How Will E-Mobility Pave India’s Path To Sustainability?

Guest Commentary September 2019 E-Mobility Pave India’s Path Sustainability

SAURABH KUMAR is Managing Director at EESL

Mobility is perhaps one of the greatest gifts of industrial revolution. As our ability to travel swiftly has developed, the world has shrunk quite a bit. Better transportation has paved the way for increased economic growth and laid one of the foundations of modern-day society. For some time though, this increased mobility has been an albatross around the neck for nations worldwide, thanks to emissions!

India too has been touched by the rapidly spreading tendrils of GHG emissions. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pegged vehicular emission as one of the major causes of India’s urban pollution. However, our economy has been on a growth spurt, since the doors to the Indian markets were first opened back in 1991. This brisk growth has been linked to the growing prosperity among the nation’s populace. Our middle class is sizeable, thriving, and armed with a disposable income. According to estimates, the world is set to have around 400 mn customers in need of mobility by 2030. This need cannot and should not be met with fossil fuel-led mobility, as it will jeopardise our environment and largely restrain the momentum built for sustainable and clean energy in the nation.

ELECTRIC MOBILITY – A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE?

E-Mobility has emerged as a viable alternative and EV ownership across the world is surging. The current zeitgeist regarding electric cars is quite positive and the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates 125 mn EVs worldwide by 2030. India too has a plan, and as a member of the eight-country Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) – a high-level forum to promote clean energy – it wants to achieve 30 % electrification by 2030. The country is witnessing sparks of change – states such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra have already announced electric vehicle policies, while others are working diligently towards the same. Delhi is also offering direct subsidies to buyers of electric cars and scooters. Slowly but surely, the behemoth that India is, has woken up to the challenge of e-mobility adoption.

THE E-MOBILITY ECOSYSTEM

The Indian government’s current electric mobility programme envisions 6 mn electric and hybrid vehicles on roads by 2020. This will have a significant impact on vehicular emissions, by reducing it by 1.3 % by 2020. The central government is also building a robust EV ecosystem in India through the recently tabled and approved National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage. The initiative is aimed at bringing down the EV costs in the nation, as it focusses on localising the production of batteries. The mission seeks to establish large-scale, export-competitive integrated batteries and cell-manufacturing giga-plants in India through a Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP).

While the move will serve as a catalyst in enhancing India’s battery storage prowess, it is also important to obviate the need for conventional energy sources in battery such as coal. It is observed that PSUs such as BHEL have taken the lead in rolling out solar-powered public charging stations across India. These strong linkages between renewable power and electric mobility will help in delivering 100 % zero-emissions based electricity to EVs.

GAPS & SOLUTIONS

While various stakeholders are undertaking concerted efforts for the proliferation of electric mobility in the country, some regulatory gaps still remain in establishing a public charging infrastructure.

Firstly, there is a need to address challenges such as the relatively higher installation cost of charging stations, lack of quantifiable data on system-level savings, and a lack of market mechanisms. The government has already initiated the process to define standards and guidelines for electric charging stations, which incentivises stakeholders investing in the development of EV charging infrastructure. Additionally, the announcement of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles scheme (FAME II) has also helped in fostering a sense of optimism in the electric mobility sector.

Clear regulatory mechanisms that include fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, rebates and subsidies will also aid in building a charging ecosystem in the country. The government has been working towards plugging these gaps and has advised the states to add fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to their policies. These steps will be pivotal in sustaining the current momentum. Currently, the major hurdle towards increased adoption of EVs is the intermittent and scattered nature of charging infrastructure.

The massive network of conventional ICE fuel stations can provide an expansion avenue for EV charging stations. The fuel stations of today have the potential to turn into fast charging stations in the future, while we can set-up normal charging stations at offices and parking lots, wherein people can charge their cars for a longer duration. Another feasible solution that is gaining ground is battery swapping, which can be used for two- and three-wheelers. The country is already witnessing successful battery swapping in e-rickshaws in Delhi with encouraging results. It can also be useful for buses through battery swapping at depots. The viability of battery swapping for cars is still debatable, with no real success witnessed globally, in terms of its implementation. However, the availability of swapping stations in main commercial areas and quick seamless service might lead to better adoption.

According to a recent survey, drivers and vehicle owners are open to purchasing an electric vehicle, when made aware of the fact that electric vehicles reduce air pollution through zero on-road emissions and that recharging & driving an electric vehicle is significantly cost-effective as compared to petrol or diesel-driven cars. However, people will not buy EVs without a proper charging infrastructure. The plugging of regulatory gaps will provide an impetus to e-mobility adoption.

CONCLUSION

The future is looking increasingly electric and environmental benefits of EVs are considerable, with their zero tail-pipe emissions. A recent NITI Aayog report says that India can reduce 64 % of energy demand for road transport and 37 % of carbon emissions by 2030 through the pursuit of electric mobility in the country. Apart from the ecological benefits, the economic viability of EVs cannot be repudiated. The current running cost of an electric vehicle is Rs 1.10/km, which when compared to Rs 6/km and Rs 5.50/km of petrol and diesel cars respectively, is substantially cost-effective. Electric vehicles hold the keys to a better, cleaner future and the need of the hour is to work together with the government and be the harbingers of change.