At a press conference held in the premises of the NITI Aayog headquarters in New Delhi, Nitin Gadkari, the minister for Road Transport, along with the CEO of NITI Aayog, Amitabh Kant refuted the need for a separate policy for Electric Vehicles in the country. Changing its initial ambitious stand of moving all public transport and forty percent of private vehicles into the electric domain by 2030, the minister and the CEO stated that instead of a policy, a more dynamic Action Plan for the Electric Vehicle segment would be more feasible due to the continuous advent of new technology into the market.
Explaining the decision of the government, the NITI Aayog Chief said that technology is always ahead of rules and regulations, and in India, it becomes very difficult to change rules and regulations once made. “So let there be just actions”, said Kant. He cautioned against the immovability of standards for anything in the country and called for a zero-emission based policy in an increasingly interconnected economy instead.
The automobile companies in India had either supported a policy in favour of the Electric Vehicle segment or lobbied against it, especially those without the wherewithal to invest heavily into the clean-fuel technology. However, most of the companies and their top officials were of the view that government support, including the existing FAME initiative scheme and the current taxation policy should continue for another two years at least, as explicitly stated by Mahesh Babu, the Chief Executive of one of the biggest players in the Indian EV segment, Mahindra Electric Mobility Ltd. The Managing Director and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, Roland Folger, reiterated the company’s commitment to bring in an electric model into the country for every segment by the year 2022, which would lead to an entry of at least 40-50 new variants in the market thereby changing the market scenario in the Electric Vehicle segment in India altogether.
While the sale of Electric Vehicles in the country has been growing at a considerable pace, only a small percentage of them are four-wheeled vehicles. This could be attributed to a variety of reasons, from the lack of availability of electric models to the lack of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. At the NITI Aayog headquarters in New Delhi, two new charging stations for electric vehicles were inaugurated, with capability to charge a variety of cars from different companies such as Tata, Mahindra and many others.
In order to tackle the challenges faced by the Electric Vehicle segment in India, NITI Aayog and the Colorado based Rocky Mountain Institute in a report on the future of shared, electric and connected mobility future in India, published in 2017, recommended building “a manufacturer consortium for batteries, common components and platforms to develop battery cell technologies and packs…” The battery cost is currently the biggest challenge for the EV sector, making the electric models more expensive than their petrol or diesel versions. However, electric and shared vehicles could help India save $60 billion in fuel costs and cut down carbon emissions by as much as one giga-tonne by 2030. While the future of automotive fuel policy currently seems to be clouded in smoke, Electric Vehicles could definitely show the path towards a cleaner, brighter future for the world.