“India will lead the energy revolution in the world with electric vehicles,” claimed India’s finance minister Piyush Goyal, while unveiling the Union Budget 2019 and laying out the 10 point agenda for Vision 2030.
However, given the fact that electric mobility is at a nascent stage in India, one cannot help but wonder if India is truly ready to embrace the electric vehicle (EV) wave. Certain transformations are necessitated due to the evolving challenges of contemporary times.
Why India Needs EV?
In effect of the degrading standards of air quality and growing pollution menace, India needs to readily embrace the EV wave. Our nation houses 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities. In addition, India belongs to the group of countries with the highest recorded levels of particulate matter (PM), with our cities recording alarming levels of PM10 and PM2.5 matter.
These figures mark the urgent need for India to embrace electric vehicles, as combustions from motor vehicles is one of the significant sources of air pollution. While the AQI levels are certainly alarming, India is further obligated to reduce the global emissions owing to the Paris climate agreement.
Is India Doing Enough?
To the same accord, the government is launching key initiatives such as National E-Mobility Programme, to mainstream the use of electric vehicles with policies like FAME II and Delhi EV policy.
But at present, the electric vehicle sector in India has been dwindling. While the growing number of startups and enterprises entering the domain, along with the rise of the socially conscious consumers favours the sector, several infrastructural challenges cloud its growth.
In the financial year 2017-18, the EV industry grew at 124%, selling 56,000 units as against 25,000 units in the year before. However, while the sales of electric two-wheelers picked up, there was a 40% decrease in the sales of electric cars.
What Can Be Done To Improve This?
The slump in electric cars could be attributed to a lack of proper charging infrastructure and policy support. Even when there’s a growth, this count is minuscule for a country like India which makes us question that how such a large country like ours can go Electric, it definitely calls for a shift in several directions to achieve our EV targets.
Major overhauls are warranted, in order for India to emerge as a super-power in the electric vehicles sector.
Strengthen The Manufacturing
To begin with, India needs to strengthen its manufacturing muscle, in order for us to build in-house the EVs we need. In the recent budget, the government also increased customs duty on import of lithium-ion battery, and the consequences would trickle down to the consumers as inflated costs, further discouraging the adoption.
However, indigenous manufacturing will not only allow us to remove such challenges and better control the costs but also design products that are built to conquer the Indian terrain.
But if there’s a window where we have subsidies from the government to run business operations like cab hailing, delivery logistics, scooter sharing services on electric, that could be a major system overall and will give a huge chance for startups to perform.
Strengthen The Charging Infrastructure
Another important factor that would help India embrace the EV wave is a sprawling charging ecosystem. While mainstreaming the EVs, we definitely do not need a repeat of the early CNG times, marked with labyrinthine queues, even in the wee hours of the day, outside the gas stations.
There are a few interesting support systems in FAME II and Delhi EV policy on charging infra, more such operational and easy workable policies need to be drafted.
With the mainstreaming of the electric vehicles, we are looking at potentially transforming the way India commutes. Disruption of such colossal level requires pre-meditated efforts, broken down into a series of smaller changes spanned over a period of time. In India, 66% of the commute happens with a 5 km radius. Thus, short-mile connectivity and public transportation should be the top priority for mainstreaming electric vehicles.
Startups, Technology Comes To Aid EV Growth In India
As one would expect in the present-day entrepreneurial landscape in India, several startups have been furthering the agenda of electric vehicles. While some have ventured into manufacturing, either the EVs or the components, others are popularising the utility of EVs via smart, shared mobility solutions.
In various parts of the country, one can remotely hire EVs fitted with IoT locks in their vicinity, unlock the same through their smartphone, and use it for completing short-mile commutes, perhaps for hitching a ride from the metro station to the corporate business district or their college. Case in point, the electric scooter launched by a startup in NCR for easing micro-mobility.
In The Crux
While these smart solutions are promoting the adoption of EVs, the sector awaits a rock-solid push from the government to support innovation and ease in doing business. Our neighbour, China emerged as the world’s second largest manufacturer of EVs within only 2 years, owing to a clear roadmap and the government subsidy and EV policy.
During my last visit to China, I could see electric on all levels, from scooters to buses to vans to cabs to big trucks, many of them had a nice green number plate highlighting Electric.
However, as per the Union Budget 2019 documents, the centre has reduced the EV subsidy by 25% for the next financial year. For India, a good starting point would be to start incentivising the EV users or operators.
The use of ICE vehicles can be discouraged by levying an additional cess or parking charges. The tax could fund additional subsidies for the start-ups and enterprises in the EV space, in addition to incentivising the consumers opting for the EVs.
With such consistent and well-synchronised efforts, we have the opportunity to be at the forefront of the global revolution and make India ready to embrace electric vehicles.