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Centre, Auto Industry Not on Same Page Over Electric Vehicle Goals

THE WIRE 2018-03-13 00:12:19

Nitin Gadkari. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The domestic auto industry has proposed 2047 as the deadline for finally phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles, threatening to throw a wrench in road transport minister Nitin Gadkari’s plan to have 100% electric vehicles by 2030.

Sources said the industry body, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), has suggested the cut-off date in a white paper submitted to the power ministry. The industry body has committed to convert just 40% of petrol and diesel cars into electric vehicles by 2030, in a sharp divergence from the transport ministry’s outlined roadmap on roll-out of electric vehicles.

SIAM has also sought power supply for charging electric vehicles at concessional rates to prod consumers to shift toward the greener fuel option.

While Gadkari has indicated his determination to meet the 2030 deadline for 100% electric vehicles, there is not much preparedness on the ground as far as supporting eco-system is concerned. Charging stations are a critical component of the electric eco-system. However, India’s first charging station was set up by home-grown taxi-hailing company Ola and state-owned IndianOil in Nagpur last month only.

In contrast, India has nearly 56,000 petrol pumps.

Meanwhile, finalisation of a national policy is being held up as road transport ministry and the NITI Aayog indulge in a turf war over policy-making for e-vehicles. For one, the ministry has trashed the Aayog’s battery-swapping suggestion.

Battery swapping means generic batteries would be available at retail auto fuel outlets and charging stations for renting out. Any vehicle can use these batteries.

“The swapping (battery) policy, I feel is not appropriate for the country because it is a very difficult thing that is not going to be possible in the country,” Gadkari said, adding, he had discussions with NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on the issue where he had suggested scrapping the idea.

Gadkari has said that NITI Aayog’s role should be to develop good policies and they should do that. They should not become an implementing agency. Implementation should be given to anybody deemed to be fit by the cabinet.

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission is yet to finalise regulations for drawl of electricity from the grid by vehicles. The regulator has identified three business models for setting up charging stations. One, companies can partner power distribution companies (discoms). The regulator has also suggested a public-private partnership franchisee model between company installing charging stations and discom. As a third option, the commission has suggested battery swapping.

In May this year, Nagpur became India’s first city to introduce a fleet of 200 electric vehicles, including taxis, buses, e-rickshaw and autos, for public transport.

While Mahindra Motors has announced that it will supply 100 e2O Plus e-vehicles, Nagpur authorities will source the remaining 100 vehicles from other suppliers including Tata Motors, Kinetic, US manufacturer Build Your Dreams (BYD) and TVS.

Ola founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal feels that India has the need as well as the potential to set a global example in shifting toward exclusive use of electricity for transport.

“We are excited about how this could transform the mobility experience for millions of citizens, unlock immense opportunity for driver partners and positively impact the environment and quality of life in our cities. We believe that Electric Mobility in a multi-modal format will be key towards realising our mission of building mobility for a billion Indians,” Aggarwal said at the launch of the maiden charging station.

According to a report published jointly by JD Power and Ernst & Young, the Indian automobile market might become the world’s third largest by 2020.

India’s share of the global passenger vehicle market will jump from 4% in 2010-11 to 8% in 2020, the report said.