Sharif Qamar and Rhea Srivastava
Today, zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) are considered as a promising pathway to fight the battle against local air pollution and global climate change. For India, they come with an added dimension – helping the country achieve energy security while reducing dependence on fuel imports.
ZEVs – battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs), in particular – play and important role in decarbonizing the transportation sector, which currently accounts for 13% of India’s total energy related CO2 emissions.
India aims to achieve 30% EV share in total vehicle sales by 2030. Several initiatives, schemes, and guidelines have been issued by various central ministries and think-tanks to boost the three as — Awareness, Acceptance and Adoption – of EVs. It is believed that cities will eventually become the engines of growth for the EV sector; green shoots of development in this direction are already being seen.
Indian cities have tremendous potential to drive and accelerate EV adoption; yet city-level actions have been relatively under-explored.
In this respect, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) conducted a city-level analysis to assess the current status and readiness of Indian cities towards EV adoption and simultaneously identify the capabilities and roadblocks for EV planning and deployment at the local or city level.
The study looked at seven factors – institutional/policy, economic, infrastructure, technological, innovation, social, and environmental readiness. Based on this, four cities – Delhi, Bengaluru, Guwahati, and Panaji – were assessed and ranked.
The study found that Indian cities face several capacity gaps when it comes to EV planning and deployment. As most transport-related initiatives are handled by the state, cities are often unable to use their localized decision-making ability and flexibility for EV adoption despite working closely with key players in the EV ecosystem (such as power utilities, vehicle manufacturers, vehicle owners, and others).
Inadequate charging infrastructure is a major barrier that impedes EV adoption. Lack of charging facilities causes range anxiety – the fear of running out of battery before one is able to find a charging station. In a country like India, where all cities are densely populated and people often live in buildings with no designated parking space, urban local bodies should provide fast-charging public charging infrastructure.
However, integrating the provision of charging infrastructure in the building bylaws of municipalities poses a significant challenge. Moreover, Indian cities remain underprepared to handle the increased variable utility load on their electricity grid from EV charging.
Institutional readiness can be a key driving force for influencing short-term and long-term deployment and adoption of EVs in cities. Fiscal incentives, together with regulations and mandates, can act as the cornerstone for transitioning to EV at the local level and influencing almost all the stakeholders involved in the EV ecosystem.
For instance, institutional mechanisms for delicensing the establishment of EV charging stations have led to an increase in the participation of private players, boosted the charging infrastructure, and resulted in higher EV sales. The creation of Delhi EV Cell – a separate institutional body responsible for EVs in Delhi – is yet another major contributor to institutional readiness.
Furthermore, the creation of a competitive ecosystem with programs such as the Smart Cities Mission creates an encouraging environment for EV adoption.
Innovative business and financing models through multi-stakeholder partnerships was yet another important aspect that emerged from the TERI analysis. Cities can experiment with new business models with private players to facilitate a self-sustaining EV ecosystem – unlike the internal combustion vehicle (ICE) industry, which is dominated by only a few established players.
Ride-sharing and rental services by startups such as BluSmart Mobility, Lithium Urban Technologies, and SmartE are good examples of such innovative business models.
Other potential areas of innovation include education, and targeted information campaigns programs to increase consumer awareness about the benefits of EVs, such as the Delhi government’s “Switch Delhi” initiative, which informs, educates, and encourages citizens to switch to EVs.
Innovative action plans for better air quality and climate action are also key motivators for citizens, decision-makers, and private players to push the EV agenda in cities.
Successful implementation of EVs is crucial, if India is to meet its ambitious net-zero target by 2070. As this implementation will begin with cities, local governments will play a pivotal role in creating an urban environment conducive to EV adoption. TERI’s study reinforces the roles of various local stakeholders in the EV transition and lays the groundwork for assessing the readiness of Indian cities for EV adoption.
By exploring capacity gaps at the local level, cities can jumpstart wide-scale EV adoption, with adequate support from the central and state governments. As the Indian EV market is currently at a nascent stage, incorporating tailored learnings from such studies into the EV policy, governance, and financial frameworks would be much easier.
Additional research and resources, perhaps led by NITI Aayog, could be deployed to upscale the assessment of capacity needs of major Indian cities for EV planning and deployment.
Also Read: India and its role in the global electrification of the automotive industry
The Authors are Sharif Qamar (Area Convener, Transport and Urban Governance, TERI) and Rhea Srivastava (Research Associate, TERI).
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