Post Covid Green Mobility
Published on : Thursday 06-05-2021
Time to look beyond electric cars with a long-term vision for EVs in India, says Aditya Munjal.
As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across the world, it also contributed to a growing consciousness about the need for more sustainable lifestyles. As country after country imposed lockdowns, the planet experienced a drop in carbon emissions and gave us a glimpse of a world with clearer skies and breathable air. Evidently, this experience has given a significant push to the idea of sustainable growth and Green mobility.
A rethinking of urban mobility towards increasing usage of Walk, Cycle & Public Transport (WCPT) approaches and an acceleration of E mobility goals have been prominent trends witnessed in a post pandemic world. As bicycling turned mainstream in many countries following the pandemic, a number of cities from Berlin, Budapest to Mexico launched major infrastructural initiatives to relocate road space from cars to cycles. Bicycle as well as E Cycle sales witnessed a significant jump in India as well with people turning to cycling for fitness purposes as well as short distance trips.
India has already launched a major push towards E mobility by pledging to progressively replace IC engine vehicles with EVs over a period of time. Even before the pandemic, India had set an ambitious target of achieving a significant transition towards E mobility by 2030. However, as Green mobility becomes central to a post pandemic world, India needs a more sustainable and long term vision for Electric Vehicles. This vision must encompass a wider spectrum of E mobility tools including E Cycles that can play a game-changing role in addressing the urban challenge of traffic congestion.
EV policy in India: Is it sufficient to accelerate the E Mobility goal?
Over the past few years, the Indian government has put E Mobility as a major priority agenda. Under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of EVs (FAME), the government has already announced two phases of its EV policy that focuses on subsidising Electric Vehicles as a measure to boost their adoption. At the same time, at least 12 state governments have drafted their own EV policies to further accelerate the adoption of EVs. For example, under its dedicated EV promotion policy, the Delhi Government has envisaged that 25% of all new vehicle registrations should be Electric Vehicles by 2024. It has also recently announced a ‘Switch Delhi’ campaign to further boost the programme through the right messaging.
While these policies have together created a conducive environment for the growth and faster adoption of Electric Vehicles in India, a number of challenges remain both on the manufacturing and adoption sides. Firstly, a lack of quick movement on the agenda of setting up a comprehensive charging infrastructure has been cited as a major bottleneck to widespread adoption. A recent Survey conducted by a car buying platform found that as many as 35 per cent of people were willing to buy an e-vehicle but lack of infrastructure was a major reason preventing them from taking the leap. A study conducted by the CEEW Centre for Energy Finance (CEEW-CEF) suggests that to meet India’s EV needs by 2030 we need a cumulative investment of 12.5 crore in vehicle production and charging infrastructure.
A comprehensive policy support is also needed to boost local manufacturing and localisation of components and parts to make manufacturing more cost effective. A major challenge on the manufacturing front is the import dependence for lithium-ion batteries and the EV sector needs strong and consistent policy support to develop local alternatives. At the same time, rationalisation of GST on batteries, particularly on battery swapping, are concerns that the sector expects the government to address on priority.
Lack of adequate policy support to Electric Cycles is another drawback of India’s EV Policy. While the policy envisages an all-electric future, a parallel focus also needs to be given to boost E Cycle adoption to pave way for more liveable congestion-free cities.
E Cycles as a central element of an all-electric future
While electric cars offer an emission free personal transport option, it does little to address the burning challenge in Indian cities – that of traffic congestion. This is why replacing cars (IC engine) with cars (electric) is a flawed policy for a country like India. To comprehensively address our urban mobility issues, we also need to shift a substantial number of car users to environment-friendly two wheelers such as bicycles or E Cycles. Extending the EV Policy focus beyond electric cars is a very crucial need of the time.
Importantly, at a time when charging infrastructure remains inadequate and consumers face the issue of range anxiety when it comes to using Electric Vehicles, E Cycles are a good environmental bet. E Cycles overcome the issue of range anxiety with the facility to turn to manual pedalling when needed.
We need the government to extend the subsidy benefits of FAME II to Electric cycles as well to make E cycles affordable to more consumers. The Government also needs to extend its Production Linked Incentive scheme under the AtmNirbhar Bharat initiative to ebikes as well as their components to help make manufacturing more cost effective. A 20% production-linked incentive for five years will not only help the Bicycle and E Cycle segment plug technological gaps, but also achieve economies of scale and competitive advantage. Similarly, extending of incentives under the Scheme for Promotion of Electronic Components and Semiconductors to Electric bikes and components is another critically needed intervention.
Aditya Munjal is Director, Hero Cycles and CEO Hero Lectro. Standing amidst experienced campaigners of the cycling industry, Mr Aditya Munjal stands in his own right as a young visionary, showcasing substance and sophistication at par with others. By bringing his fresh perspectives and new ideas to lead the public bicycle sharing venture of Hero Motors Company, Aditya’s style of functioning infuses energy and passion in peers and seniors alike.