Learning E-Mobility: The Future Of Electric Vehicle Engineering

A choice of a profession with significant longevity, substantive learning facets, cutting-edge multidisciplinary curriculum, and an opportunity to be part of transformative behavioral and environment impact — these are the heady components that engineering aspirants would like to make part of their academic and work life.

In a recent development, the Power Secretary, Ajay Bhalla announced that a policy and infrastructure framework was being set-up so that by 2030 there would be upwards of 30 percent electric vehicles in India.  Also, in a seemingly unrelated development, we learnt from AICTE in March this year that of the close to eight lakh engineering graduates in 2017, less than half got jobs through campus placement. In fact, more than 60 percent of the eight lakh engineers graduating from technical institutions across the country every year remain unemployed. The correlation between these two facts should now seem apparent. 

The market is the promise

e-Mobility is the future. In many countries, this future has already arrived, and various developments are sweeping the industry-academia complex there. Electric vehicles (EV) are novel but not new.  The first electric car was built 180 years ago, in 1837, in Aberdeen, Scotland, by a chemist named Robert Davidson, and powered by galvanic cells. Since then, global EV vehicle deliveries have reached 12,23,600 units in 2017, 58% higher than that for 2016. For 2018, sales are expected to touch 19 lakh units which could more than double to 50 lakh by beginning 2019. In revenue terms, the 2012 global market for electric vehicles reached about USD 83.5 billion and between 2013 and 2019, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 19 % to reach USD 272 billion. These are good encouraging numbers. There is a not-so-small piece of the EV pie, it seems, for anyone who cares to have it—with a bit of hard work and intelligence to get it, of course.

For aspiring engineering graduates who wish to enter the EV industry, it is important to understand that an integrated, polyfunctional, field-agnostic course structure is what awaits them. As in any integrated science, EV engineering courses are still pretty much nascent, and only the best institutes are capable of stepping up to this in terms of course content, industry-academia partnership, and cross-discipline approach. For example, battery research and design form one of the most critical and major EV components. The same goes for the power-train technologies, a significant key part of all EVs. 

Material design, automobile engineering, control systems, mechanical and electrical technologies, infrastructure and environmental sciences, telematics, telecom, computer science, behavioral dynamics, all have to be appreciated and tackled by a student and practitioner of e-mobility devices. Engineering courses designed for electric vehicle technology will not only address the holistic, market-learning equation but shall be replete with practical hands-on experience since this field is highly practicable. Since the best education is one which provides empowerment for livelihood and possibilities for social impact, EV engineering does hold promise.    

In India, there has been a surge in engineering colleges in recent times. It would have been good news for those seeking to become engineers. However, 200 have applied for closure this year already, a potential impact on 80,000 seats which are consequently expected to go. On the other hand, the employability of the youth is also a question in need of urgent answers. The India story on electric vehicles is something that could merit a closer look in this context. India made 4.5 million cars and commercial vehicles in 2017, making it the world's fifth largest producer, according to the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d'Automobiles, a global manufacturers' body. On the other hand, issues such as a hefty and growing Oil import bill, pollution making headlines for our smoggy cities, infrastructure challenges, and power rationalization, have made EVs an attractive option. 

A hope for the new clean world

A special task force constituted by NITI Aayog has gone ahead and proposed the removal of all permit requirements for electric vehicles. No wonder then, that according to a recent ASSOCHAM-EY joint study entitled ‘Electric mobility in India: Leveraging collaboration and nascency,’ surmises that despite electric vehicles not being mainstream, stricter emission norms, reducing battery prices and increasing consumer awareness are driving EV adoption in India.

Globally, countries such as Germany, China, Japan, the UK, Netherlands, Norway, the US, and France, among many others, are seriously planning and executing workable solutions for EV proliferation. Known names such as Tesla, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, BYD, are all EV players and present here in India too. Google parent Alphabet-owned autonomous car company Waymo has joined hands with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR)—A TATA company, to develop a luxury, self-driving electric car. In the after-sales and auto component market too, EV holds an unseen, unheard of potential since this Rs. 300,000 crore industry employing 33 lakh people could see a requirement of 50 percent EV-trained professionals. The goldmine exists, smart miners are all that is needed. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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