Key Takeaways of WAF EV Innovators Network | WAF EVIN 2022

by Anita Bahadur

It was hardly a coincidence that World Auto Forum hosted the EV Innovators’ Network EVIN 2022 on World Earth Day, at Holiday Inn, New Delhi Aerocity – to talk about how best this upcoming mode of transport can positively impact the environment.  The conference brought together the best brains in EV Tech, Business, and R&D Ecosystems, thought leaders and innovators to analyse and action the course of electric vehicles in the near future. 

Mr Anuj Guglani, Founder & CEO – WAF Group set the ball rolling by sharing with the audience the WAF activities in the last two years as #WAFEVIN22 is the first programme that is face-to-face in this period of time. He talked about how World Auto Forum is in the top slot for world auto news, a result of the love, interest and the loyalty of the automotive & mobility community around the world.

The first panel discussed the Innovations to be Actioned in the EV Space in the next three years and Why.

Flagging off the discussion, Mr Rajiv K Vij – Chairman & MD, Carzonrent, spoke about the on-ground challenges. He said that a lot of things need to get in place like the charging infrastructure. The positives were that products from OEMs are improving in quality, and people are definitely trying and are more open to change. EV has a great future but basics need to be focussed on first. Mr Vij also spoke of the importance of IoT and Telematics for the EV business, and remarked that they are committed to transitioning to Electric Mobility.

Mr Nishant Arya – Vice Chairman, JBM Group shared the journey of designing, producing and selling electric buses and the potential there was. Mr Arya said that theirs is a constant push towards moving forward at a very fast pace, creating benchmarks as they go. In fact, they won the WAF Award in 2021 for their Innovations in their ECO-LIFE Electric Bus!

He appreciated the great response they are getting from State governments for green mobility, pointing out that the rapid electrification of mobility will not really affect the supply or be a bigger dent on the grid, as off-peak charging of vehicles overnight would incentivise, optimise and counterbalance electricity supply, and that within the next ten years, the projected production of electricity would be a good deal faster than the electrification of mobility. 

Mr Vinkesh Gulati – President, F A D A pointed out that the action is not just about dealer viability or EV dealer viability, but also about the training of the dealership manpower to sell, repair and maintain electric vehicles. As part of the governing body of the ASDC, he spoke of the steps to train EV technicians – having already trained about 7,000 engineers and technicians.

He added that OEMs and dealerships need to work in tandem to create a viable and successful training platform, commenting on the reluctance of the dealership manpower to upskill themselves. Adding to the discussion, Mr Anuj Guglani, Founder & CEO – WAF Group spoke about the training passport which he had used with the OEMs and the importance of the right rewards, recognition and incentivisation, all of which would lead to upskilling, which was most important. 

Mr Anil Srivastava, IAS – Fr Principal Advisor, NITI Aayog congratulated WAF for the timely discussion on innovation in EV. He stressed that the innovation and action has to be India-centric and spoke of various policies that he had helped in drafting – policies on battery swapping, electrification of mobility. He shared his experience about how NITI Aayog is always proactive and in the forefront exploring opportunities and the needs of the market. Mr Srivastava stated that he would always assure close and regular interaction of the think-tank and of the industry to ensure synergy of working.

Asked about the recent fires in EV Two-wheelers, Mr I V Rao, Senior Visiting Fellow, TERI, Former Head  R&D,  Maruti Suzuki,  expressed  concern  about  the  fact  that  most companies are start-ups in the two-wheeler space and all are in a hurry to launch the products and often are not aware of the total development cycle, especially the testing and evaluation. A lot of them import different systems from different sources and face problems in its integration.

All these systems need to be tested for our extreme environmental and usage conditions. In a hurry to go to market, startups are cutting out some of the phases and facing problems at the final stage. Battery systems and the BMS have to be properly integrated and evaluated with proper cooling system based on Cell chemistry.

He also stressed that the specs and quality requirements of components for automotive application are more severe compared to other engineering applications.

Giving various use cases about how Telematics and IoT are making a huge difference in performance optimisation in the working of Electric Vehicles Mr Vadiraj Katti, MD & CEO – Itriangle, said that they are here to stay. These technologies are an integral part of the EV ecosystem as EVs are grounds-up connected vehicles, but we cannot ignore the need for standardisation, as what we build into these IoT protocols will stand us in good stead throughout. These technologies are imperative, not just for the individual but also for any shared mobility business.

Mr Anuj Guglani, Founder & CEO – WAF Group expressed regret at the incidence of EV fires where people have been losing lives. He felt that some corrective action needs to be taken so that quality is paramount; some policies put into place to save lives, for grandparents and children haven’t signed up for having to succumb to EV fires or battery explosions. Green mobility cannot be a killer!

In his partner Keynote Mr Gaurav Gupta, Chief Commercial Officer, MG Motor India, spoke about how MG has been at the forefront, pioneering various innovations in the electric mobility space. He spoke about how the focus at MG revolves around CASE – Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric – whether for the internet SUV Hector;  India’s first L1 Autonomous SUV – Gloster; India’s first Pure Electric Internet SUV – MG ZS EV and India’s first SUV with personal AI assistant and Autonomous (Level 2) technology – MG Astor.

He also spoke about their various initiatives focused towards strengthening the EV ecosystem, such as establishing charging stations in residential areas under MG Charge and battery recycling. Mr Gupta gave an insight to getting the entire ecosystem together for enhancing customer confidence and bolstering the adoption of electric vehicles in India. He said that the EV Innovators Network is a step in the right direction, getting all the stake-holders together on one platform.

The second EVIN Power Panel met after lunch to discuss the Action Plan: For the Next 3 Years, What is the Role of the Govt, Component Players, Auto Makers, Dealers, FIs, Tech COs for an EV Revolution.

Questioning why there was razor-sharp focus on just electric mobility, Mr Dilip Chenoy – Former Secretary General, FICCI pointed out that the focus should be on sustainable green mobility. Stating that the source of electricity in our country is mostly coal or fossil fuel based, he asked whether we were just looking at shifting our approach from fossil fuel to thermal based mobility. Mr Chenoy pointed out that there is a need to critically analyse the steps to be taken, so that green mobility must be fossil fuel agnostic. He added that unless EV is totally green or power based on renewal, just focussing on EV might be myopic in the long run.

Mr Ranojoy Mukerji– Automotive & Lifestyle Writer felt that the EV revolution is not being brought about by 4-wheelers for commercial vehicles, but by two-wheelers and three-wheelers. In fact he pointed out that even small towns and cities are teeming with E-rickshaws while many restaurants and delivery companies depend on e-scooters for deliveries. While cars are also making their mark, the entry cost is high and there is a range anxiety, he added. The concept of battery swapping is difficult as  each vehicle has its own specifications.  Mr Mukherji raised the very pertinent issue about adequate power in the grids once electrification happened, stressing the need of a strong regulatory framework regarding standards for electric vehicles and battery use.

Mr Dev Ashish Aneja – AVP, India Invest, GOI shared that India Invest is a part of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India and is spearheading, facilitating various investments from around the world in India especially in the EV ecosystem in areas like charging equipment, charging systems, design and battery swapping, battery manufacturing and so forth. He shared various tenets of the EV business in India and also details of start-up innovations and the start-up ecosystem.

Mr Sameer Malhotra– Director & CEO, Shriram Automall talked about the on-ground status of electric vehicles and the used car segment, giving details of the kinds of things that the customer looks at and the kinds of questions the customer asks. He said that the fact that customers ask a lot of questions is good as it suggests that customers are open about electric vehicles. He added that we still have a long way to go before EV optioning and the EV business to mature.

In his Keynote address Mr Shubhankar Chaudhry, CEO, One Moto India expressed concern about the demand for lithium in the coming years and the impact or cost that would have on the environment, due to the volumes of water that is needed to process these. Another concern, according to Mr. Chaudhry, was the recycling of these batteries which is at less than 5% in developed countries and barely 2% elsewhere.

In addition, he stated that there is a need to plan the transport and reuse of these batteries as they contain highly hazardous materials. He stressed that it is important to find sustainable models of batteries globally, use a de-carbonised grid and that OEMs take responsibility to be ESG compliant, ending with an appeal to think about how the auto industry could work towards that. One truly needs to look out for this amazing EV company One Moto.

The third Keynote address at EVIN 2022 was presented by Mr Pawan Choudhary, Advisor to Haryana CM, for Foreign Cooperation, Govt of Haryana. Mr Choudhary shared how they were able to make an impact during the lockdown purely through WhatsApp and on the phone and were able to get an FDI of US $6.5 billion in the state of Haryana. The state is really at the forefront with a number of projects in EV manufacturing as well as setting up factories for battery manufacturing. The pace and speed at which they work is at par with the best of the MNCs – being very responsive and dynamic in action.

The conference concluded on the optimistic note that green power as well as an eco-system of sustainability will be the driving force behind EVs, in the spirit of ‘Dialogue to Action’ which is the motto of World Auto Forum.

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