his whole line. The good ones are very nice, they work fine when off battery power but they give you a nice boost when you need it. If I commuted over hilly terrain I’d probably own one, but my route is flat.

    They are expensive, I recall the cheapest one in his lineup that I’d have considered was about $1500, and you can easily spend a lot more. But you could probably save that much in gas on a 10 mile commute over a couple years. And if that bike lets you forgo a second car, then you’re looking at real savings. They’re not for everyone, of course, but in a nation of 300 million people I would think they’d work for at at least a couple million.

    Hard to say how they’ll work out for India. I met a guy a few years ago who toured India on his bike for a couple months, he said his was the only bike he saw with multiple gears. I’m not sure how big the market is between those who can barely afford anything with two wheels and Tata Nano customers. Although China’s numbers are encouraging.

  • avatar
    John B


    Several years ago I was browsing around a bike store in Montreal when I spotted an electrically assisted bike (a good quality hybrid). The store owner invited me to take a test ride and guaranteed I would come back with a smile. He was right.

    The electric assist was made by a Quebec company, Bionx, and it could be mounted onto any hybrid type bike. It also featured regenerative braking. It was kind of expensive as I recall. The company was bought several years ago by Manfred Gingl, former CEO of Magna (yes, that Magna) and moved to Aurora, Ont. See link below. I always thought this would be great bike for commuting to avoid arriving all sweaty. I met a couple in Toronto who had toured Europe on their two biks. They loved them although the battery capacity was starting to drop off – a common complaint about batteries.

  • avatar

    Another important factor: Electric bikes won’t take very long to recharge, and recharging equipment will be cheap – totally unlike a car.

  • avatar

    6 million EVs in a population of 1,220 million is insignificant.

  • avatar

    I’ve said this all before, but allow me to say it again.
    The potential for electric bikes is great, as they are lightweight
    (relative to a car) and do not have great range expectations.
    Importantly, they do not have to provide a heating or airconditioning
    system, thus making a range of 20-30 miles doable.

    I do not see manufacturers using even medium grade bike parts and frames. So the bikes are unnecessarily heavy and unreliable. I disagree about the need for disk brakes. V-brakes are much more reliable and inexpensive than disks. Superlight disk brakes warp and squeal. They add weight and complexity. One already has a huge disk surface in the rim. Kits
    that can be fitted to decent bikes remains a viable option. As someone else noted, lead acid batteries must not be used if the machine is to hold up to repeated chargings. Regenerative braking
    must be employed. Legal speeds for these machines must come up to
    25-30 mph. so they can integrate with traffic safely. And the makers
    have to stop lying about range. The reputation of these bikes will
    dwindle and rot on the vine if people are duped into buying a bill of goods. And yes, prices do have to come down. The field seems to
    be populated with get-rich-quick schemers.

  • avatar

    about half of all restaurant deliveries in nyc are now done on cheap chinese electric bikes. i’ve never seen anyone attempt to pedal them. i think the drivers see the pedals as an emergency backup in case the juice fails.

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