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Companies jumpstart India’s EV revolution

26 July 2018, 12:32 UTC 4 min read

The transition of the transport sector to electric offers Indian businesses fresh opportunities to drive ambition and scale, leading us toward a clean and efficient future, writes Jarnail Singh, India Director, The Climate Group

Electric mobility has emerged as a key priority for governments and citizens across India. The rising optimism shows promise in transforming Indian cities by reducing pollution levels and rearranging transport networks (making them shared and connected). This is crucial given that India is home to six of the world’s ten most polluted cities, according to World Health Organization.

The start of this movement has been ridden with complexities, making it hard for governments to offer clear, practical policies to lead the way. Fragmented developments at the state and national levels as well as shifting conversations on core infrastructure have slowed down the design of a singular pathway for electric vehicles.

Despite this, the stage is set for the private sector to play a big part in shaping the electric mobility ecosystem for the country.

The uptake of EVs by large businesses offer legitimate ways to increase demand, inspire new technologies and achieve scale. A recent report published by NITI Aayog and Rocky Mountain Institute found that India could save 64 percent of energy demand for road transport and 37 percent of carbon emissions by pursuing a shared, electric, and connected mobility future.

Businesses shaping the electric mobility ecosystem

Leading Indian businesses Wipro and State Bank of India have been forthcoming in this effort by joining The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative, a global commitment to transition vehicle fleets to electric. This initiative has offered them a platform to showcase their bold leadership by making a public commitment by transitioning to 100 percent electric and catalysing the adoption of EVs starting with their staff and consumers.

The decision has not only placed them as global leaders in the uptake of e-mobility, but also propels EV manufacturers to ratchet up efforts in developing the right technologies and infrastructure.

Delhi-based utility company and an EV100 member, BSES Yamuna Power Limited (BYPL) has gone one step ahead by conducting a pilot to study the performance of EVs for utility services, along with manufacturers, fleet owners and service providers. BYPL will also deliver awareness programs for its 1.6 million customers in New Delhi on the benefits of EVs in reducing air pollution levels.

Like Wipro, SBI and BYPL, an exciting journey awaits businesses to redefine the EV landscape in India. Apart from accelerating reduced air pollution levels, the cross-organisation of industries focused on EVs, can help strengthen India’s EV transition.

For example, mainstream banks in India can use this opportunity to create financing products for their customers, making it easier for them to access EVs. Similarly, expanding on BYPL’s example, utility companies can strengthen power circulation and charging networks.

Plugging-in renewables

India has already produced 70 GW of installed renewable energy (RE) capacity, (40 percent of its target for 2022), presenting a huge opportunity to power EVs using RE.

However, EVs present a typical challenge of enormously high peak demand for electricity. In the absence of clear policy mandates like Time-of-the-day tariffs etc., they are likely to be plugged into the grid during the night when the proportion of RE in the grid is minimal. According to a recent Brookings study, vehicular fleets such as taxis and buses represent only 15-16 percent of the EV population by 2030, however, they would require 60 percent of the total electricity. It therefore becomes a major priority for electrification.

In addition, availability of a mandate that is easily controllable (taking the case of fleets) for charging is critical for better load management. It is also likely that innovative charging models such as battery-swapping would work better in those conditions.

And so, for the private sector, exceptional synergies exist between RE and EVs. The Climate Group’s RE100 brings together influential businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity. If a company commits to both RE100 and EV100, it will not only make efforts to install charging stations and electrify fleets but would also in-turn procure more RE in-house for deeper decarbonization.

While these can be termed as quick wins, they are also critical to reach the tipping point; making electric mobility a new normal by 2030.

Bringing the pieces together

In order to accelerate our shift towards the future of mobility that is clean and electric, efforts need to be made across the ecosystem. The moving pieces in this dynamic ecosystem include limited manufacturing capacity, consumer behaviour, energy storage and the natural resources needed for it.

In addition, charging infrastructure and grid stabilization are crucial given the volatile nature of EV charging and the fact that EVs could lose their environmental advantage if charged mostly during the night. While there are laudable initiatives taken up by the government to coordinate and plan the rollout of EVs in India, it is imperative for businesses to also take a lead.

Stepping up to initiatives like EV100 can not only provide certainty in corporate demand for EVs, but also enable charging infrastructure at the workplace during the day, when renewables are mostly at play. Public-facing businesses like Wipro, SBI and BSES committing to electric mobility has a multiplier effect on changing behaviours and raising awareness at scale.

The synergistic collaboration among leading and innovative businesses taking charge and the government efforts would therefore be the secret sauce to make e-mobility the new normal by 2030.

This article first appeared in EnergyNext Magazine