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Electric vehicles’ mobility to drive engineering plastics industry in India

10 Jan 2023 15:28 IST
India’s commitment to driving the world for a greener future has accelerated demand for electric vehicles (EV) and their accessories that are backed by efficient technologies for the smooth adoption of environment-friendly personal and public transport. Sound technology-backed engineering plastics find their place in the midst of the growth trajectory with a projection of almost similar to the increase in EV mobility.

Data compiled by India’s Union Ministry of Transport showed 1.4 million EVs plying on Indian roads as on August 2022. The demand for EVs (including passenger and personal cars, two-wheelers, buses, etc.) increased rapidly with the resurgence in post-pandemic economic recovery. India’s Union Ministry of Transport estimates total EV demand in the country to rise to 45-50 million by 2030.

India’s automotive industry size is estimated to be worth around US$222 billion as of today, of which the EV market is projected to be worth a mere US$2 billion by 2023 and US$7.09 billion by 2025. Growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 49 percent from its low base, India’s EV market is anticipated to record phenomenal growth going forward. Between April 2000 and March 2022, this sector attracted equity inflows as Foreign Director Investment (FDI) to the tune of US$32.84 billion or 6 percent of the total FDI attracted in equities during that time.

EV’s link with engineering plastics
Normally, polycarbonate (PC), polyamide (PA), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polyacetal/polyoxymethylene (POM), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), among a host of other innovative raw materials are used to manufacture EV components such as dashboard, bumpers, lighting, interior/exterior trims, electric motor and powertrain, battery pack, connectors, and cable, to name a few. The increasing mobility of electric vehicles has multiplied demand for components made of engineering plastics and eventually their raw materials.

All these raw materials and finished products are manufactured with an extremely high degree of efficiency to equip EVs with the most modern safety features. In EVs, however, the industry has increased the use of lightweight engineering plastics without compromising the quality of vehicles. This helps in reducing the application of metals to the maximum possible extent and also improves the vehicles’ efficiency, speed, and control.

Ankur Betai, Director of Autotech Sirmax India Pvt Ltd, said, “EVs are going to increase demand for engineering plastics not only in India but all across the world. There are a lot of projects the industry is presently working on which enable shifting from metals to plastics. Going forward, the volume of engineering plastics per vehicle will increase, but how much only time will tell. In terms of cost also, the cost of engineering plastics could be lower than that of metals. Hence, the overall cost of the vehicles per unit is also going to decline.”

He further added, “Presently, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are spending a huge amount on technological innovations, either procuring from others or developing on their own. Hence, the overall unit cost of EVs will also depend upon the use of technology. In the long run, the cost of EVs is going to be lower than the current price levels of EVs. However, it is still left to be seen if the price can match or be lower than internal combustion engines (ICE) due to the advancement of technology. Only time will tell that.”

Trend in the engineering plastics market
The overall global electric vehicles engineering plastics market size is estimated at 12.5 billion in 2021 and is projected to surpass US$106 billion by 2030 with a compounded annual growth rate of 27 percent. The companies engaged in manufacturing engineering plastics for application in EVs have been leveraging the growth opportunities in this sector with a series of incentives being offered by governments across the world. Although the growth of this sector was slowed due to several waves of coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, demand for EVs picked up steadily with the post-pandemic economic recovery.

According to a study, the innovation of glass fiber-reinforced polyamide 6, which is being publicized for its insulation and flame-resistance properties, is set to become a game changer for the engineering plastics industry for electric vehicle mobility. This material is full of features like the lightweight and simplified assembly of EV batteries. Due to stringent mechanical and chemical properties requirements for electric vehicle components, manufacturers are increasing R&D in glass-fiber-reinforced polyamide 6 which is easy to process and enables the integration of complex functions required for housing components.

Since the mobility industry is transitioning towards an all-electric future, manufacturers in the electric vehicles engineering plastic market are bolstering R&D in thermoplastic-based solutions. Manufacturers in the electric vehicle engineering plastics market are taking cues from such innovations to develop a plastic-intensive EV battery pack using a systems-engineering approach, which holds potential for lightweight plastic components.

Future growth drivers
With an aim to promote green energy, the government of India has taken all possible steps to incentivize manufacturers of EVs and their components. Thus, many conventional automotive players and oil companies are investing heavily to boost EV demand to reach the aspirational goal. To name a few, Skoda revealed its plan to produce EVs locally in India in 2021, and Indian Oil Corporation announced to the creation of 22,000 EV charging stations over three-five years.

Almost all automakers and also large corporate houses forayed into this segment to take part in the growth of the EV industry. As late as today, Jindal Mobilitric (JM), a subsidiary of Jindal Worldwide, announced the setting up of an electric 2-wheeler manufacturing plant with a production capacity of 250,000 vehicles annually in Ahmedabad. Additionally, the Indian government has also been implementing programmes to encourage the growth of electric mobility, including 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) through the automotive route in the EV space, incubator programmes, shared facilities for prototyping and small-scale manufacturing, financial support, tax breaks, and subsidies for consumers. Also, India’s central government announced a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to attract investment in this sector.

Move towards ‘net zero’
EVs are going to play a crucial role in India’s commitment to achieving ‘net zero’ – zero carbon dioxide emission – by 2070 as a majority of EV charging stations are being supported with solar energy with no fossil fuel involved. Hence, the growth in EVs is planned to reduce India’s fossil fuel consumption and hence the dependence on its import. With the engineering plastics industry moving in tandem with the growth in EVs, the prospects are bright for the value-added specialized plastics industry in the next few decades.