The government announced their 2030 (which later became the 2032) goal for 100% electrification of cars manufactured in India late last year. Ever since, they have changed stances, with-held policy and pushed the rebate revision under the FAME scheme further and further. Now Nitin Gadkari along with Amitabh Kant CEO of NITI AAYOG have taken a complete U-turn as far as their stance goes going on record at a press conference to inaugurate the first ABB sourced charger at NITI Aayog's office in Delhi saying “there was no need for any EV Policy now.”
Asserting further that technology should not be restricted by governance and regulations, Kant added that "Don't freeze anything for the country. Technology is always ahead of rules and regulations. It becomes difficult to change rules and regulations. Future will be shared economy, future will be connected economy and the future will zero-based emission policy".
This sounds utopian, more so when you consider that EVs require a comprehensive ecosystem. One could argue that Gadkari was only referring to present times not needing a full-blown EV policy but if we are to reach anywhere close to the 2032 target, an extensive policy will be required at the earliest.
This may be an immediate relief for the Indian automotive industry, which will now have more time to work on the technology. With rural electrification still being an ongoing process, questions regarding the source of power for all these vehicles have been raised multiple times within the industry. Add to it the fact that sans policy, the industry is likely to be left hanging in terms of drawing the investment required for a paradigm shift of this magnitude.
This means that our goal of 2032 for electrification that was overly optimistic, to begin with (London has set a goal for 2040), seems to have moved further into the future. You might argue that the product should come first for an effective policy to be put in place, but that would be true if we were trying to reinvent the automobile, which we aren’t. What we are doing is asking to simply update the technology. Unfortunately, this change requires thousands of crores in investment and even more in divestment, and most importantly of all, it involves hundreds of thousands of lives.
The Indian automotive industry employs 7% of our working age population and contributes to 49% of our manufacturing GDP ( Gross domestic product). This is why the government employed the services of the NITI Aayog think tank, to begin with, to oversee this transition and ensure it is completed with tact and refinement. Considering, Mr Kant and Gadkari’s statement today, it seems the government has now withdrawn from the responsibility of fulfilling an agenda that they had set out for themselves.
Speaking on the new developments,Bangalore based Toyota Kirloskar Motors issued an official response which says"We believe that the state level EV policies will have a key role play, as a concerted effort to achieve reduced emissions and fuel imports. We also recognize that it is the customer who will drive the choice of technology that we will adopt based on his/her needs of travel distance, safety & total cost of ownership.Finally, we wish that taxation policy is calibrated towards encouraging a technology agnostic approach which would reduce pollution, reduce India’s oil import bills and encourage volume growth in the auto sector both of mass market cars and luxury vehicles. This will in turn lead to growth in employment where automobile sector is a big contributor."
Of course, this is not to say the predetermined course has altered. The switch to EVs is paramount if we have to rid ourselves of fossil dependance and hence the Electric Vehicle must become a reality. The event that took place at NITI Aayog’s office in Delhi was testament to that, with Hyundai’s Ioniq Electric Car, representing the Indian automotive industry at India’s first Fast Charging station. A first of many to come, as we gradually try to rid ourselves of Fossil dependance ahead of 2032 (maybe slightly later). Whether we'll really reduce the dependence or simply shift it to dependency on China for Lithium-ion is a topic for another day.