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Speaking at the annual convention organised by Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) to discuss sustainable growth initiatives for the automobile sector, Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said that petrol and diesel vehicles will need to make way for engines running on electricity and other alternative fuel variants such as CNG, biofuel and ethanol.
Adding that this was a part of the government’s larger plan to have only e-vehicles in India by 2030, Gadkari also advised the auto industry to “innovate, research and work on new, non-polluting technologies” or risk being overtaken by inevitable policy change. He added that the government is also planning a platform (similar to Ola and Uber) that would facilitate use of two-wheelers as a taxi, thus reducing the number of cars on the roads.
While alternative transport solutions are a good news for India’s choked and polluted roads, the veiled ultimatum by the Transport Minister has also raised concerns about the feasibility of the government’s plan to have an all-electric passenger car market in India by 2030.
This is a part of the government’s plan to put around 1 million electric three-wheelers and 10,000 electric city buses on Indian roads by mid-2019. The tender to buy 10,000 e-cars for NCR has already attracted bids by six of the nation’s leading car makers (Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Renault, Nissan and Mahindra & Mahindra).
Apart from e-cars, the state-owned Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has also invited bids for 4,000 chargers that will be set up in Delhi and NCR for the convenience of e-vehicle users. This expected to boost demand public demand for e-cars in the region. Fiscal incentives such as tax breaks shall also be given to automobile manufactures to encourage increased production of e-vehicles.
This step will be followed by the government inviting bids for 50,000 electric three-wheelers (by the end of 2017) and battery-powered buses (in 2018). Interestingly, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd has just launched its first electric three-wheeler that goes on sale from September 9. Called e-Alfa Mini, it is powered by a 120Ah battery and aimed at intra-city movement. On a full charge, it can travel for up to 85 km at its top speed of 25 kmph.
The ‘LED moment’ refers to what was famously called the “largest energy transformation project in the world” by the Vienna Energy Forum — India’s effort to replace over 700 million street and household lights with energy-saving and long-lasting LEDs, taking electricity to thousands of poor villages for the first time.
The competitive procurement of LED lights by EESL had also helped prices crash in the open market, making it affordable for consumers to buy LEDs for their homes. A similar competitive tendering for electric vehicles as well as their batteries is expected to help bring the capital costs of an e-vehicle within a price range that will be lower than that of a petrol/diesel vehicle.
Steps have already started being taken in this direction. In 2017, Nagpur became India’s first city to have a fleet of 200 electric vehicles, including taxis, autos, e-rickshaw and buses. The country’s first multi-modal electric vehicle project was also inaugurated at the Nagpur Airport Complex, making Maharashtra the first Indian state to provide such incentives to e-vehicle users. Popular taxi aggregator Ola has also established over 50+ charging points at four strategic locations across Nagpur.
Under the road map laid down by the National Policy on Biofuels, the government had expected to achieve its ambitious target of 20% ethanol-petrol blending by 2017. However, due to the shortage of availability of ethanol for transport industry, this target couldn’t be achieved ( India is currently
doing less than 3% of ethanol-petrol blending).
To fill in this demand-supply gap, the government has decided to start 15 industries for production of 2nd generation ethanol (cellulosic ethanol made from agricultural residues such as the stalks, leaves, bagasse, bamboo, sawdust, and husks of rice and wheat. A cost effective and non-polluting fuel, it is a great way to tackle the twin problems of rising pollution and an increasing import bill for crude oil.