Building the Ecosystem for Electric Mobility in India

Introduction to eMobility Ecosystem

We discussed with a panel of experts on “How we can build the right ecosystem for e-Mobility in India?” during SAEINDIA’s ADMMS’22 Conference. The ADMMS conference covers advances in design, materials and manufacturing and was held at the SRMIST Kattankulathur campus this year. The performance of the electric vehicle (EV) depends on its interactions with other elements in the ecosystem around it. It could, the charging station. It could be the supply chain for the batteries and the materials required to make them. It could be the connectivity of the vehicle to monitor its performance and for infotainment applications. There are so many things in the ecosystem that are required to solve the e-mobility challenges and create a sustainable mobility solution for the future.

Figure 1 – Electric Mobility Ecosystem

Electric Mobility requires participation of experts from many different domains. It’s like a jig-saw puzzle – different pieces of the puzzle are expertise from different domains. It is very important for all of us to come together, put together this puzzle of electric mobility, and if we do this right, we’ll be solving this problem not only for India, but for the globe. India has the potential to become a global hub for electric mobility. It is very important for us to bring multiple perspectives together and put together a roadmap and a bunch of recommendations, which will help us to build a very strong mobility ecosystem in India.

The moderator for the panel discussion was Dr Shankar Venugopal, Vice President Mahindra & Mahindra. Shankar has been leading technology innovations for automotive and farm new products. As the Dean of the Mahindra Technical Academy, he is focused on building EV technical capability amongst automotive engineers. The expert panel included (a) Mr Ramachandarn S – Ram is part of the thought leadership team in Infosys and has published a book on Neoskilling (b) Dr. Hiran Vedam – she has a strong focus on Cleantech and is a Business Fellow at Breakthrough Energy, which is a Bill Gates funded initiative to decarbonize our planet (c) Professor RK Amit – he is a Professor in the Department of Management Studies at IIT Madras and heads the Decision Engineering and Pricing (DEEP) Lab (d) Dr. Arun Kumar Sampath – Arun is a Principal Consultant at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and is actively exploring many new technologies in electric and connected vehicles and (e) Mr Meenakshi Sundaram – Meenakshi is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in Amalgamations Group or Simpsons. We discussed about both the challenges and the solutions in terms of building a vibrant ecosystem for electric mobility in India.

Figure 2 – Panel of Experts on eMobility Ecosystem

EVs are at the heart of Sustainable Mobility

The discussion started with the most attractive feature – the sustainability aspect of e-mobility. Dr. Hiran described how building the eMobility the ecosystem is a big step for us towards sustainable mobility. Dr Hiran said, “ Electrifying transport does multiple things. If you look at an ICE vehicle, you can get around 20% efficiency. But if you take your electric vehicles, you can get close to 80 – 90% efficiency. . This higher efficiency is one reason why we want to go electric. The other reason is we don’t have carbon emissions. I mean, we are all moving towards the 2030-2050 targets of keeping global warming below 1.5 degree and reducing emissions is the key to doing that. Transportation sectorcontributes 9% of India’s CO2 emissions. We see the air pollution resulting from road transpand it impacts every person more directly. So, decarbonizing it is very important and  electrification is a key component of that effort. Whether you do it through hydrogen or whether you it through electricity, we need to do it. In terms of challenges, when we think of widespread electrification of vehicles, the two things that give me nightmares are the Grid and  Storage”.

Figure 3 – Dr Hiran highlights the Grid and Storage challenges for EVs

Dr Shankar, building on Dr Hiran’s thoughts, added, “So we can imagine, grid, especially if all of us have an electric vehicle, all of us go back home at six in the evening and connect it to charging, we can imagine what kind of load it is going to be on the grid. So definitely grid is one of the bigger concerns. The next is storage, all the electric vehicles need lithium-ion battery packs. Plus ,if we want clean electricity, we need to use renewable solar or wind energy. We will also the same battery packs to store the clean electricity. So suddenly there is going to be double the demand for these batteries both for storage of renewable energy and clean transportation perspectives. So the two key challenges are Grid and Storage”.

Dr Shankar continued to talk about batteries, “we hear a lot about scarce materials like lithium and cobalt. And we wonder whether such critical materials can be mined and processed in a sustainable manner. We also wonder if we will be able to further scale up the production of critical materials to match the manufacturing of more electric vehicles. The next big thing is of course the supply chain management. How good, how prepared are we to manage the supply chain and mitigate the risk around the critical materials, both the battery materials and for the magnets, the semiconductor chips. Let us hear from our expert from IIT Madras, Prof. Amit who has been looking at this and very focused research on this area over the last few years. Prof. Amit will share his insights on what are the key challenges from the supply chain perspective for e-mobility”.

Figure 4 – Dr Shankar draws attention to the Critical Materials required for scaling up EVs

EV Supplychain Management & EV Manufacturing

Prof RK Amit elaborated on the supply chain management aspect of eMobility, “  Let me start at a very philosophical level and then go into supply chain. When we take a pragmatic look at mobility, we look at what is the ideal state of mobility.  An individual can actually go from one to the place without actually using any mediums, you just transport yourself. That is something which we aspire for as part of mobility. Normally in my classes, when I talk about services, even for manufacturing and mobility is what we call faster, cheaper, better, diverse, and sustainable. When I say faster, it is the fastest mode of transport. When I say cheaper, it should be cost effective. When I say, better, the quality of experience, the quality of mobility should be good. When I say diverse, I bring the multi-modal perspective. And the last one is most important, sustainability is actually getting warmed up. And we really need the mobility to be sustainable. When we discuss sustainable mobility, we use a VCAP framework. The idea or the definition of it is the value you can get out of a service is equal to the capability into the assets plus the processes. It means that even if you’re highly capable and if your assets and processes are not well defined, the value you create to the customer will be zero. And even if your assets and processes and you’re not capable, there is no value. Capability in this case here is the five things (faster, better, cheaper, diverse, sustainable). If you take Swiggy, the speed is important – everything has to be delivered in 10 minutes. Supply chain management actually is part of the process. Companies actually think of it as a differentiator – how well you can actually manage your supply chain “.

Figure 5 – Professor Amit highlights the challenges in EV Supplychain Management and EV Manufacturing

“ If you look at electric mobility and storage part, battery plays a greater role. Car mobility was electric initially before the engine. If you look at the progress in semiconductor technology, we see the doubling of computing power every 18 months (Moore’s Law). Unfortunately, there has never been a Moore’s Law in battery. Battery technology actually progressed in much smaller steps. The classic lithium battery was developed in the 60s. The improvements were marginal. The unfortunate part is that most of the battery materials are very strategic. They are confined to very specific geographies. Supply chains are highly opaque. Some of them actually come from war zones. If you look at Cobalt, it comes from the Democratic of Congo. The supply chains are controlled by the Chinese. The point here is, how we actually can make the supplychains more visible? Can we move to new chemistries where we overcome the challenges of the material scarcity? Can new storage technologies be made possible? Can other business model like remanufacturing be possible, is it possible to recycle the lithium ion batteries? “

Professor Amit briefly touched upon EV manufacturing, “ When we talk about all these faster, cheaper, better, one thing which is very important is the modular manufacturing. Skateboard architecture is a powerful idea and it allows different design variants (top hats) to fit into the same architecture. EVs can be customized to meet different range requirements. Today there is a lot of range anxiety. The size of the battery and the weight of the vehicle can be optimized to enable different ranges.”

eMobility Product Performance – Supersystem readiness – 5G Connectivity 5G

Dr Arun Sampath, who is a veteran in the automotive product development space and has the experience of working in multiple automotive OEMs, started speaking. He has a much broader perspective on technology space around 5G connectivity, and also the autonomous aspects. He went on to elaborate his views, “When we look at the evolution of EV technologies, Tesla started out with using an existing platform. They borrowed a platform from Lotus and they developed a sports electric car and it was highly priced. Then they slowly developed other models, Y then X, then Model 3 etc. So they started at a very high price and as the volume kept increasing, the prices started reducing. When you have to purchase an appliance like television or a refrigerator, we find a lot of white goods. Even in the electric vehicle, it may get more and more into a white goods space. In that scenario of mass manufacturing of EVs, what would be the product differentiator then? The differentiator will be User Experience. What is the value you are delivering to the user? And lots of times it need not be the hardware.

Figure 6 – Dr Arun Sampath describes the merits of the Skateboard Architecture of EVs

For example, if you look at a camera on your mobile phone today, let’s say it’s 20 MP or 50 MP or whatever, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day because it’s still a camera and you have everything there. So what is it that you’re trying to look for? It has the same Snapdragon processor and maybe the same display. So what is it that is that you are trying to differentiate? Number one is the value for the money. Number two, does it need specific features or the, performance? There is something similar in e-mobility also. With respect to motors, with respect to batteries, the platform. The OEMs are shifting from, ICEs to EVs to a dedicated platform. Volkswagen, Nissan, Toyota have their own platform. Then it evolved into the skateboard, where it is literally flat because it gives you two advantages. Number one, the batteries can be packaged there. Number two, it lowers the center-of-gravity so that it gives better vehicle dynamics and, stability and maneuvering. Number three, in fact, even in the skateboard now, it is moving more towards independent wheel control in the sense the motors could be hub motors or the motors could be individuals. So to that extent, the EV technology is evolving”.

Dr. Shankar remarked, “the EV technology has been around for a long time. It’s the lack of readiness of the ecosystem that made us wait for more than hundred years to get back to electric. So we should not go wrong with that in terms of making sure that the ecosystem is ready now”.

Building eMobility Products – how ready are we with components and subsystems?

Meenakshi Sundaram pitched in with his insights, “ I will restrict my focus to subsystems and components. Number one is as a component manufacturer, subsystem manufacturer. Everybody thinks EV is simple and easy with less number of moving components. The first challenge is we are not serious about what we are doing, we think it is easy. I always split down my work into three different areas: concept to launch, raw material to delivery, and order to cash. When we talk about raw material to delivery, it includes purchasing, manufacturing, everything.

Concept to launch is my key area, where I have spent more than 26 years now. We are in a hurry. We are skipping deep processes. We are not ready to listen to the processes which was brought in, in the automotive ecosystem, by APQP (Advanced Product Quality Planning). So you have to think about starting with the requirements of finishing a product. We are trying to skip that. That is one, one of the biggest problem. The cost of acquisition of manufacturing process, other technology, for example, motor manufacturing, winding technology. If we make it simple, you can do it by hand. But you are not going to make million motors, you are not going to make 20 million motors, which are required for our motorcycles. So maybe 30 million. So we are not ready for it yet, that is the second key challenge. In third one, order to cash. We have to generate money. We have to build a strong economy. We have to cross through to the 3 trillion economy order to create more and more jobs. What is the biggest challenge? “

Figure 7 – Meenakshi Sundaram describes the strategies around EV Components and subsystems

The moderator stepped in to shift the gears of the discussion and remarked, “We’ll focus our attention on something very important, which is the skill that we all need to participate in this eMobility journey. Let us now talk about reskilling. If I am an electrical or electronics engineer, I have no clue about Mechanical engineer principles. There’s so much for all of us to learn and do. And how can we do this very quickly so that we are building products at the same time we are also reskilling ourselves. Also this has to be very fast. Let us listen to Ram from Infosys who wrote a book on neo-skilling almost four years back, before the whole community started realizing the importance of reskilling. He had co-authored this book with Prof Prasad from IIM Bangalore. However busy we are, we have to dedicate time to reskill ourselves and be ready to participate in this exciting journey of e-mobility. So let’s hear from Ram as what he sees as challenges in e-mobility when it comes to reskilling ourselves”.

Reskilling for Electric Mobility

Ram elaborated on reskilling for eMobility and said, “The most critical element in an e-mobility ecosystem are the people. If we do not have people skilled in electric mobility technology, we will not be able to scale up its adoption. We will face further challenges down the line. I look at skills as the last mile part in electric mobility because unless these technologies are taken to every corner of the value chain, we will not see their adoption. Not just as OEMs, even as an end user. If I’m planning to buy an electric car or an electric scooter, I need the guarantee that there are the repair shops and technicians out there to fix any issue. So if we really want to look at a holistic ecosystem of e-mobility, then we cannot forget the skills. We should look at the lifecycle of professionals right from colleges to early and mid career. How can we prepare them for e-mobility at all stages and reskill them so that they practice lifelong learning? We should also look at the lifecycle of products, from design to manufacture, operation, maintenance, repair and end-of-life management for circularity.

Figure 8 – Ramachandran emphasizes the sense of urgency for Reskilling Mobility Engineers

So back to the fundamental challenges that I see, four basic challenges. University education has always been lagging behind the industry needs. That is because of the rapid pace with which industry is moving. So for education reforms to keep pace is going to be challenge. The second challenge comes from the multi-disciplinary nature of electric vehicles. So whether it’s academia or the industry, we are usually operating in siloes. For any professional or any organization to be successful in e-mobility, we need a systems approach cutting across functions.

The third challenge I see is lack of standards. When we talk about large scale e-mobility, there are not many proven standards. It is still evolving. If you look at charging stations or battery swapping, there is still a lack interoperable standards. We need to draw a line between differentiation and interoperability. The fourth challenge, like any new initiative is the inertia or resistance for change.”

Figure 9 – The Panelists posing with Mr Sadagopan Krishnan


The central challenge in realizing electric mobility is building the ecosystem. The performance of EVs will critically depend on the readiness of ecosystem elements.

From the perspective of scaling up EVs in a sustainable manner, the Grid and storage are the key challenges. We need to generate clean electricity from renewable sources and get the grid ready to handle the additional load. Both EVs and renewable power generation would critically need storage solutions.

The Mobility trends are faster, cheaper, better, diverse and sustainable. We need to make our EV supplychains more transparent and resilient. This is important to mitigate the risks in the supply of critical EV materials.

To reduce the cost of EV manufacturing and enable mass customization, simplification of EV design like the skateboard architecture is very important.

Scaling up of EVs require localization of high quality EV components. EV manufacturers need to focus on three critical areas – concept to launch, raw material to delivery and order to cash.

Large scale reskilling of automotive engineers is key to realizing early success with eMobility. We have to overcome the challenges of education lagging behind industry needs, the complexity due to multidisciplinary nature of EV tech, interoperability problems due to lack of standards etc. The easiest way to overcome the resistance to change is through quick reskilling.



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