Transport was the main agenda on the 10th day of COP26, and it is no surprise that this sector contributes a whopping 25% of global GHG emissions, with the percentage rising alarmingly
Speeding up the transition from ICE to EVs or zero-emission vehicles is one necessary step to substantially reduce pollution
Adoption of EVs in India will require an estimated annual battery capacity of 158 GWh by FY 2030, which, while providing significant investment opportunities, is a tall ask
The 26th Conference of Paris, or COP26 to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), concluded with several nations, cities, automobile companies, financial institutions, and other vital stakeholders signing the COP26 Declaration on transport.
Transport was the main agenda on the 10th day of COP26, and it is no surprise that this sector contributes a whopping 25% of global GHG emissions, with the percentage rising alarmingly.
The Declaration is to ensure the sector maintains the 1.5-degree threshold. The ultimate aim is to speed up a smooth transition to electric vehicles while phasing out the sale of all fossil fuel-based vehicles by 2040. Leading automobile nations have set a steep target of doing so by 2035!
The entire transport system is struggling with structural issues such as traffic congestion, adequate infrastructure availability, and commute affordability, among other issues. Not that the electrification of the whole fleet would magically resolve all pollution-related problems. Transitioning towards e-mobility is one of the many elements of a larger systematic change required to enable a sustainable, climate-friendly, resilient transport ecosystem.
Given the technological know-how available today, speeding up the transition from ICE to EVs or zero-emission vehicles is one necessary step to substantially reduce pollution while creating job opportunities.
Sustainable transport is about offering transportation facilities while achieving the environmental objectives of mitigating pollution. What brightens up the picture is that these can be provided at a much lower cost, making it an even more affordable mode of transport for poorer households. Remember, public transport is a choice of commute in many cities across the country, making it a significant portion of their monthly spending. For a low-income family, it can range from 10% to 35%.
Vehicle Exhaust Emissions: A Major Contributor
Vehicle exhaust emissions are produced when the combustion of an air-fuel mixture inside internal combustion engines (ICE) emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Emissions are caused by fuel evaporation while filling a tank, storing the vehicle, or stopping the vehicle. The composition of ICE vehicle exhaust emissions varies depending on the vehicle’s operating characteristics and the fuel used.
Carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water vapour, and oxygen make up the majority of unconsumed air emissions. Other components present in smaller quantities are carbon monoxide, unburned fuel, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter such as mercury. These substances play a crucial role in vehicle-related air pollution, while carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) contributes majorly to climate change.
Essential Elements Of Vehicle Emissions
Emissions contribute to vehicle-caused air pollution in India, causing health issues such as a poor pulmonary function for city residents. Several compounds found in these emissions are known to be carcinogenic after long-term exposure.
Carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide in vehicle exhaust emissions cause ground-level ozone to form as a result of a reaction between pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight, resulting in air quality degradation.
Why Is EV The Right Option To Mitigate Pollution Instead Of ICE?
While we are years away from ending the sale of new ICE vehicles, electric vehicle sales are experiencing sharp growth. BEVs (battery-operated vehicles) have a market share of 10.8%, PHEVs (plug-in hybrids) are at 5.4%, and HEVs (hybrids) are at 11.7% as of April 2022.
Electric Cars Reduce Pollution From Brakes
Braking emits particle pollution. Disc brakes are used in ICE cars to slow down or stop the car. On the other hand, electric vehicles have a lesser use of brakes as they use the motor for braking, thus reducing particle emissions.
Electric Cars Reduce Particle Pollution
Most studies that compare particle emissions from BEVs and ICE vehicles focus only on particles emitted directly from the exhaust, tyres and brakes. These are called the ‘primary’ particle mass (PM) emissions. However, when one considers the ‘secondary’ particle pollution caused by ICE — EVs win hands down.
EVs Eliminate All Toxic Emissions From Engines
Switching to an EV instantly eliminates all toxic tailpipe pollution such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC).
Improved Energy Efficiency
EVs are much more energy efficient than their ICE counterparts, which have only 40% efficiency. Most of the efficiency is lost via friction and heat.
Another benefit of EVs is cleaner air, which translates to a lesser negative impact on health. According to a study in China, if just over a quarter of privately owned cars and a slightly larger share of commercial vehicles were electric, it could prevent approximately 17,500 deaths!
Charging EVs with renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydropower further helps negate carbon dioxide emissions at any phase of vehicle usage.
How Can EV Startups Solve For Air Pollution?
The EV sector should aim to replace 30% of private cars, 70% of commercial vehicles, and 80% of two and three-wheelers.
The importance of electric vehicles in India is at an all-time high, as it is one of the most effective ways to reduce dependency on fossil fuels while achieving the global goal of zero-carbon emissions and sustainable development. At COP26, India pledged net zero carbon emissions by 2070.
A country like India is still heavily dependent on coal, so a complete revamp is required to achieve the ambitious targets. The low adoption rate of EVs in India is because they are much more expensive than ICE vehicles. A major factor in swaying a purchaser’s decision in a price-sensitive market like India.
Two elements are key drivers responsible for the lack of price parity. The first is component cost, and the second is battery cost. In the absence of adequate infrastructure for ancillary suppliers, manufacturers rely on imports, driving up costs.
The battery, another critical element of an EV, forms 25%-35% of its cost. Inadequate local production has led to the industry being import-dependent, adding to the cost burden. The need of the hour is to promote infrastructure development.
Remove Supply Chain Bottlenecks
- Support for ancillary components: The first step is to get ICE ancillary suppliers to ramp up to meet the needs of EVs; the second is to set up new units.
- Battery supply: The focus should be on building a supply chain by manufacturing batteries domestically. Foreign battery manufacturers and domestic players should come together to set up local production facilities. It will help lower the cost of batteries and EVs.
- Building a charging station network: This is the missing piece in the puzzle for successful EV adoption that needs fixing and a quick rollout.
How The Indian EV Ecosystem Can Help Achieve COP26 Goals
Few Indian state-run companies are looking to purchase and hold mining assets overseas. Mineral mines such as lithium and cobalt are used in the production of EV batteries. Some acid battery manufacturers established a technology hub in Andhra Pradesh several months ago to develop lithium-ion cells and plan to start manufacturing lithium-ion batteries locally.
The FAME II programme was announced in 2019 (and has now been extended until March 31, 2024) to encourage EV adoption and manufacturing in the country. It was launched with a considerable budget outlay of INR 10,000 Cr to support 7,000 e-buses, 500,000 e-three-wheelers, 55,000 e-passenger vehicles and 100K e-two-wheelers.
In response to the rollout of FAME II, the Department of Heavy Industries has allocated INR 1,000 Cr to set up electric charging infrastructure in India.
The Indian government has announced several initiatives, such as the battery swapping policy, to benefit electric commercial vehicle makers and auto component players. It involves exchanging discharged batteries for charged ones.
The benefit is that it de-links the vehicle and battery, which will help reduce the upfront cost of automobiles. They are investing in many new infrastructure projects to help bring down the price of EVs, bringing them at parity with ICE alternatives and thereby getting a larger audience to transition to EVs.
We are miles away from achieving any of the COP26 goals. The key to scalability is getting the infrastructure in place. Adoption of EVs in India will require an estimated annual battery capacity of 158 GWh by FY 2030, which, while providing significant investment opportunities, is a tall ask.
All efforts must be complemented by increasing awareness among the audience. While emphasising the benefits of EVs, communication should emphasise each individual’s responsibility to the planet.