Electric Vehicles – An Alternative Mode of Transportation

In contemporary times, countries all around the world are trying to bring down global carbon emissions. Consequently, many countries have switched to Electric Vehicles (EVs) as opposed to Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. However, India is yet to make this much needed shift.

Need for Electric Vehicles

In the recent report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists have warned that we only have twelve years to bring global temperatures within the 1.5°C limit, and even half a degree more than this will lead to adverse consequences such as extreme heat, floods, droughts and a serious climate crisis. In order to achieve this target, there needs to be a significant reduction in carbon emissions. The IPCC directed that carbon pollution needs to be reduced by at least 45% by 2030 and should ideally be able to reach zero by 2050.

Electric vehicles, which are 100% environment friendly, are the need of the hour in the face of the ongoing climate issue. Vehicular emissions are a big contributor to carbon emissions around the world, which are a major cause of carbon pollution. Besides, they also lead to the consumption of fossil fuels, and switching to electric vehicles will help tackle both these issues, effectively cutting down carbon dioxide emissions and the dependence on fossil fuels. India has made a commitment to reduce its share in the global greenhouse gas emissions by 33% below the 2005 levels by 2030, and making a push for electric vehicles is a step in the right direction.

Electric vehicles, although costlier than other conventional vehicles, are a one-time investment. They help in cutting down regular expenses on petrol or diesel. The government is also providing substantial number of incentives to buy electric vehicles, which will make their overall cost more affordable. Moreover, since these vehicles do not make use of many fluids and have fewer moving parts than conventional vehicles, they require less maintenance.

Over the last decade, there have been major advancements in wind and solar energy generation technologies, which has brought down their costs drastically, making the existence of clean, inexpensive and low-carbon grids a possibility. India aims at generating 40% of its electricity from non-carbon sources by 2020, adding 175 GW of renewable energy capacity. In this scenario, using electric vehicles would not lead to major carbon emissions.

In the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, India ranked 177 out of 180 countries. As a consequence of rapid urbanisation, cities have become the major sufferers due to congestion and high levels of pollution. According to a WHO report, India has 14 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities. The introduction of electric vehicles will thus be a relief in such a situation, as they will help to bring down the concentration of pollutants over the Indian cities.

Favourable Conditions in India

The market for electric vehicles is still at a nascent stage in India, with multiple avenues for further growth of the sector which would enable accelerated adoption of EVs over vehicles with ICEs. India has an abundance of renewable energy sources which are still untapped and can be utilised to consolidate the EVs market in India. In addition to this, the manufacturing and IT sectors of India can provide the EVs market with the required skilled manpower and technology, also generating employment opportunities in the process. According to a report by the World Economic Forum and Ola Mobility Institute, it is expected that the EV industry will create almost 90 million jobs in the near future.

In comparison to the West, the percentage of people owning personal vehicles in India is very less. Many people in India depend on public transport or app-based services like Ola and Uber for commuting. This opens up an immense opportunity for companies to invest in EVs, helping make the transition from ICE vehicles to EVs.

These conditions put India in a favourable position to seek a policy in EVs which would efficiently guarantee that India’s EV program matches up to the global level, since advanced economies appear to make noteworthy strides towards the electrification of vehicles. India’s development possibilities will enable us to achieve leadership in EV in some segments.

Challenges for EVs in India

One of the major drawbacks in India is that there aren’t sufficient charging points in the country. It is a sort of circular problem: Lack of charging points acts as an obstacle to creating enough demand for EVs on the one hand, and on the other hand, inadequate number of EVs is why there are less number of charging points. In 2018, India had only about 650 charging points across the country whereas China had more than 4.5 lakh charging points.

EVs make us of lithium-ion batteries which are usually very expensive and cannot support travel for long distances. India also has to depend on other countries like China to import these batteries as it does not yet have adequate infrastructure capabilities.

Many people in India do not have private parking spaces to park their own cars, which creates a problem for them to switch to electric vehicles. According to a research conducted by Maruti Suzuki, almost 60% of people in India did not have access to personal parking spaces. Not having a personal parking space creates hindrances in charging the vehicles, hence making people reluctant to make the shift. Many of the Indian consumers also tend to prefer petrol, diesel or gas driven cars over electric ones due to the relatively slow pickup, less mileage and slow speeds of the EVs.

Since the EV industry is still new, many financiers are sceptical about investing in these assets. The cost of EVs is consequently very high in India. The average price of an electric car in India is around Rs. 13 lakhs, while the same for an economical car running on traditional fuel is around Rs. 5 lakhs. In case of scooters and motorcycles, the average cost of EVs is around Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 1,25,000. In contrast, the average price of ICE bikes is around Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000, and it is even less for scooters.

The automobile industry in India is currently undergoing a drastic slowdown; the worst in nearly two decades. With the slump in national sales figures, automobile giants have expressed distress over the policies of the government aiming at a complete shift to EVs from ICE three-wheelers by 2023 and two-wheelers by 2025. This move of the government is expected to further jeopardize the auto industry.

Global automobile giants such as Tesla, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Toyota, which are equipped with the relevant technology and support, have expressed their interest in investing in the Indian market of EVs. However, they would have to incur huge import duties on their products, which is making their entry in the market difficult.

Although the EV industry is relatively new, India has a lot of potential to develop this market, which would also lead to the overall growth of the country and contribute to a cleaner environment.

– Contributed by Sanjana Rout and Prerana Bhat

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