India’s Transport Minister urges vehicle makers to give fillip to electric battery manufacture

India’s Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari urged the domestic automobile industry to take the initiative in making electric car batteries in the country in order to give a fillip to electric vehicle manufacturing and usage in the country.

The South Asian nation is the world’s fourth-largest automobile market and second-largest for two-wheeler vehicles, but despite government incentive programs lags far behind that of rival China. 

Indian vehicle makers have the capacity and potential to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles, if the industry makes a determined push to boost manufacturing, the minister said.

“India’s power sector is capable of supporting electric vehicles. We are power surplus,” Gadkari highlighted. “We have to develop an ecosystem for charging electric batteries.”

World’s largest maker of electric vehicles, China, has leading battery vehicle makers. Until about a year ago, the Chinese government would offer a subsidy on electric vehicles that greatly helped encouraged sales of EVs.

Gadkari said that as part of measures to encourage the usage of electric vehicles the government was planning to dedicate a lane for electric vehicles on the Mumbai-Delhi freight corridor, one of the most prestigious infrastructure project that will connect the Indian political capital with the financial capital.

The minister said that the government also planned to promote the use of bio CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) buses in a big way starting with the western state of Maharahstra’s Vidarbha region.

He said the buses will use rice straws for energy. Though the initial cost of these buses was high at Rs 12 lakh, he said investors will be able to recover their costs in about a couple of years.

Gadkari added that simultaneously road train buses in India with alternative sources of energy to reduce pollution. India has some of the world’s most polluted cities in the world.

The Indian capital of Delhi has been one of the worst sufferers as farmers chose to burn leftover crops to clear the field for plantation of fresh crops, which results in a thick haze settling over the city year after year.

In fact, Delhi chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has identified this as one of the worst problems in the state and therefore plans to encourage farmers to spray chemicals that will convert crop stubble into ethanol, gas or natural manure from the next summer season.

Precedence for green energy

Gadkari said that the government was clear that it wanted to stop the imports of petrol and diesel over a period of time and replace them with with green energy.

Imports of crude oil are not only pollution-causing, but one of the biggest drains on the country’s foreign exchange. India is targeting to convert a majority of its vehicles to clean energy in about a decade.

The target is in line with other countries like China and the European Union which aims to become carbon neutral in about a decade. Japan has pledged to become carbon emission free by 2050.

Even though electric battery costs have fallen by about 75% in the last seven years, electric vehicles still cost more than ICE vehicles. But this is expected to change in coming years in favour of electric vehicles which currently have the advantage of lower maintenance costs.

“I feel you can become the No.1 electric vehicle manufacturer in the world,” Gadkari said, adding that the industry should target becoming a global hub for manufacturing in about five years.

Industry executives have urged the government to help provide finance finance for dev eloping the infrastructure as well as encourage imports of lithium, cobalt to encourage electric battery manufacturing.

Biman Mukherji is a columnist and consulting editor at Indoasiancommodities.com. He has worked for international news organisations such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal as well as for newspapers like The Times of India. He can be reached at biman.mukherji@indoasiancommodities.in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *