India accounts for nine of the 10 most polluted cities in the world, according to the World Health Organization. The list is topped by Kanpur while Delhi comes in at the sixth spot. Given that vehicular emissions are considered to be one of the major contributors to poor ambient air conditions, the government is reportedly taking a fresh look at electric vehicles (EVs).
A government official told The Economic Times that the Centre is preparing a fresh policy for promoting EVs that will first look at creating favourable ecosystems in nine polluted cities with a population of over four million. The idea is to gradually move to cities with populations of one million-plus, the source claimed, adding that busy corridors such as Mumbai-Pune and Delhi-Chandigarh are also being identified.
Significantly, this marks a U-turn in the government's stand on formulating an EV policy. In February this year, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari had announced that the government had dropped plans to prepare a separate policy for electric mobility.
"However, a new policy to create favourable ecosystems for transition to electric vehicles is silently being worked upon," the official said. "The government has already begun consultations with industry bodies, including the Confederation of Indian Industries, FICCI and auto makers on five aspects." These include the challenges faced in EV manufacturing and the support required, setting up charging infrastructure, battery manufacturing, promoting EVs in commercial fleet and the role of renewable energy in electric mobility.
The daily added that this new policy, advocating minimal subsidies, is likely to be announced at a global e-mobility summit to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 7.
The government had previously voiced a pipedream of becoming a 100 per cent EV nation by 2030 before ground realities forced it to tone down the target to 30 per cent of vehicles on the road by then. Having learnt its lesson, the government has decided to roll out the new policy on a smaller scale. In doing so the government also hopes to ensure smoother transition and better cooperation from the automobile sector.
"There is a shift in the government direction. Rather than spreading it to a pan-India basis, the government now wants to concentrate on creating pilot projects in populated and polluted cities that have a large vehicle base for easy transition," a source aware of the development told the daily.
In addition, the Rs 8,730-crore second phase of Faster Adoption And Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) scheme is also expected to be taken up by the Union Cabinet for approval soon. To remind you, the government had launched the FAME scheme in 2015, offering incentives on electric and hybrid vehicles of up to Rs 29,000 for bikes and Rs 1.38 lakh for cars. The buzz is that FAME-II will be restricted to new energy vehicles used for public transport, commercial purposes and high-speed two-wheelers.
Furthermore, underscoring the government's thrust on EVs, the power ministry, too, is reportedly close to finalising a policy for EV charging infrastructure. This policy proposes granting subsidies to PSUs for setting up a basic charging station network in big cities and highways in order to spur on EV sales.
While all this sounds great on paper, the government's plans have already hit a speed breaker. Government officials have not been impressed by the first batch of e-cars supplied by Tata Motors & Mahindra & Mahindra under the first tender floated by state-run Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) last August. EESL, for the record, is spearheading the electrification of the 5-lakh odd cars used by the government for official use.
The government officials have, in fact, refused to use these battery-driven cars for official use since they delivered less than 100 km/charge as against a range specification of around 120 km/charge. That's hardly an ideal start to the government's electrification plans.
(Edited by Sushmita Choudhury)