Preparing Indian Cities for a Shift to E-Mobility
India is accelerating the shift to electric mobility in order to achieve its Paris climate accord goals. Meeting the e-mobility objectives will have a number of advantages, including cleaner air, greater health, and a decrease in the cost of oil imports. Through planning and execution of local regulations, India's cities will play a critical role in completing the e-mobility transition, but they must first overcome certain obstacles. Central and state governments, as well as the car industry, will be critical in this process.
India has pledged to decrease its emission intensity by 33% to 35% from 2005 levels by 2020. Furthermore, India has committed to increasing non-fossil energy sources to 40% of installed capacity by 2030. In December 2020, during a G20 climate change side event, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the country is exceeding its agreed commitments—installed India's renewable energy capacity has increased by 226 percent over the last five years and the country is on track to meet its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.
India has launched a number of measures to promote the adoption and usage of electric cars (EVs). For example, it is a member of the EV30@30 Campaign, a Clean Energy Ministerial effort aimed at increasing the market share of electric vehicles to 30% by 2030. To accomplish this aim, India would require a significant increase in the number of in-home charging stations and 2,900,000 public charging outlets, up from the existing 1800, requiring an extra expenditure of INR 20,600 crore.
The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 lays out the vision and strategy for accelerating the uptake and manufacture of electric vehicles in India.
Several states, including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh, have developed their own EV policies.
While the majority of these programmes prioritise public transportation, paratransit, and job development, they vary in terms of objectives and incentives for supply-side (manufacturing) and demand-side (consumer and charging infrastructure) investment. Kerala, for example, gives tax discounts, road tax exemptions, toll fee exemptions, free fleet licences, and free parking. Bihar, on the other hand, gives end-user subsidies of INR 12,000 and a special incentive of INR 10,000 for lithium-ion battery e-rickshaws. For destroying and deregistering older, extremely polluting two-wheelers, Delhi provides a maximum reward of INR 30,000 per vehicle.
Cities play a critical role in the transition to EVs, as final implementation must occur at the local government level. However, the transition to EVs at the municipal level is expected to face a number of obstacles, including coordination across departments, action synchronisation, and budgetary and geographical restrictions.
E-Mobility in India: The Need, the Scope, and the Concerns
Vehicle emissions reductions must make a substantial contribution to India's NDCs. India is now the world's fifth-biggest automobile market and seems on track to overtake China as the third largest in the near future. Prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, it was projected that "by 2020, India's annual demand for passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, and two-wheelers will reach 10 million, 2.7 million, and 34 million, respectively, establishing India as the world's third biggest vehicle market."
This expected expansion in passenger car usage will lead to a rise in the demand for fossil fuels and possibly result in additional detrimental environmental consequences. Given that India is mainly reliant on oil imports to satisfy its energy demands, the increased vehicle fleet would also increase the import bill, which will have unfavourable economic repercussions. On the other hand, EVs will significantly cut India's fuel import prices, significantly reduce its emissions, and play a critical part in India fulfilling its NDCs.
To accomplish its e-mobility ambitions, India's transportation policy must be revised to prioritise public transportation (mainly e-buses and rail-based systems) above private. The "nation is in desperate need of a transportation revolution. The present trend of increasing the number of automobiles that rely on expensive imported gasoline and clogging already-clogged cities already plagued by infrastructural constraints and severe air pollution is unsustainable. India's cities would succumb to suffocation”.
India's quest for e-mobility will also have a positive influence on areas other than the environment. E-mobility has the potential to catalyse India's digital and consumer product innovation and assist in modernising the country's conservative industrial sector. The Department of Science and Technology has developed a platform for the development of technologies and products that suit Indian demands and provide a competitive edge in specific areas of e-mobility. Lithium-ion batteries, motors and drives, and ultracapacitors are among the key areas for innovation. Additionally, e-mobility will contribute to the balance of energy demand, energy storage, and environmental sustainability.
In India, the EV sector confronts two significant hurdles. To begin, there is the workforce issue. It is predicted that if a conversion to 30% electric vehicles out of all vehicles on the road is completed, manpower needs will reduce by 20% to 25%. Additionally, the skill set required for EVs is unique; EV-related occupations would require a highly educated workforce capable of managing the new capabilities, which India now lacks.
Second, Indian consumers appear to have a number of reservations regarding electric vehicles. Currently, EVs are significantly more expensive than conventional cars, which disincentivizes the majority of Indian buyers (who are notoriously price-sensitive). Additionally, the majority of available EVs have a limited driving range and a relatively slow top speed, although automakers are developing cars that can run longer and faster with newer technology.
Consumers are also likely to want to use EVs that can travel a long distance on a single charge and have easy access to charging stations along their travel routes, but the current scarcity of charging stations is a likely deterrent to EV adoption. Additionally, the time required to charge an EV (multiple hours versus the few minutes required to refuel) is a factor that could influence consumers' EV adoption. Finally, if a consumer wishes to sell their EV after several years of use, they may have difficulty finding a buyer willing to pay a fair price (an issue that is rare when selling used conventional vehicles).
India must transition to electric vehicles in order to meet its Paris targets, but significant work will be necessary. All levels of government—federal, state, and local—as well as the car industry must take a coordinated approach to achieving the EV goals and make the necessary resources available for the transition. Urban local governments will be crucial in the transition to electric transportation, and two critical areas will require strengthening—city governance and municipal financing. The city's top executive must make implementation decisions in order to avoid falling into red-tape traps. Additionally, given the fragility of municipal budgets, the federal and state governments must facilitate appropriate local financing for EV infrastructure. Numerous towns in India are already planning for an electric future. Mumbai is installing charging stations in key locations such as retail malls, commercial centres, motorways, and certain residential areas. Simultaneously, there is a lack of understanding — and widespread reservations — about EVs among automobile owners. To assuage customers' worries, city governments and the car industry must educate them about the benefits of EVs and the planned infrastructure.
Outreach activities may include exhibits, discount sales, information distribution, the deployment of emission- and cost-savings calculators, and real-time tracking of environmental and financial advantages. If cities are successful in leading the EV transition, with appropriate assistance from the central government and states, India will rapidly transition to ecologically friendly and economically advantageous transportation systems while meeting its climate targets.
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