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Automobile

#5 Reasons Why India's 2030 Electric Vehicle Plan is Too Ambitious

Despite the noble intent, the timeline and practical constraints makes the goal seem far-fetched
#5 Reasons Why India's 2030 Electric Vehicle Plan is Too Ambitious
Image credit: graphicstock
4 min read

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India, a signatory to the Paris climate agreement, is obligated to bring down its share of global emissions by 2030. As a developing nation, among the heap of problems it faces in bringing carbon levels down is, reducing the vehicular pollution that comes from transportation, whether public or private.  

To achieve this ambitious goal and plan for a cleaner future, the BJP-led central government announced an all electric vehicle policy, whereby no petrol or diesel cars will be sold from 2030. Spearheaded by the Narendra Modi’s two trusted ministers Piyush Goyal and Nitin Gadkari, the plan looks rather ambitious at this point.

While the intent is praiseworthy and a much needed change, the timeline and practical constraints makes the goal seem far-fetched at this point.

Auto Industry Concerns over Costs

No matter what the government’s intentions or the industry’s willingness is to achieve e-mobility, the adoption of a new and futuristic technology ultimately boils down to the pricing it has to offer. Automakers have time and again expressed concern over the high cost of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, which shoots up the final market price of these vehicles.

The government has said it plans to set up a lithium-ion battery-making facility under Bharat Heavy Electricals, but that may not be enough. Automakers have urged subsidizing battery and lithium imports to deal with this mammoth task. The auto industry had also demanded an exclusive and clear policy to tackle this issue which the NITI Aayog has said it is working on.  

Lack of  Adept Technology 

The lack of high brow R&D in the sustainable transport sector is a massive drawback. While there are automakers like Mahindra, Bajaj and Maruti that have devoted sums to the cause, it’s minuscule in comparison to global players like GM, Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan and more. In this scenario, foreign players that have an advantage may want to set up plants here, but that too will require an incentivized plan from the government, failing which the end price will shoot up.

Moreover, EVs have a selling point drawback when it comes to the performance they offer. This is more so for the EVs running on Indian roads, which currently average about 120km on full charge, making them unsuitable for long drives. The top two India-made battery-powered cars have a top speed of 85km/hour, which is painfully lower than the likes of Tesla or Renault Electric Car models that have topped a  200km/hr speed.

Infrastructure  and Ecosystem

The ambitious e-mobility plan is currently only focused on the production challenges. Not much has been specified on the need of a supportive infrastructure for a policy like this. Instead of the existing gas and petrol stations, a solid plan is required to install charging stations. Currently, there are only close to 100-odd charging stations across India, which makes it difficult for vehicle owners to undertake long travels.

There is also negligible provision for charging EVs in the current building plans, although some governments like Karnataka have asked high-rises to keep charging points mandatory for their future building projects. Even then, EVs are still look like an option for city limit travels, making it impractical for consumers. Moreover, without sales of EVs ramping up, no electricity distribution utility or a third party will come forward to set up charging infrastructure.

The Timeline

The cut-off date for banning the sale or petrol and diesel cars in itself is problematic. Countries like France that already have a more conducive infrastructure when it comes to sustainable transport, have set a similar goal for 2040, a realistic and achievable target.  China, the world leader when it comes to electric vehicle sales by volume also tweaked it’s EV goal recently, to say they would need more time to adjust to a fully e-mobility model.

The Ignorance of Public Transport

Most of the talk is still limited to private and commercial ownership of vehicles in the e-mobility plan. India’s choking points in terms of pollution are its large cities and industrial belts outside these cities, both of which do not have sustainable transport means. While metro constructions are underway in many cities, there has been no full-proof formulation on how government plans to tackle public transport like buses, that contribute a significant amount to emissions.

Global players like Volvo have been working with some state governments to test hybrid and electric buses, but practical runs are far from reality. Unlike countries like China, UK, France and more that have a solid public transport infrastructure not dependent on carbon emitting vehicles, India is far far behind.

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