Posted by Priya Singh On 24-Sep-2022 06:41 AM
Electrification is already happening in some parts of the world, such as the United States, but we hope it will eventually come to India as well.
Much of the coverage of India's transition to electric vehicles (EV) has focused on passenger and light commercial vehicles. However, it is sometimes overlooked that EVs are also well-suited for a variety of niche sectors. Tractors and tillers are two examples of agricultural vehicles.
This is especially important in India, where agriculture has historically been seen as the main economic sector. Although official estimates show that agriculture contributed only 20% of GDP in 2020-2021, it nevertheless employs more than 50% of the overall population. Most notably, several government measures are aimed at boosting this sector.
Several developed markets have already begun to electrify farm vehicles. Although India has yet to adopt them, this does not mean that Indian companies are not working on them. VST Tillers Tractors has already begun collaborating with other manufacturers.
Antony Cherukara, CEO of VST Tillers Tractors stated, "Electrification is already happening in some parts of the world, such as the United States, but we hope it will eventually come to India as well. We have invested in Zimeno Inc, an electric, self-driving tractor firm (Monarch Tractor). We also furnish them with components."
VST's electrification goals for the local market
VST is equipped for electrification in India, having previously worked with worldwide firms. Cherukara anticipates that the Indian agricultural automotive market will be electrified within the next five to ten years.
"VST does have plans for electrification," Cherukara stated. "We've been working on this project for three years. With this experience and the work we undertake for other firms, we can develop items for the Indian market as well. However, we predict that the electric tractor market in India will emerge within the next five to ten years. We'd be more than prepared at that point."
However, Cherukara is clear that electrification represents a substantial shift for a firm and sector that has relied significantly on ICE vehicles for a long time. To make this transition happen, VST would need to collaborate with battery suppliers and other significant component makers in the EV supply chain.
"In terms of collaborations, we would be interested in battery management systems and electrical part technology," Cherukara added. "We primarily provide mechanical tractors powered by an IC engine. So these are the competencies that we would need to develop as we move forward and consider collaborations in these areas."
What it takes to meet the specific requirements of Indian farmers
The agriculture sector faces specific hurdles due to the nature of their work that must be overcome before EVs can make inroads. These difficulties may be exacerbated in a country like India, where the EV ecosystem is still in its early stages.
"The amount of hours that the tractor can function on a single charge is the primary problem in the tractor category," Cherukara added. "It doesn't fulfil the purpose of a farmer until it's six to eight hours, which signifies a full day's labour. Farmers in nations such as the United States purchase a replaceable battery to get a continuous six to eight hours of operation because one stack only delivers three to four hours. However, due to the expense of batteries and the affordability aspect for Indian farmers, this may not be realistic in India."
This means that when it comes to customer acceptance, pricing is essential. When battery and technology rates drop, we may see a significant move toward electric vehicles. Cherukara anticipates that this will occur first in compact and small tractors, followed by larger tractors due to operational duration.
While VST has a clear picture of India's EV future, it is also looking at opportunities elsewhere. The company sees fertile ground in places such as California, where a combination of government initiatives and farming efforts is delivering results.
"The ecosystem in the United States is far more advanced in terms of charging infrastructure and affordability," Cherukara explained. "For example, the government provides substantial subsidies for tractors sold in California. In such markets, electric tractors are heavily subsidized, and many large farmers choose autonomous tractors. Because of the ecosystem, these markets will grow faster, and we will engage in them."
Concerns about a global chip shortage have impacted EV companies in most industries, but because agricultural vehicles utilize relatively few chips, they have not been as badly affected. Although there have been certain general supply chain restrictions, they are now also loosening. This is a sector to keep an eye on as goods get more affordable and India's EV ecosystem develops more.
22-Mar-2023 10:42 AM
22-Mar-2023 06:32 AM