Promoting ride-sharing will boost electric vehicle gains
When transport minister Nitin Gadkari talked about a complete shift from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030, the gains he perhaps had in mind were purely environmental. But a report by Ficci and US-based Rocky Mountain Institute shows the gains can be huge in terms of oil savings. India’s urban population, the report says, will make around 500 million trips daily and, for this, will need 1,600 million tonnes of fuel—with 80% of the oil imported, the demand means an import bill of $550 billion. But, if India were to transition to EVs with sharing—more than just Uberpool—it could cut this bill by nearly $330 billion. UberPOOL, for instance, had saved over 32 million vehicle km travelled, 15 lakh litres of fuel and 35 lakh kg of CO2 between its launch in 2015 and January 2017. Shared services could bring down the number of vehicles on the road by nearly 6 crore in 2030, compared to a business as usual scenario. Taxi-pooling, peer-to-peer vehicle sharing and greater use of public transport—India already has a high usage—could multiply the gains from the use of EVs.
Realising the EV vision for 2030 will need a multi-pronged focus—bolstering adoption of public transport, putting in place a shared mobility network and sustaining the same, setting up the required charging infrastructure (with a particular focus on battery swapping) and battery manufacture, among others. While the costs of batteries and a battery charging infrastructure remain a constraint, Ficci-Rocky Mountain point to the 65% fall in per kilowatt-hour cost between 2011 and 2016. And while a four-wheeler passenger EV in India today is priced nearly 1.5 times that of a comparable ICE vehicle, EVs have a much lower operating cost—the report found that a typical privately-owned four-wheel ICE’s operating cost is three times higher than a shared-EV. Thus, the total overall cost pretty much balances out while with constantly improving technology, even price of EVs could soon be comparable with ICE vehicles. Interestingly, since batteries form the bulk of the price of an EV, the report argues that if batteries are available on hire—say, an Indian Oil Corporation starts a battery-on-rent service once traditional ICE vehicles start getting phased out—this also lowers the initial costs of EVs. Given the sheer number of batteries that will be required, the market will also be big enough to justify India setting up its own battery manufacturing and, over a period of time, capturing more value addition with a greater share of components manufactured in the country.