India is hoping to become the first big world power where all cars on its roads are electric, as part of its efforts to combat severe atmospheric pollution. 1.8 million deaths are caused by it every year on the subcontinent. EURACTIV’s partner Italia Oggi reports.
Every year, 1.8 million Indians die due to diseases caused directly by air pollution. That is why in March of last year Energy Minister Piyush Goyal announced that “India can become the first big country where all the cars are electric” by 2030.
Last year, the country set a planetary record of 1,200 micrograms per cubic metre of fine particulate matter in the air.
Thirteen of India’s big cities, including New Delhi, figure among the globe’s top ten most polluted metropolises. To make matters even worse, 410 people die every day on India’s roads in accidents.
According to Goyal, the transition to electric vehicles could turn out to be self-financing, without the need for state subsidies, as any financial outlay could ultimately be covered by savings made at the petrol pump.
It is a theory that has been contested by car makers, who have pointed out that electric car batteries currently still cost around €8,700.
But the energy minister has reiterated his target this year, suggesting that his 2030 goal is an official government decision. However, the only real measure that has been put in place so far is a working group set up in February under the aegis of India’s transformation ministry, tasked with implementing the Modi government’s reforms.
The institute has brought together experts from the Rocky Mountain Institute and representatives of the automobile industry, in order to hash out “how mobility in India could look at the end of the next decade”.
According to the ministry’s calculations, phasing out completely the internal combustion engine would reduce the country’s €60bn national fuel bill to zero and reduce CO2 emissions by a trillion tonnes.
Unlike China, where the state hands out generous subsidies, India is keen on encouraging the market to make changes itself.
“I think that the goal is very ambitious,” said Mahindra Electric CEO Manesh Babu, whose company is the only domestic builder of electric vehicles. Mahindra pumps out 2,400 a year, a mere drop in the ocean compared to the 3 million vehicles put into circulation every year in India.
And even if the target were met, India would have to upgrade its electricity generation and grid in line with its ambitions. A significant challenge, given that in the countryside, one out of four homes are still not connected to the grid.