Transportation accounts for about 11 percent 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.

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 percent of overall air pollution during winters in Delhi. Action needs to be taken to minimize the use of private vehicles, which contribute nearly 40 percent to air pollution in Delhi, a green body said on November 5, 2018, as the air quality of the national capital nosedived to severe category.

Well, according to a survey done by IndiaSpend, about 87 percent of Indian drivers and vehicle owners would buy an electric vehicle (EV), if that helped reduce air pollution.

Status of electric vehicles and associated policy in India

In 2017, India sold about 900,000 EVs, 4 percent of the volume of diesel and petrol vehicles sold. The government of India had a plant of converting the entire fleet of vehicles to fully electric by 2030, which it sort of scrapped.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expected to launch a policy on 'Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles' (FAME-II), much-anticipated policy for the Indian EV industry, the first phase of which (FAME-I) was released in 2015.

The launch, however, was postponed to rework the policy after the prime minister "indicated" a major change in the thrust of the policy, which will focus on reducing the price of batteries in vehicles, deviating from its earlier focus on reducing the price of the entire vehicle by providing subsidies.

EV manufacturers and sellers were waiting for a single policy that laid out a roadmap for creating an EV ecosystem, including charging stations and manufacturing and buying incentives.

With world quickly adapting to electric vehicles, automotive manufacturers devoting a large chunk of their resources towards R&D of EVs, it would not be wrong to say that internal combustion vehicles would be outdated in the near future.

Vehicular pollution in Delhi

Vehicular pollution is considered to be a major source of air pollution in Delhi. As per Central Pollution Control Board, the vehicular pollution load in Delhi increased by nearly 50 percent in 1995-96 from 1990-91.

However, a decrease has been witnessed in recent years with the implementation of several control measures.

Delhi's registered vehicular population has reached to nearly three times to 7.6 million from 2.2 million in 1994, registering a growth rate of 14 percent per annum. About two-Third of the Motor Vehicles are two-wheelers, states the Delhi government website.

What India needs to do

If India manages to transform its entire fleet to fully electric vehicles, it would be one of the largest markets for EVs in the world. In the grand scheme of events, India needs to involve private players and also needs to develop a suitable charging infrastructure.

However, the economic aspect can make things difficult for the electric vehicle industry to bloom in India. Going by the average cost of a car, people in the US and UK do not mind spending around $35,000 on a new one. The number is $15,000 for China, whereas, people in India spend less than $10,000 on a car on an average. So people would opt to buy an electric vehicle only when the prices fall in that range.

But there is a catch. India is the world's third largest market for automobiles, and it sold about 25 million internal combustion engines in 2017. Of these, more than 80 per cent (about 20 million) were two-wheelers.

The two-wheeler segment is expected to lead the EV market in India, not cars or buses.

"We will see electric two-wheelers as a way to adapt proclivity of electric mobility in India, instead of forced adoption through four-wheelers," Rebecca Lindland, senior director and executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book, a California-based vehicle valuation and auto research firm, told Mint on February 13, 2018.

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

The report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) says that India will have better progress on electric two-wheelers, rickshaws and electric buses over the next 10 years.

  • The report believes that by 2040, EVs will constitute only 40 percent 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 percent of annual vehicle sales by 2030 and go up to 27 percent by 2040
  • Also, by 2040, about 13 percent of the passenger vehicles plying on Indian roads will be electric by 2040

Back in September 2018, Niti Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant pointed out that two-wheelers account for 76 percent of vehicles in the country and they consume 64 percent of the fuel sold in India. He also indicated that the government will be more comfortable to offer incentives for two-wheelers, apart from three-wheelers and public transport.

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure policy

The power ministry would soon bring an electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure policy, which will also allow individuals to set up charging station for commercial use to boost e-mobility, said Power and New & Renewable Energy Minister R K Singh, this Sunday.

"We have circulated the EV Charging Policy for comments (among other department/ministries). The second line of the policy says that everybody is free to set up EV charging station," Singh told reporters at International Symposium to Promote Innovation & Research in Energy Efficiency (Inspire).

When asked whether individuals would be able to use the facility on a commercial basis, he replied, "Absolutely. You don't need a license".

Singh also informed that his ministry is working to coordinate with oil ministry to set up EV charging station at petrol pumps.

The EV charging infrastructure is required to boost EVs in the country. India intends to have a sizeable share of EVs in the vehicle strength by 2030, which is in line with its commitment to reduce emission intensity by one third from the level of 2005.

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