Friday, June 14, 2024

Joshi Column : Overcoming barriers in promoting electric vehicles

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Dr Shailendra Joshi
Advisor of Telangana govt and former
chief secretary of Telangana

As per the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, about 16% of the Global Emission of Green House Gases (GHG) comes from the transport sector. To curtail it, there are several methods; some of them are – avoiding use of motorised transport, more dependence on public transport, vehicle pooling and the last but not the least going for cleaner fuels.

Do e-vehicles per se reduce emission of GHG? The answer is No. The bogey that using e-vehicles would address the issues of climate change is erroneous.  If the energy in the grid is from the fossil fuels, there is no reduction in emission of GHGs, only place of pollution changes from the roads of congested cities to nearer to location of power plants.

In a country like India, which is dependent on fossil fuels, promoting use of e-vehicles could be justified for reducing our high import bill of petroleum products.

That is the real reason. Of course, as the grid will have greater share of renewable energy, GHGs emission will be curtailed.What are the barriers for the exponential growth of e-vehicles? The first and foremost is the change management. Having used internal combustion (IC) vehicles for so long, it is hard to accept something else where people say the cost of e-vehicles will go down, better batteries would be available in the near future, lack of charging infrastructure and safety concerns.

There are three “I” that would change the equation namely infrastructure, innovative financing and intention. When we talk about infrastructure, the transport sector needs complete solution namely four-, three- and two-wheelers on the one hand and heavy transport vehicles on the other hand.

Along with introducing new vehicles in each category for various market segments, retrofitting of existing vehicles is also important. In so far as charging stations are concerned, various agencies such as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) are setting up charging stations at every 40 KM on the National Highways.

Vested interests also point out lack of maintenance infrastructure for e-vehicles. It would be worthwhile to mention that in comparison to IC vehicles, e-vehicles hardly require any maintenance. The multiplier effect of public investment on charging e-vehicles comes with a figure of six.  

Some experts try to frighten by saying that US $ 7 trillion investment will be required by India to achieve Net Zero target.  India’s imports of petroleum products and crude oil are estimated at a value of over 12 trillion Indian rupees in financial year 2020-22. If this import bill could be curtailed over a period of time, say 10 to 20 years, without any extra expenditure, India could become Net Zero economy.

How to address various barriers? The highest political authorities at the national level and in states should be convinced and committed to follow a mission mode, addressing both green and brown field production of e-vehicles, setting up of charging stations at public and private places, assisting state and national grids to take up this additional load through regulation and better grid planning. An innovative financial mechanism has to be thought of where the end consumer is given e-vehicles in exchange of her existing IC vehicle.

Instead of solely dependent on sale-purchase model, technological shocks could be observed through a leasing model. Most of the policies for promoting e-vehicles are half cooked and half baked. We have to move away from concessions and subsidy-based approach.

The strength of any public policy lies in its successful implementation. What better way could be other than replacing entire fleet of government vehicles (owned and hired) by e-vehicles in a time-bound manner? If there is political will, this step will be the best possible demonstration of opting for e-vehicles.  

To sum up, the target of 30/30 (30% fleet converted into e-vehicles by the year 2030) could be achieved subject to a strong political will and commitment at various levels.  
It is doable and India can do it. We have to do it, if not for the concerns of climate change but for saving the recurring precious foreign exchange expenses on importing petroleum products.

Higher proportion of renewable energy in the grid will be icing on the cake as well as means of addressing climate concerns.

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