India's all-electric-cars target: Bumps on the way of Nitin Gadkari's bulldozer
India's all-electric-cars target needs a powerful push. That's why road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari spoke of bulldozing his way to the target.
India's ambitious all-electric-car target needs a powerful push. That's why Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari spoke of bulldozing his way to the target yesterday at the annual convention of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufactures (SIAM).
"We should move towards alternative fuel... I am going to do this, whether you like it or not. And I am not going to ask you. I will bulldoze it," Gadkari said. While everyone should laud his spirit, there are reasons for him to be cautious. Such a disruptive reform should come with all the required due diligence.
Below are a few bumps that lie on the way to the ambitious target:
According to the International Energy Agency, the 2030 target would require nearly eight times the global stock of such vehicles. India would need to sell more than 10 million electric cars in 2030, compared with the almost 1.3 million on the road worldwide in 2015, the agency told Reuters.
Compare it with the 5,000 electric vehicles India had on the road by the end of last year. And India sold 3 million passenger vehicles in the year ended March 31, according to data from SIAM. Such a big jump in scale for a private sector in 13 years seems difficult especially in view of so many other vexatious issues.
For such a big transition in a private sector, the government needs a coherent and effective policy. The auto industry has complained of policy flipflop. For instance, the government had been incentivising hybrid cars so far. Now it has increased tax on hybrid cars. Auto industry has long timescales and cannot make sudden shifts in production. To meet 2030 target, the government will have to frame a consistent policy that does not change frequently.
India has nearly 56,000 fuel stations. Compare them with the number of community charging stations across the country—206. For an-all-electric-car target, India needs to ramp up infrastructure in a big way. Since the operating range of electric vehicles is low, India would need a humongous charging infrastructure. Creation of so much infrastructure also needs a clear-cut policy as technology is evolving and might keep changing.
A large shift in a significant manufacturing sector will impact jobs badly. Manufacturing of electric cars will be more automated than petrol/diesel cars. A combustion-engine car has 1,400 components to build the motor, exhaust system and transmission. An electric vehicle’s battery and electric motor has only 200 components, according to a Reuters report.
The average combustion engine takes about 3.5 hours to make, while the average transmission requires 2.7 hours of assembly. An electric motor takes about 1 hour to assemble.
German auto industry association VDA has said a ban on combustion-engined vehicles in 2030 would threaten more than 600,000 German industrial jobs, of which 436,000 are at car companies and suppliers.
While there are no such projections for India, the shift to all-electric cars will certainly impact lakhs of workers adversely here too.
Electric cars are still evolving and the best has yet to come. Framing long-term policy for an evolving technology will be challenging for the government. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells or any other alternative clean energy might prove to be better than electric cars. CNG, once considered the fuel of the future, has now become outdated. Fast-evolving technology can disrupt long-term policies.