Even as a roadmap on electric mobility is awaited from the government, the domestic automobile industry on Wednesday came up with a white paper that states its own targets for electric vehicles in the country.
The paper brought out by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the apex lobby body of the industry in the country, talks of electric vehicles to account for 100 percent of new vehicle sales by 2047, linking it to the centenary of India's independence. By 2030, the year when some senior ministers in the government including Nitin Gadkari and Piyush Goyal want 100 per cent electric mobility in the country, SIAM says the industry will be able to achieve full electric mobility for intra-city public transport fleets and only 40 percent for overall new electric vehicle sales. It however says that hybrids and other alternate fuels will account for another 20 percent sales by 2030.
"If this vision is to be realised, the industry, government and various stakeholders will need to collaborate and invest with 100 percent commitment," said Abhay Firodia, president, SIAM. "The proposed policy measures in the white paper would be needed for creating a robust market and manufacturing eco-system for electric vehicles in the country and such a policy must be sustained over time to remain stable to enable industry commit to investments with full confidence."
Though the industry's timelines are much more conservative vis a vis government's ambitions, it does seem to be more practical. Other markets like China, UK and France that are far ahead of India in the evolution of their electric vehicle industry are only looking at 2040 and beyond for an all electric future.
Electric vehicles are touted as a one stop solution to many critical problems in India. The most direct and immediate impact would be in curbing air pollution and import of crude oil. Every year India imports more than 80 per cent of its crude oil requirement which grows steadily each year. The bill from crude oil alone accounts for almost a quarter of overall imports into the country. In 2016-17, India imported nearly 250 million tonnes of crude oil and petroleum products and paid $ 80.8 billion for it. It accounts for 29.4 per cent of world oil consumption and is behind only China and the US.
Almost 40 per cent of this-76 million ton diesel and 23.8 mt gasoline-- is used by the transport industry through passenger cars, two wheelers, trucks and buses. At the current rate, the demand for oil and the consequent import bill is expected to grow significantly. As per International Energy Agency, India's crude oil consumption is projected to grow to 458 million tonnes by 2040.
Mindful of how this drains the economy, the government has set a target of reducing its oil import by 10 per cent by 2022. Electric vehicles will have a big role to play in this. A Niti Ayog and Colorado based Rocky Mountain Institute report on electric vehicles released earlier this year talks about a reduction of 156 million tonne of oil equivalent (mtoe) worth Rs 3.9 lakh crore if its target of electric vehicles accounting for 40 per cent of two wheelers, cars and SUVs and 100 per cent of all commercial vehicles and three wheelers is achieved. This is the same target that SIAM's white paper has listed.
"Import of oil and the resultant outgo of foreign exchange has been a major problem for all governments in India. A shift towards electric vehicles can dramatically alter that," says Tarun Mehta, CEO and co-founder, Ather Energy. "Either as incremental volumes or as replacement vehicles, the more number of e-vehicles that hit the roads here, the more will be the reduction in our import bill."
Electric vehicles would also help to solve a more prickly problem of rising pollution in Indian cities. At 2 million kilotons, India is the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide behind China and US. According to World Health Organisation, Indian cities are one of the most polluted around the world. The country accounts for 33 of the top 100, 22 of the top 50 and 10 of the top 20 most polluted cities across the world. In the national capital Delhi, pollution due to particulate matter regularly exceeds the WHO limits by a factor of 7-12.
Vehicular emissions is considered to be one of the major contributors to poor ambient air conditions across the country. According to an IIT Kanpur report-Source Apportionment Study of PM 2.5 amd PM 10 emissions-in Delhi, vehicle emissions account for an average 25 per cent of PM 2.5 emissions, going upto 36 per cent in winters. Pollution from suspended particulate matter from vehicles is even higher at 40 per cent.
With no tail pipe emissions whatsoever, electric vehicles hold the potential to drastically change the scenario. As per a study done by United Nations Environment Program and IIM Ahmedabad in November 2014, in a low carbon scenario where EV penetration is the highest, emissions of PM 2.5 would fall below half the current levels by 2035. Further, given the high congestion in the cities that leads to stop go traffic conditions, conventional vehicles tend to idle more that leads to even higher pollution.