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Cent percent e-vehicle nation by 2030: A pipe dream or a prophecy?

 S. Shyam Prasad PhD.
India proposes to have only electric vehicles (e-vehicles) by 2030. With the population touching to be world’s highest, what makes the country to aim for such an ambitious programme? Why is the country seems to be in a hurry to get rid of petrol/diesel vehicles? The major roads are pothole ridden and driving on some of them are nothing less than a night mare. Yet, why introduction of e-vehicles is getting priority over other problems and drawing greater attention these days? The major reason could be pollution and its strong ill-effects on the health of the people.
Air Pollution
Air pollution in India is a serious issue that attracts greater attention than child and maternal malnutrition. The seriousness can be gauged from the observation of  Dr. Arvind Kumar, a chest surgeon at New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.  When he started practising 30 years ago, 80 to 90 per cent of his lung cancer patients were smokers, mostly men, aged typically in their 50s or 60s. But in the past six years, half of Dr Kumar’s lung cancer patients have been non-smokers, about 40 per cent of them women. Patients are younger too, with 8 per cent in their 30s and 40s. At least 140 million people breathe air 10 times or more over the WHO safe limit and 13 of the world’s 20 cities with the highest annual levels of air pollution are in India (Wikipedia). This article is not about air pollution though but about electric vehicles in order to reduce air pollution to a safe level.
 In urban areas, the major contributors for air pollution are the vehicles and industry. In India, the transportation sector emits an estimated 261 tonnes of CO2, of which 94.5% is contributed by road transport. Vehicles in major metropolitan cities are estimated to account for 70% of CO, 50% of HC, 30- 40% of NOx, 30% of SPM and 10% of SO2 of the total pollution load of these cities (Chouhan, 2017). In the list of the polluted cities in the world, India leads with 13 in the top 20 and 33 in the top 100 most polluted cities. The statistics are mind-boggling and the consequences are disastrous.
The government seems to have taken up this issue seriously and this year in January, launched ‘The National Clean Air Programme’ with tentative national target of 20%-30% reduction in PM 2.5 and PM 10 concentrations by 2024, considering 2017 as the base year for comparison. Additionally, the government is encouraging the use of e-vehicles to reduce the pollution, keeping in mind the huge measure of pollution attributed to transport vehicles.  In 2016, Power Minister Piyush Goyal had said at an event in New Delhi organised by CII Young India, “India can become the first country of its size which will run 100 per cent on electric vehicles. We are trying to make this programme self financing. We don’t need one rupee support from the government. We don’t need one rupee investment from the people of India.”
The government proposed that India should become 100 per cent electric vehicle nation by 2030 and in order to make this happen, the government plans to provide electric cars on zero down payment for which people can pay out of their savings on expensive fossil fuels. This article discusses the issues related to making this proposal come true.
Electric Mobility
Making India’s passenger mobility electric can cut the nation’s energy demand by 64 percent, and carbon emissions by 37 percent in 2030. National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) by Department of Heavy Industry under Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, GoI, envisages promoting electric and hybrid vehicles in the country and there by reduce the air pollution level in India. It targets to bring 60 to 70 lakh EVs to Indian roads by 2020 and is committed to achieve 30% e-mobility by 2030. In order nurture this laudable drive, the central government launched a programme called Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME).  Through this programme, incentives for clean fuel technology vehicles were offered with the intention of increasing the sales of these vehicles up to 7 million by 2020. Also the Government is focusing on creating charging infrastructure and policy framework so that by 2030 more than 30% of vehicles are electric vehicles. Further, Power Secretary, Ajay Kumar Bhalla also confirmed that licensing for establishing charging infrastructure in India would not be required and the tariff for this would be less than Rs 6. Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a government body which is responsible for procuring electric vehicles for the Government, procured 10,000 e-vehicles and this is expected to save over 2.5 crore litres of fuel every year leading to a reduction of over 2.8 lakh tonnes of annual CO2 emission as per Indian Government. But the figures are far away from the target and as per the data the ‘complete e-vehicle nation’ tag might have to wait for some more time.
Hurdles for Electric Mobility
Any programme in a vast divergent country like India is bound to have teething problems. The country is, besides demographics, is also divergent geographically make it all the more challenging to roll out any programme pan country.
The first challenge is the cost of the Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). In country like India where people are cost conscious and conservative in thoughts,  prices ranging between 28 lakhs to 40 lakhs is quite high. A little closer look reveals that the cost of the battery alone, particularly in the pure EVs ranges from 6 lakhs to 10 lakhs which is equivalent new fuel SUVs.
The second challenge seems to emerge form the charging stations. As per the data available, across India only  200 to 210 public/community charging stations are available making people think many times before investing the huge amount. Besides charging stations, vehicle maintenance and repairing stations too are very few – the number is around 200. In the author’s opinion, this seems to be a bigger impediment than the initial cost of the vehicle.
Besides the above, there could be more hurdles such as the roads, civic sense – both public and driving  etc. But a deeper analysis shows that a sudden introduction of EVs would potentially increase greater carbon dioxide emissions. This is because, with a large number of electric vehicles on the road, there will be increase in huge demand for electric power for charging. However, around 65% of our electricity comes from thermal power plants which burn coal and emit greenhouse gas. Unless we develop quickly the alternative source of power, after all the introduction of EVs may not yield the desired reduction in pollution.
In contrast to the four-wheel EVs, two-wheel EVs or Electric scooters are growing in sales. A farmer in Gove village in Maharashtra, Vinod Gore, replaced his petrol scooter with an electric scooter, underlining the previous statement. This is because, Gore’s electric scooter, built by Indian start-up Okinawa, runs for about 100-120 km (60-75 miles) on a single charge which costs the sugarcane farmer less than 10 % of the 150 rupees ($2.15) he would otherwise have spent on fuel for the same distance (Jadhav & Shah, 2019). Being aware of the huge potential – with annual domestic sales for scooters and motorcycles exceeding 19 million in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2018 – six times that of car sales over the same period global companies like Japan’s Yamaha Motor and Suzuki Motor have set their eyes on India and have started with plans to enter the electric scooters and motorcycles market in the country. Presently, these vehicles make up a small fraction; however, in  2017-18, sales more than doubled to 54,800 from a year ago while electric car sales fell to 1,200 from 2,000 over the same period, according to data from the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV).
The hurdles for e-scooter are few. As they are much lighter than cars, they use less power; they need less powerful batteries that are cheaper and can also be charged quickly and more easily, say at home. The only deficiency is that they are less powerful than the petrol model and this is attributed that they are only the basic model which may be upgraded with the evolution of the scenario.
“India’s electric revolution will be led by two-wheelers. It is a value for money equation,” said Sohinder Gill, global chief executive officer at Hero Electric, the country’s top-selling e-scooter manufacturer. The government, in order to bring down pollution, has proposed to limit registration of the convention fossil fuel internal combustion vehicles for both public as well as private use and simultaneously push for the electric vehicles for public use. The three-wheeled auto rickshaws have taken up this proposal and are expected to double to 935,000 units a year by 2023, according to consulting firm P&S Market Research.
With many automobile companies  – both two wheelers and four wheelers – the dream of becoming only electric vehicles nation may not remain in the pipe but may take longer than 2030 to emerge. The take away suggestion  from this writing may be that our next vehicle should be a electric one.

1. Chouhan, T. (2017, November 14). Vehicular Pollution In India. Retrieved March 05, 2019, from Automotive Electronics:
4.Jadhav, R., & Shah, A. (2019, Jan 14). India’s electric vehicle goals being realised on two wheels, not four. Live Min
5.National clean air programme (NCAP)-India
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