If the upcoming Ola electric scooter could herald a revolution in the automobile industry, we are in for much bigger changes in the field. Beginning with two-wheelers and four-wheelers and gradually soaring to air travel, the fast-expanding electric culture is set to change our concepts regarding vehicles and the traditions and habits created by centuries-old internal combustion petrol or diesel engines.
Petrol pumps, workshops and dealerships may make way for mobile money, apps and software updates.
The days of easy motoring when the process of buying a car goes fully online, updating vehicle software from your home instead of visiting a service centre, the technician coming home to oil and service the very few moving parts, plugging in the vehicle to recharge while you go out for tea and solar energy powering the vehicle are not far away.
If you thought the internal combustion engines came first, think again. As against our common belief, it was electric vehicles that took birth first. History credits Hungarian inventor Anyos István Jedlik for making the first electric model car in 1828.
Later, during the same period, several electric vehicles were designed in Europe; right from Scottish inventor Robert Anderson in 1832 many electric-powered carriages were built in the subsequent years. Electric trains and trams that have the technology of those days can be found even today in old European cities.
Soon, goes out of range
Though Daimler's first internal combustion engine-driven car dimmed the industry behind that technology, the electric vehicles never gave up. However, though better than petrol cars on every count, these cars went out of reckoning due to the same issue that they face now - range. With the expansion of roads and other infrastructure by the 19th century, cars had to leave the city confines and undertake longer journeys into the countryside. There were no charging facilities in places without electricity and thus electric cars had to be restricted to cities.
Later, with the onslaught of petrol and diesel cars, and their favourable industrial equations, electric cars were mostly edged out from the scene. Moreover, when the tax on sale of petrol and diesel became the main revenue earner for several countries including India, the electric segment went out of favour.
Highway electric car
Though electric cars never disappeared from the streets, their numbers were always minuscule. However, by 2000, electric cars that are more modern and with more range took shape. The innovative changes in the semiconductor industry and lithium-ion battery manufacturing were behind this resurgence.
Today, there are electric cars that can cover about 1,000 km in a single full charge. The entry of companies like Sony, Asahi Kasei, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Citroen and Tesla gave a shot in the arm for the industry. Now, barring a few minor concerns, the electric cars are ready to outrun the conventional ones.
Beginnings of change
What could be the changes in the electric vehicle industry? Everything could change. The industry could see the demise of traditional players who refuse to join the electric bandwagon and the rise of startups like Ola. We could also see zero-emission cities, vehicles running on solar energy with zero expenditure, control of homes, cars and household equipment on fingertips, and imposing of restrictions and prohibitions.
Here are the major likely impacts or areas were major changes are expected.
1. Fuel stations
Petrol stations will fade into oblivion. Vehicles will primarily be charged at homes and offices, and during long journeys you may plug your vehicle to the charging facility offered at restaurants and other places. By the time you finish your tea and come out, the vehicle battery will be fully charged. The payment would be deducted from Fastag or similar setups. Compared to petrol and diesel, the bill will be paltry.
2. Dealership, service
Technically, both dealerships and service centres will become inconsequential. Similar to the method adopted by Ola, booking will be online. Dealerships will be required for limited activities such as displays and test drives. Since the electric motors have very few moving parts as compared to internal combustion engines, service requirements would be low. The once-in-a-six-months service could be done by a technician at your home too. It is similar to periodic changing of the filter of our water purifier. A visit to the service centre would be required only for major works or accident repairs.
3. App-based control
One mobile app will help control your vehicle and all household equipment. Through the app, you could remote start the car, switch on the air conditioner and get alerts on service reminders. The time is not far away when the car will alert you about the low stock of vegetables and other essentials when you pass by a store since the app could be linked to household equipment. The app will take into consideration the convenience of the driver and act accordingly.
4. Less of traffic infractions
It will be difficult to break traffic rules. You would be caught if you break the speed limit or cause an accident. If the fine accrues to a certain amount, you won't be able the start the vehicle or the amount will be automatically deducted from your Fastag account.
5. Free ride
Solar units would become common. If you have a 3-5KW on-grid solar system, you could run your air conditioners, other household appliances, cooking and car charging for free. Though the up-front cost could be up to Rs 4 lakh, the long-term benefits of such a system should be considered, especially since the costs of cooking gas, electricity and fuel are skyrocketing these days.