Costly EVasion: Why not committing to electric vehicles today will choke future gains

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Published: February 17, 2018 4:13:27 AM

It is easy to term transport minister Nitin Gadkari’s recent statement that no electric vehicles (EVs) policy is forthcoming from the government—though there is an EV action plan being implemented by government departments—a volte-face.

Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has been stressing on electric vehicles

It is easy to term transport minister Nitin Gadkari’s recent statement that no electric vehicles (EVs) policy is forthcoming from the government—though there is an EV action plan being implemented by government departments—a volte-face. Gadkari, after all, had on several occasions spoken of an EV policy being on the anvil to provide the base for making 100% of India’s fleet electricity-run by 2030. The government, too, had signalled seriousness, with the public sector Energy Efficiency Services Ltd awarding a `1,120-crore contract to Tata Motors for 10,000 electric cars that would replace petrol and diesel vehicles in the government’s own fleet. The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme too is intended to push EVs as a mainstream transport option. There are many reasons, however, that could have compelled a rethink on the part of the transport minister. The seminal concern is the impact the shift away from petrol and diesel vehicles will have on jobs and exports. EVs will require competencies widely different from those required of both shop-floor workers at car factories and repairmen/mechanics today. While many jobs will get created, many will get eliminated, too. At the same time, the limited traction India has in the export of automobiles will be at risk since importing nations may not have the same appetite for India-made EVs as they have for petrol/diesel vehicles.

That said, the government should keep in mind that, in the long run, as hydrocarbon fuels get scarcer and their environmental impact becomes a deciding factor for buyers, EVs and hybrids will be the way forward. If India doesn’t move on EVs fast, chances are it will have lost space to European and other Asian carmakers. Sure, shifting gears on EVs means considerable disruption, but all businesses get disrupted by new technology. The present pain may well get outweighed by future gains.

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