Home >Politics >Policy >Government eyes leasing of electric vehicles in clean energy push

New Delhi: In an attempt to expedite the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), India is exploring a plan wherein the Union government, various government agencies, and state-owned firms will lease only EVs, two government officials said.

The government, its agencies, and state-owned firms currently buy as well as lease cars powered by both petrol and diesel. Mint couldn’t ascertain the number of cars leased, although estimates from government officials put the number in the thousands.

That sort of number should encourage more carmakers to make electric vehicles. The government plans to lease EVs at the same rate at which it currently leases petrol or diesel vehicles, one of the two government officials familiar with the plan said. The plan is expected to be first rolled out in the National Capital Region that includes Delhi, which has a high vehicular pollution level, the second added. Both asked not to be identified.

The plan comes against the backdrop of ambitious government plans for a mass scale shift to electric vehicles by 2030, so that all vehicles on Indian roads by then—both personal and commercial—are powered by electricity.

Any shift to electric vehicles will help reduce pollution and energy imports. India’s energy import bill is expected to double from around $150 billion to $300 billion by 2030. The government has set an ambitious target of selling six million EVs by 2020.

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EV sales in India grew by 37.5% to 22,000 units in the year ended 31 March 2016, according to industry lobby group Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. Of these, only 2,000 units were four-wheelers.

The Union transport ministry had earlier invited bids for hybrid and electric cars for official use in an attempt to lead by example. The plan, however, didn’t take off.

Experts believe that the plan has the potential to gain traction. “It is a welcome move by the government of India (GoI) to buy or lease few thousand electric cars for use in Delhi. The GoI should also advise select PSUs (public sector units) to set up EV charging stations at strategic locations under their CSR (corporate social responsibility) programme," said Reji Kumar Pillai, president and chief executive officer of India Smart Grid Forum, a public-private partnership of the power ministry.

The government is also working on creating infrastructure for EVs such as charging stations, along with bringing down the cost of batteries by facilitating technology transfer.

“The Bureau of Indian Standards has already set up a committee to draw up the standards for EV charging infrastructure and is expected to finalize the same very soon," Pillai added. Concerns over vehicular pollution prompted the government last year to proclaim that India will move up to the toughest automobile emission standards of BS-VI by 2020, skipping an intermediate level.

India, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030, as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in 2015. It plans to achieve 175GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022. Of this, 100GW is set to come from solar projects.

Queries emailed to the spokespersons of the ministries of finance, heavy industries, road transport and highways, new and renewable energy, and environment, forests and climate change remained unanswered.

India’s EV and solar energy push are inextricably interlinked, say experts. Storage solutions offered by EV batteries would help with grid balancing, besides complementing the government’s push for solar power, which is generated during the day and can be stored in batteries to be made available at night.

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