Sustainable Energy

Electric vehicle sales in India jump, with two-wheeled scooters driving growth

Key Points
  • Sales of EVs in the country hit 156,000 over the year, according to new figures. 
  • Compared to other countries India's electric car market still has a long way to go.
Nasir Kachroo | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Electric vehicle (EV) sales in India have risen sharply over the year, with two-wheeled modes of transport accounting for the vast majority of sales in the world's second-most-populous country.

Sales of EVs in the country hit 156,000 in the 2019-20 financial year, figures from the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV) showed Monday, up from 130,000 the previous year.

"Two-wheelers" accounted for a whopping 152,000 of the total sales, with car and bus sales hitting 3,400 and 600 respectively.

Of the two-wheeler sales in the latest figures, 97% were electric scooters, with electric bicycles and motorcycles accounting for the remaining 3%. Electric car sales in India were slightly down compared to a year earlier, when 3,600 units were sold.

Compared to other countries India's electric car market still has a long way to go.

Take the U.K., for instance. According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, battery electric vehicle registrations in the country rose to 37,850 in 2019, a significant increase compared to 2018's 15,510.

But while it may lag in terms of electric car sales, there is clearly scope for India to introduce more electric vehicles to its transport mix.

"Air pollution is an extreme problem for the country, so EVs are a key part of the medium term solution to this," Tim Buckley, from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), told CNBC via email.

"Energy security is a huge issue, given India imports over 80% of its oil," Buckley, who is director of Energy Finance Studies for South Asia at IEEFA, added.

"So when Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about electrification as a top priority for the country, he is talking about both rural electrification and in the transport sector."

Buckley explained that while coal, hydro, wind and solar could all be sourced domestically in India, oil – at scale – could not.

There was, therefore, a "huge benefit" to the country when it came to transport electrification "in terms of national security and reduced fossil fuel imports draining the current account deficit, and hence weakening the currency."