Electric mobility still have cost based and safety challenges
Published on : Friday 03-06-2022
Praveen Rao, Public Sector Advisor & Founder-Capturing Life Foundation.
What is the present status of the Smart Cities Mission in India?
The Indian government has gunned for a massive programme, i.e., Smart City Mission, targeting more than 4000 cities with an average population 5 lakh each. This program has set up big goals in areas of infrastructure automation and planned new age practices to develop next level urbanisation.
As a realistic vision, the program was well initiated in all the planned cities but in terms of execution, political intervention and administrative hurdles have slowed down the processes in many cities and the freedom has not been given to decision makers to evaluate the right stakeholders for such projects.
Smart Cities Mission envisions developing an area within a city as a model area, which is expected to have a rub-off effect on the rest of the city. How realistic is this?
The present status of smart cities is over projects worth over Rs 1,80,000 crore have been tendered so far. Tenders for projects worth approximately Rs 50,000 crore are in the pipeline. Out of Rs 1,80,000 crore, Rs 1,50,000 crore have now been converted into work orders. These projects are happening on the ground.
In terms of the city as a model area, there is not any rub-off effect until the citizens start feeling it. Developments can be categorised under infra/non-infra, and moreover Area Based Development (ABD) plans will be the best suited method.
Systems and areas must rejuvenate to improve the quality of life realistically and future cities will overturn old models and create new possibilities.
Sustainability is one the core tenets for Smart Cities. How sustainable are the Smart Cities nominated so far? Can our smart cities achieve a net zero emissions goal?
As a transformation, a sustainable city requires a holistic approach that circumscribes long-term planning, partnership and engagement.
The objective of India’s Smart Cities Mission is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and improve the quality of life of its citizens, as well as a clean and sustainable environment.
Cities are getting improved in terms of physical infrastructure and public outreach programmes but significantly lacking on sustainability, i.e., ecological needs, pollution control and focus on renewable energy are missing.
Few cities like Mysore, Chandigarh and Dehradun are leading the race for sustainability.
As per a study by WRI India, India accounts for nearly 6.5% of the global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) with almost half of the country’s emissions having urban origins – emanating from industries, transport modes, buildings and waste.
Smart cities are yet to achieve zero emission goals due to many administration issues and it can’t be addressed single handed.
The GoI has many public buildings, offices, public sector, municipal, etc., and to create a zero-carbon building some immediate steps are required:
1. The structure or building’s renewable energy generation requirements, and
2. Realignment of procurement process in public sector.
Indian cities are particularly vulnerable to water stress, prolonged hot (or cold) days, heat island effect, flash floods, urban water logging, droughts, and deteriorating air quality.
How do the 100 cities nominated for the Smart City Mission fare in terms of Electric Mobility – not just passenger EVs but transport systems?
The government of India has set itself an ambitious target to make India a 100% electric vehicle nation by 2030. Its various programs, including FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles), are steps towards achieving this goal.
Projects like ITMS & BRTS are already implemented either under Smart Cities Scope or separately.
Electric mobility is gaining traction, but they will not succeed until a city attains or adopts an explicit energy policy with innovative and realistic strategies, calibrated over a medium-long term horizon.
The Indian transport sector is rising and we need to reduce the pollution emissions, therefore electric mobility has been strongly encouraged by governments and municipal administrations
But considering the need of the city, first, we must define a long-term sustainable transportation goal with a prediction of population matrix and their demands. Secondly the right set of technology with cost analytics is the need of the hour.
We need to quickly understand if we want to move forward, i.e.,
i. Role of safety standards and regulations in minimizing the fire risks in EVs, and
ii. The importance of good Battery Management System and battery data monitoring in improving EV fire safety.
Electric mobility is the future but in terms of cost and safety, we are still lagging, as the recent incidents in the country have alarmed and proved that we are not well prepared.
I believe Electric Mobility should be kept separate from Smart Cities Mission considering the list of existing and upcoming challenges in cities. Smart City Mission has the scope to improve the public transport and urban mobility systems with the help of technology, but electric mobility still has cost based and safety challenges which are yet to be addressed and citizens should feel confident and safe while opting for it.
How realistic and achievable is the goal to achieve 100% plug-in electric vehicles by 2030?
The GoI announced 100% plug-in electric vehicles by 2030, and it is working on such schemes to provide electric cars on zero down payment for which people can pay out of their savings on expensive fossil fuels, for becoming a 100 per cent electric vehicle nation by 2030. Well, that’s achievable subject to the offerings from the GoI to the citizens.
India is a highly populated country and we still prioritise our basic issues and lack in understanding long term challenges. Such programs should not be affected by any political turbulence then only such long-term goals can survive and succeed.
Is the present ranking of Smart Cities in India based on realistic parameters?
Smart Cities are ranked as per the development works being undertaken by respective cities.
Cities must implement the work in a phase wise manner keeping the ethnicity of the city and without disturbing the environmental balance.
It is very tough to claim parameters, but the current development works which Bhopal, Surat, Pune and Varanasi have completed was well appreciated and these cities deserve such ranking.
Praveen Rao is a Digital Transformation Expert and a certified smart city professional with a vast experience in Strategic Consulting and Business Development roles across various industry sectors with primary focus in Government.
He extensively works with Central and State Governments, City municipalities, Urban Development Bodies, quasi-government agencies and helps them to achieve their economic and social goals.
(The views expressed in interviews are personal, not necessarily of the organisations represented)