Electric Vehicle Policy for combating Pollution in India

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    14th Feb, 2019

According to an IIT-Kanpur study, done for 2013-14, vehicles are the second largest and the "most consistent" contributing source of pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 during winters.

Issue

Context:

During winters, the condition only worsens. According to an IIT-Kanpur study, done for 2013-14, vehicles are the second largest and the "most consistent" contributing source of pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 during winters.

In terms of percentage, vehicular pollution contributes about 20-25 per cent of overall air pollution during winters in Delhi. Action needs to be taken to minimize the use of private vehicles, which contribute nearly 40 per cent to air pollution in Delhi

About:

Pollution situation in India

In India, transport sector is one of the fastest growing sectors. Within this sector, two-wheelers are the dominating sector, which accounts for almost 75% of total vehicle in country. These increasing numbers of vehicle raise the local challenges such as congestion on road and deterioration of air quality.

Transportation accounts for about 11 per cent of India's carbon emissions and is a major source of air pollution in several cities nationwide. As many as 14 of the world’s top 20 most-polluted cities are in India, according to a 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) report.

India’s policy concerning electric vehicles and its analysis

India’s EV policy aims to cut emissions, even though more than 70% of electricity is generated from dirty sources such as coal. With thermal power as the mainstay, more will be needed to seamlessly charge the batteries for electric vehicles, thereby denting the credibility of India’s emission-reduction goals. 

That notwithstanding, the plan envisages 30% EVs on India’s roads by 2030. With an existing vehicular population of more than 210 million and swelling, it’s hard to see how this transformation will happen in about a decade. 

Compare this with countries like Britain, chasing similar outcomes. Britain seeks to halve fossil fuel vehicles by 2030, but has just about 38 million vehicles on its roads, is power surplus, and by 2025, will eliminate coal-fired power. All of which lends some credence to its green goals. 

Background

What has happened over the past 2 years?

The government had initially decided to promote only electric vehicles to reduce pollution levels. It had also proposed to shift all public transport and 30% of private vehicles to electric by 2030. Later, it shelved its plan to form an India EV policy and decided to promote zero-emission technologies. Through Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), the government put out a tender to procure 10,000 electric cars, which was won by Tata Motors Ltd and Mahindra and Mahindra. Procurement has been delayed due to lack of car charging points.

Only electric 3 wheelers have been partly successful, however, not much diffusion of electric vehicles has happened within 2 wheelers, 4 wheelers and city bus fleets.

How are Indian firms placed in the game?

Mahindra has a first-mover advantage in electric mobility. The company plans to make 60,000 electric vehicles annually from 2020. The Indian unit of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd is expected to launch its electric vehicle in 2019, while Maruti Suzuki will enter the market by 2020. Tata Motors has developed the requisite technology. Many two-wheeler firms have also invested in developing products in the electric space.

Analysis

Future of electric vehicles is public transport and electric two-wheelers

According to research reports India will have better progress on electric two-wheelers, rickshaws and electric buses over the next 10 years.

  • By 2040, EVs will constitute only 40 per cent of the total passenger vehicle fleet in India
  • At the end of 2017, there were just 6,000 highway-capable electric cars plying on Indian roads, which is a minuscule number when compared to the overall numbers of total cars on Indian roads
  • The BNEF study says that the annual sales of EVs will reach 30,000 units in 2022 as opposed to 2,000 units in 2017
  • And if the sale of EVs grows as the study has predicted, they will constitute about 6.6 per cent of annual vehicle sales by 2030 and go up to 27 per cent by 2040
  • Also, by 2040, about 13 per cent of the passenger vehicles plying on Indian roads will be electric by 2040

Major challenges to look into:

Charging Infrastructure

Solving this problem is central to driving adoption of electric vehicles. It will also determine the kind of vehicles and the applications for which they will be suitable. While wide availability of charging facilities would take care of range-related anxiety and encourage increasing adoption of electric vehicles, this is expected to take time. This means that early adopters will have to make do with applications with a limited range, which can be serviced by batteries for on-board charging.

Urban Planning

Electric mobility can also be expected to have an impact on how future Indian cities will need to be designed. Space will have to be allocated for the creation of large-scale charging infrastructure, where large fleets of vehicles can be accommodated while they are being charged. This is especially true in the case of India where open urban spaces and proper parking facilities are a rarity. Moreover, increasing adoption of public or shared mobility options will also affect commute distances, travel modes and various other factors necessitating recalibration of how and where urban services are provided. This will have an impact on the design of residential neighbourhoods, workplaces, shopping districts and entertainment facilities.

Last Mile Connectivity

Ensuring first and last mile connectivity is critical for adoption of public transportation, and the intermediate para-transit sector is critical in this. In India, this sector is riddled with problems, with a large number of un-regulated transportation formats. This may be a viable opportunity for governments and policy-makers to rethink their approach to regulation of this critical sector.

Policy Clarity and stability

The auto industry in India has been taken by surprise by the governments sudden thrust towards EVs. Barring Mahindra Electric Mobility Limited, which already has two BEVs in its stable, most of the other domestic and international auto majors were planning on launching micro hybrids, medium and heavy hybrids and PHEVs in phases starting from 2018 – 2020. With the withdrawal of FAME incentives and increase in tax rate post GST, most of the auto makers have called off fresh hybrid vehicle launches.

What the industry expects from the government is to stay consistent with policies that have already been announced (subsidies, taxation etc.) as huge investments go into new technology development and companies need long term stability to recover these investments. They also would like government to participate in putting charging stations and other infrastructure building required to prepare the nation for EV wave.

How electric vehicles can tackle the pollution and carbon emission?

Electric vehicles’ engines don’t churn out polluting fumes, making them the obvious choice for improving local air quality in towns and cities. But although they have the potential to drastically cut pollution, they are only as green as the electricity they run on. Given that most electricity globally is still produced by burning fossil fuels, charging an electric car can indirectly generate similar amounts of greenhouse gases to a petrol-powered vehicle, particularly in countries that rely heavily on coal power. As the world embraces renewable energy, electric cars will increasingly gain the upper hand in years to come.

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