The Indian Electric Vehicle Paradox

Updated: Apr 12, 2019

‘The future is electric’
‘India is about to embark on the most ambitious electric vehicle transition’
‘All fossil fuel vehicles would be pushed out by 2030 to promote electric mobility’.

PM Modi taking a ride on an e-rickshaw

There has been a lot of hype and hope regarding electric mobility, and where the world has been applauding the Indian government for making progressive policies to deal with carbon emissions and climate change, the government has got too busy looking at the skies, and skipped dealing with ground level dirt. The paradox is about the fundamental reason why the government is framing policies to curb carbon emissions and why it may fail ! (rather badly).

Apart from the e-rickshaws which is slowly substituting vehicles used for commuting short distances in various towns and outskirts of big cities, the traditional vehicles which ply frantically on Indian roads has an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) which requires petrol and diesel to function. It is disadvantageous for India in two ways.

  • First, India is among the leading crude oil importers around the world for which the government has to spend a major chunk as foreign exchange reserves hurting India’s balance of payment (BoP) account.

  • Secondly, India is trying to improve it’s soft power by ambitiously planning to reduce its carbon footprints. To reduce carbon emissions, which is majorly caused by the automotive space, it has to look for an energy source, which is clean and green. Lithium ion battery powered vehicles certainly solves this issue as it can be charged at the charging station, emission goes to zero. These batteries can be recharged and used again and again.

India's first electric vehicle charging station in Nagpur

Seems like the problem has been solved, but there is a catch (believe me, a biiiig one). The question is more about the source of energy, how is the energy being generated before reaching the charging stations. Is the energy generated from renewable means like hydro, solar or tidal ? or through coal ?

To dampen the spirits of environmentalists and EV enthusiasts, major chunk of energy generation comes from coal which is one of the prime elements contributing to air pollution and climate change and to make matters worse, as per a statement by Ministry of Power, coal is going to continue as the major source of energy at least till 2050.

Coming to tackling of crude imports, which was one of the problems government is facing, the lithum ion batteries are made of lithium which again has to be imported from China or Latin American countries, so the spiral of imports will be continued like before, solving no purpose.

Clearly, there is lot of hype and hope around electric mobility today but is it really solving a purpose ?

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