When Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said, “With full faith, I want to say that petrol will vanish from the country after five years. Your cars and scooters will either be on green hydrogen, ethanol flex-fuel, CNG or LNG," at a function in Maharashtra recently, he was not joking, but pointing to a fact that many thought was only possible in the realms of science fiction.
The end of the internal combustion engine (ICE) that has powered petrol vehicles and global economies since the 1890s, is not very far; not in the next five years as Gadkari predicted, but soon enough. India has mandated that sale of new petrol/diesel vehicles will be banned from 2030, which is just eight years away.
At COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, over 100 national governments, cities, states, and major businesses signed the Glasgow Declaration on Zero-Emission Cars and Vans to end the sale of internal combustion engines by 2035 in leading markets, and in 2040 worldwide. At least 13 nations also committed to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered heavy duty vehicles by 2040. India is one of the signatories of the declaration, and has further added, “two-wheelers and three-wheelers constitute more than 70% of global sales and more than 80% in India. All governments should also support the transition of these light vehicles to zero emission vehicles.”
The transport sector is almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels, and is responsible for approximately one quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC). The sector’s emissions have more than doubled since the 1970s, with around 80 percent of the increase caused by road vehicles, and is the main contributor to air pollutants in almost every city around the world.
In a climate constrained world, the end of ICE is seen as a new opportunity for clean growth, green jobs, and public health benefits from improving air quality. India was the world’s fourth-largest manufacturer of cars, and seventh-largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in 2019. The domestic motor vehicle statistics for 2018-2019 show ~3.38 m passenger vehicles, ~1.01 m commercial vehicles, ~701,000 m three-wheelers, and 21.18 m two-wheelers. India ranks third among countries with the world’s worst air quality, and 13 of its cities in the north are among 15 of the worlds most polluted.
Transportation plays a villainous role in air pollution. Globally, it contributes nearly 305.3 MtCO2e — 0.64 percent of all GHG emissions, while in India, this sector is the fastest-growing source of carbon emissions. A study on the ‘Health and Economic Impact of Air pollution in India’ estimates that 18 percent of all deaths and a loss of 1.4 percent of GDP in 2020 could be attributed to air pollution. This has to change, and it will as Gadkari has proclaimed.
In the race to reach their Net Zero commitments, the European parliament has already voted to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2035, defeating attempts by Centre-Right lawmakers to weaken the target signalling the end to the internal combustion engine in the EU single market of 447 million people. In the United States, the federal government has not embraced a full phase-out, instead calling for 50 percent of new cars sold to be electric. But California, Massachusetts, and New York have all set plans to end gas car sales within 15 years. Local efforts are also underway, with Latin-American cities, including Bogota, Cuenca, and Salvador, aiming to transform to zero-emissions public transport fleets by 2035.
For the first time in its 118-year history, Ford Motor Co. plans to spend more on electrified vehicles than it does on ICE vehicles starting in 2023. German automobile giant Daimler has abandoned the development of ICEs. The CEO of Porsche has gone on record as saying that after 2030 all Porsche cars will be 100 percent electric.
Global EV (electric vehicle) sales jumped to over 16.5 million in 2021. Back in 2012, just 120,000 electric cars were sold worldwide. In 2021, more than that were are sold each week. Nearly 10 percent of global car sales were electric in 2021, four times the market share in 2019.
In April 2019, the Niti Aayog published a report titled ‘India’s Electric Mobility Transformation’, which pegs EV sales penetration in India at 70 percent for commercial cars, 30 percent for private cars, 40 percent for buses, and 80 percent for two- and three- wheelers by 2030. Gadkari is right, only his timelines may need to be revised.
Shailendra Yashwant is a senior advisor to Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA). Twitter: @shaibaba.
Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.