A plug is seen coming from the Chevrolet Volt electric car during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 13, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (UNITED STATES) - RTR23CT6
In a recent statement, India’s Minister of Power, Piyush Goyal said, "We are going to introduce electric vehicles in a very big way."
"We are going to make electric vehicles self- sufficient like Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA). The idea is that by 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country," he said while addressing the CII Annual Session 2017 in New Delhi on Saturday.
Though a noble initiative, it faces the fundamental problem of lack of consumer demand and infrastructure. The fact that there are barely any charging stations for electric vehicles in a huge country like India, makes them unfeasible for long distance journeys.
In order to cut down carbon emission and adopt cleaner fuel sources, India has set itself some ambitious targets to protect the environment and fight against climate change.
As per the Paris climate agreement, India has submitted an action plan to the UN where it aims to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels, and plans to have 40 percent of the total installed power generation capacity from non-fossil based energy resources, mainly renewable power.
India has also set a target of adding 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, out of which 100 GW is going to come from solar, and the remaining chiefly from wind.
Despite the good intentions, lack of infrastructure has been a sore thorn in India's path to cut down CO2 emission and controlling air pollution.
Air pollution has become a menace hard to tackle which claims 1.2 million lives in the country every year, a Greenpeace India report had said.
The report titled 'Airpocalypse' had said that Delhi was India's most polluted city.
From the unorthodox odd-even rule to the more acceptable ban on heavy diesel vehicles, many policy measures have been taken to cut down air pollution but the abundance of fossil fuel-based vehicles in India remains a major pollutant.
India has made little progress in electric mobility since the announcement of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan in 2013 aiming for over 6 million electric/hybrid vehicles by 2020, a report by market research firm Bridge to India states.
"As per available government data, only 790 battery operated electric passenger cars were sold in India in 2015-16 (global market share of 0.1 percent)," it says
The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan provides financial incentives of up to Rs 138,000 (USD 2,100) for electric and hybrid vehicles. But the budget of Rs 1.75 billion (USD 27 million) for FY18 is too low considering that the ministry’s own estimate for the program is Rs 140 billion (USD 2.2 billion) annually.
Worldwide electric vehicles market is growing rapidly fueled by stricter environmental measures, technology improvements and cost reduction in energy storage.
It is also seen as a vital link in achieving energy transition which explains the initiative taken by the power minister, Piyush Goyal, on the electric mobility despite automobiles falling under the ambit of the Ministry of Heavy Industries.
"Growth in sales of electric vehicles will lead to more demand for (renewable) power, help in creating a flexible demand source to tackle intermittency issues of renewable power and reduce reliance on (mostly imported) oil," Bridge to India says.
In comparison, China is a world leader in electric vehicles with over 50 percent global annual market share. The country is considering ramping up progress even further and wants 8 percent of all vehicles to be electrically powered by next year.
"China is spending billions of dollars subsidizing local companies to push them at the forefront of electric mobility technologies. It accounted for half of the USD 16 billion in subsidies offered to new-energy car makers in the past decade," BTI says.
The noble ambitions of reducing India's carbon footprint and increasing dependency on cleaner fuel sources now needs to be backed with actions.
"While India has a large domestic market, it lacks the fiscal capability and ambition of China and the technology expertise of Japan or South Korea. There are also formidable infrastructure and financing challenges and addressing these will not be easy," BTI says.