Ensuring EV battery availability | Autocar Professional


Ensuring EV battery availability | Autocar Professional

As Electric Vehicles (EVs) continue to gain traction globally, their adoption in many Indian cities, excluding some major urban centers, still lags behind. While battery range and availability of charging remain the prime issues, the lack of guaranteed long-term availability of batteries and parts is a critical shortcoming. Largely ignored, this issue becomes especially pertinent when considering the rapid evolution of battery technology and the potential discontinuation of specific EV models by manufacturers.

Largely ignored, this issue becomes especially pertinent when considering the rapid evolution of battery technology and the potential discontinuation of specific EV models by manufacturers.

What Hinders Long-Time Battery and Parts Availability

In 2014, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) imposed a fine totalling INR 2,544 crore (USD 420 million) on 14 car manufacturers (OEMs) for violating Section 3(4) and Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002. These manufacturers were found to be restricting the sale and supply of genuine spare parts in the open market, forcing consumers to purchase them at exorbitant prices through their outlets, making vehicle repairs extremely difficult. In contrast, in the US, auto manufacturers are required by federal law to make parts available for any models sold for a period of 10 years from their launch date.

An EV, or any car for that matter, is a long-term investment, one that is expected to last the buyer for years. Undeniably, batteries are the most crucial components of an EV, accounting for around 40% of the vehicle’s cost and typically requiring replacement after five or more years.  However, with the fast-paced advancements in battery technology, consumers fear that manufacturers might discontinue older battery models, leaving them without the most essential part for their EVs. This applies for other key spares as well.

How Lack of Regulation Impacts EV Uptake

From 2013 to 2018, approximately 300,000 new EVs, encompassing all modes, were registered in India. This implies that the battery life for most of them would have been over, and many would have also replaced their batteries. If a model is discontinued and parts are unavailable, owners might be forced to discard their vehicles at half the official age of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in India. This situation could result in significant inconvenience, financial loss, and potentially, the need to prematurely replace the entire vehicle. This also places an enormous burden on the environment.

Currently, there is no clear mandate ensuring that manufacturers continue to provide parts and batteries for the vehicles that still have a life even though the battery life is over. While some manufacturers might voluntarily offer support for a few years, there is no consistent standard across the industry. There is no legal mandate that requires manufacturers to compulsorily provide batteries that will be appropriate for use in EVs. This lack of regulation leaves consumers in a vulnerable position, potentially undermining their confidence in making the switch to EVs.

Boosting Consumer Confidence in EVs
To address this issue, it is imperative for governments to step in and establish regulations that protect consumers. Here are some key areas where government mandates could make a significant impact:

1.    Right to Repair Laws and Manufacturers Accountability: The government could mandate that manufacturers provide batteries and essential parts for a specified period after the discontinuation of an EV model or its parts, aligning this period with the typical vehicle lifespan to ensure access to necessary components.

Introducing robust Right to Repair laws can empower consumers to independently repair their EVs, extending the vehicle’s lifespan and reducing reliance on manufacturers for minor repairs. In the US and Europe, these laws have gained momentum, reducing e-waste and promoting sustainability.

Additionally, clear regulations holding manufacturers accountable for providing parts and services for a defined period are essential for enhancing consumer confidence. Manufacturers should be required to maintain a stock of replacement parts or partner with third-party suppliers to meet this obligation.

2.    Standardisation of Parts: By encouraging or mandating the standardisation of certain EV components, governments can ensure that parts remain available even if a specific model is discontinued. Standardised components can be more easily sourced from multiple manufacturers, reducing the risk of becoming outdated.

3.    Recycling and Repurposing Programs: Governments can promote and subsidise programs that focus on recycling and repurposing old batteries. This not only helps in managing battery waste but also ensures a supply of refurbished batteries that can be used in older models.

4.    Consumer Awareness: Governments can also play a role in educating consumers about the potential risks and protections available when purchasing an EV. Most buyers do not know the important issues and guarantees to discuss with the seller. Transparent information can help them make informed decisions and understand their rights and the available support.

The Road Ahead

The long-term availability of batteries and parts is pivotal for fostering buyer confidence and boosting EV sales in India. Government interventions that mandate manufacturers to provide essential components and uphold robust Right to Repair laws can significantly mitigate consumer concerns. The potential impact of such actions is substantial. For instance, it is estimated that by 2030, India’s EV market could constitute approximately 30% of the total vehicle sales, translating to about 10 million units annually. Ensuring the availability of batteries and parts can not only sustain this growth trajectory but also enhance the overall lifespan of EVs, thus promoting environmental sustainability. 

As India progresses towards its goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2070, these regulatory measures can play a crucial role in accelerating the transition to a cleaner and greener transportation system. By addressing these critical issues, the government can pave the way for a more resilient and consumer-friendly EV market, ultimately driving the country towards a sustainable future.

Dr Bhaskar Natarajan is a Senior Fellow with AEEE and Dr Vikas Nimesh is Principal Research Associate, AEEE. Views expressed are those of the authors


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