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e-Mobility around the world
The rickshaw that runs on coal-fired power

Guest article by WEKA Industrie Medien/Piotr Dobrowolski

India has the opportunity to assume a pioneering role in e-mobility similar to the one Norway has in Europe. Just under different conditions. As the first country of its size, India plans to make a complete switch to electric drives.

Punit Goyal, founder of Blu Smart Mobility in Western India, has a vision: “In 2047, the year of India's hundredth birthday as an independent state, cars with electric drives will be the only ones driving on our roads.” This dream vision is not entirely altruistic - after all, Blu Smart Mobility’s business model is based on the internet-based sharing of e-taxis. However, the National Institution for Transforming India which is close to the government is also very clear in its vision of the future when it recommends to the government that only e-vehicles be registered starting in 2030. This could make India a benchmark in terms of e-mobility for emerging countries similar to what Norway is today for the industrialized countries of the global North.

Norway wants to stop registering fossil-fueled cars starting in 2025. However, one third of newly registered cars in Norway were already electric last year; in India, this figure is less than one percent. And while the total share of e-cars on the road in Norway is six percent, it is currently less than half a percent in India. The majority of these are not conventional cars, but two-wheeled and three-wheeled small taxis, so-called e-rickshaws.

Land of hope

Still, India is considered a country which offers high hopes for e-mobility. One reason is the government’s promise of huge benefits for both producers and buyers in order to promote e-mobility. One plan is to support the production of batteries in India through tax incentives and customs concessions on the import of lithium. Buyers can expect a subsidy of up to USD 4,000 if they decide to buy an electric car.

And there is another reason why less developed India, of all countries, is given a good chance to succeed in switching to e-cars: Car ownership in this country is very low. India has just 22 vehicles per thousand inhabitants, Austria or Germany have more than 500.

“The big car-buying wave in India is still ahead of us,” says Gaurav Gupta, COO of MG Motors India. “At the same time, e-vehicles can be produced more and more cheaply because batteries are becoming less costly. This creates a good environment for e-mobility." Gupta points to China as an example that demonstrates how vigorously the e-mobility sector in India could develop going forward. Today, China already accounts for more than one third of all electric vehicles worldwide, and the growth rates are enormous: From 2017 to 2018, the market volume more than doubled.

Subsidies for three-wheelers

Still, experts continue to expect the largest e-vehicle growth in India in the two- and three-wheeler sector rather than the classic passenger car segment. These vehicles are also the primary target of the second part of the FAME program, launched this year by the Indian government to promote electric and hybrid drives. The subsidies under this program are intended to support the purchase of one million electric two-wheelers, 500,000 electric three-wheelers, 55,000 electric passenger cars and 7,000 electric buses. Private individuals, however, can only benefit from the subsidy for two-wheelers, while the rest of the money is reserved for the electrification of public transport, especially taxis and rickshaws.

However, the subsidies for taxis and rickshaws have also come under fire. It would make more sense to invest more in buses, says energy expert Disha Agarwal from the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation in New Delhi. She points out that many cities have neither the necessary parking space nor the necessary charging infrastructure for taxis and rickshaws. A recent study by Arthur D. Little agrees. In 2018, there were only 200 to 250 charging stations in all of India. Many times, charging on the grid at home is not an alternative either: Eight- to ten-hour power outages per day are the rule rather than the exception in many cities of the country. And there is another drawback: about 50 percent of India's electricity production comes from coal. "At the moment, we are merely transferring a large part of pollution from the cities and their streets to areas outside the cities," says Disha Agarwal.

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