The Indian Army is all set to buy electric cars, motorcycles and buses, and a pilot project for partially converting its vehicle fleet to electric vehicles has already commenced. The Indian Army’s electric vehicle initiative is meant to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, cut down on carbon footprint, and to also reduce the cost of operating vehicles. While the Indian Army has already begun the transition to electric vehicles in New Delhi, other locations such as Pune, Kolkata and Lucknow will be next.
The army is setting up infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicles for both combat personnel and non-combat personnel. However, these electric vehicles will be limited to peace-time locations. In other words, the Indian Army plans to deploy electric vehicles only in non-combat areas, and the border areas will continue to have internal combustion engined (ICE) vehicles. This is because electricity access is a big challenge in many of the border areas that the Indian Army operates in, where temperatures can range from sub-zero to as much as 50 degree celsius.
Here’s what officials privy to the Indian Army’s vehicle electrification plans had to say,
Various factors unique to the army’s employability, remote locations of employment and operational commitments were considered to arrive at a definite time-bound road map for inducting electric vehicles. It (Indian Army) has set up charging points in parking lots of offices and residential complexes, installed transformers with adequate load bearing capability based on anticipated number of EVs per station. Solar panel driven charging stations are in the works. Considering the pace of green initiatives being adopted by the government and efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, it is necessary to adapt to the changing environment,” said the first official. The government’s policy of faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid & EV (FAME) I & II (to promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles) has boosted infrastructure development for sustaining the EV ecosystem in the country.
While electric vehicles cost much lesser than ICE vehicles to run, the initial cost is much higher, and can be recouped only if EVs are used quite extensively. While maintenance cost of EVs is just a fraction of that of ICE vehicles, battery replacement costs after say 5-7 years could be quite high, blunting the edge that EVs have when it comes to cost savings on maintenance.
Also, EVs need charging infrastructure, which is currently only available in the bigger cities. This is changing rapidly though, and more EV charging stations are being set up across India. However, 24X7 electricity access is still not established in most parts of India, and until this happens, EVs will have a tough time replacing ICE vehicles. Battery swapping and other innovative ideas could change things though.