The Business Standard article “Govt takes U-turn on policy for EVs; Nitin Gadkari says action plan enough”, published February 16, 2018, appears to attempt to sow seeds of doubt in the reader’s mind about the government’s intent with regard to electric vehicles, as the headline screams about a “U-turn”. But does the Minister’s explanation that since there is already a well-laid-out action plan on EVs there is no need for a policy amount to a U-turn?
Before talking about U-turns, one would need to evaluate whether work on the ground has stalled in the absence of said “EV” policy. If work is proceeding as per plans and in the right direction, as seems to be the case with EVs, and therefore the government feels that there is no need to adopt a new policy for the same, how does that amount to a U-turn?
Even said report quotes NITI Aayog’s Chairman on the reasons for not having a policy: “There is no need for an EV policy. An action plan has been prepared. Each ministry has started implementing the action plan”.
If we take into account even what has been reported in the media, there seems to be a sound rationale for persisting with the broader action plan but not a policy since EVs have a lot to do with technology and technology constantly changes.
As the NITI Aayog Chairman has been quoted saying, “Technology is ahead of rules and regulations. We cannot bind it. The government will take a final call on whether a policy is required or not. Every day, new technology is coming into the market. Technology is always ahead of rules and regulations. And in India, it becomes very tough to change rules and regulations, so let there be just actions”.
In any case, more than words on paper, it is perhaps wiser to take stock of what is happening on the ground. Below are the pointers which document the progress made with regard to EVs.
Action Speaks Louder
- The very event Business Standard based its report on was an inauguration named “Charging the Drive”of EV chargers — slow and fast charging. The event also had on display 17 EVs.
- While NITI Aayog said at the event that over the next 4 months it will push adoption across all segments, including two wheelers, three wheelers and buses, the Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, spoke about tackling on-ground issues such as by providing for charging stations at petrol pumps and the necessary infrastructure.
- Stressing the importance of EVs for public transport, the Minister announced that 70 km electric ropeway system from Dhaula Kuan, Delhi to Manesar, will be constructed soon.
- In September 2017, it was announced after the competitive bid that EESL was to procure 10,000 Electric Vehicles from TATA Motors in two phases. It should be noted here that Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), which is not just a procurement agency but also acts as a service provider, has been seen to be doing well with its business model of aggregation of demand and bulk procurement. Its role in India’s LED revolution has been documented in our earlier article “UJALA Goes to Malaysia: The Story of an International Model Designed by India”.
- Government is providing Rs 437 crore subsidy to 11 cities under FAME India, for launching electric buses, taxis and three-wheelers.
- Efforts are underway to provide major cities with charging stations. 25 charging stations for EVs have been installed in Bengaluru on a pilot basis under Fame-India Scheme as of July 2017.
Guiding Policies Are in Place
There are already policies in place to facilitate the manufacturing and use of electric and hybrid vehicles as below:
FAME India Scheme:
- The FAME India Scheme [Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India], launched under NEMMP-2020, is actually planned in phases — to get enough time to test the waters and decide the scheme’s scope.
- The FAME India scheme is meant to support the development of the market for hybrid/ electric vehicles market — not just through purchase-sale incentives but also via its manufacturing ecosystem. This in itself serves as evidence of the roundedness of the blueprint.
- The scheme has four focal points: Technology development, demand creation, pilot projects and charging infrastructure. These are meant to look after the entire development, implementation and performance graph of the policy.
National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020:
- The NEMMP-2020 aims at a vehicular population of about 6-7 million electric/ hybrid vehicles by 2020. It also aims to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and electric vehicles. It is expected to save 9,500 million litres of crude oil equivalent to Rs 62,000 crore in savings.
- An important aspect of the NEMMP-2020 is the indigenisation of technology to enable India to assume leadership in some vehicle segments globally.
Thus, there seems to be hardly any basis for claiming that the administration has done a U-turn on EVs. In fact, when the change is based on overall technological transformation, the concerns of the automobile industry also needs to be taken into account while convincing it to shift to cleaner energy. All such efforts are documented in our earlier articles: Electric Vehicles & Cleaner Fuel: Examining Media Claims Ranging from Missing Roadmaps to Coercion & The Electric Car’s Acid Test and Is It Fair to Compare the Bullet Train and the Electric Car?