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NEW DELHI : While economic and regulatory forces are building up in favour of electric mobility as a means of public and first- and last-mile transport, comprehensively addressing the EV ecosystem will help inspire public confidence, according to a panel of government and industry experts at the Mint Mobility Conclave 2022.

Creating the right conditions for the emergence of sustainable new mobility solutions will ensure that the transition to full electric mobility in densely populated and polluted cities “happens faster than people imagine," Ashish Kundra, principal secretary, Delhi said.

“In Delhi, electric vehicles are over 10% of total auto sales this year. The sale of EVs in Delhi is more than that of CNG vehicles this year too, with this volume being more than the EVs sold in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai combined," Kundra said at the conclave.

He added, “The idea for us, from the government standpoint, is to also incentivize EVs to mitigate the larger issue of pollution. One set of measures we announced in the Delhi EV policy was tax exemptions on EVs and we set a regulatory direction for aggregators and last-mile fleet operators for conversion of their fleets to electric. Now, we have targets for them to convert this to 100% EVs by 2030. One way to do that is also via retrofitment of existing vehicles. We are also encouraging a public charging infrastructure where a variety of operators are now participating, and at the same time, we are also facilitating private charging infra. The ecosystem as a whole has to be addressed comprehensively to inspire confidence in people," he said.

According to Kundra, while the public transport system has traditionally been “fragmented" i.e., the metro or local train systems, state bus undertakings and private last-mile mobility solutions providers have not cohesively tested and worked upon a solution, pilots in Delhi are now testing the viability of some integrated EV solutions along certain areas.

According to Yulu, India’s largest electric micro-mobility network, with thousands of vehicles on the roads in large cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai, there have been challenges with operating the rent-&-go model for electric scooters, popular in several European countries and American states, in India.

“We believe there is a need for first-mile and last-mile mobility to facilitate access to public transport. In the case of Delhi Metro, which is the best metro network in India covering a distance of 400 km along various routes and close to 300 stations, the average distance a person has to travel from their home or office to a metro station is over three kilometres. In this scenario, you are likely to use a private vehicle instead of the metro. Buses, metro trains are public transport that cannot reach your home, and a private vehicle taken to a metro station will encounter parking issues. This first-mile (home or office to metro or bus station), and last mile (metro station to home, office), has to be done by the private sector," R.K. Mishra, co-founder, Yulu and president -ecosystem partnerships said at the Mint Mobility Conclave.

While Yulu’s electric bikes, customized for this use case, solve this problem, scaling up in cities like Delhi has been a challenge.

“Unlike Bengaluru, we have not been able to grow in Delhi because different municipal corporations in Delhi have different rules where some allow parking in residential areas and others don’t. We are, however, currently in talks with them," Mishra added.

During the pandemic, Yulu made a pivot to last-mile logistics and now has a large area of focus on electric vehicles made particularly for gig workers employed with e-commerce and logistics platforms.

Meanwhile, the country’s energy transition agency Convergence Energy Services Limited (CESL), instituted under the ministry of Power, New and Renewable energy, is bringing various stakeholders together to enable a large-scale switch to electric mobility in the public domain by aggregating demand for electric buses from various state transport undertakings to meet the country’s net-zero emissions goals.

“When we were doing (the Grand Challenge) tender for electric buses, we got a lot more demand for buses than the number of buses for which subsidy was available from the department of heavy industries. We got demand for 5,500 buses instead of the 3,500 which was the target number given to us; that itself is evidence that there is enough demand and appetite to switch to electric buses. But there are several issues we have to work on to get to deployment—We have to work on equipping and setting up bus depots and the electrical stuff behind it, we need to work with bus manufacturers ensure they have visibility with respect to orders coming on time. It’s a long process because each of these things has to be ensured. The one thing that I would perhaps put out there and to me remains a little bit of a challenge—and I hope I’m wrong in about three-four months from now—is keeping risk mitigation in mind because the economics of the sector, the structure of the sector, may or may not be suitable for long-term, large-scale capital to stay sustained, and deliver returns," Mahua Acharya, managing director and chief executive officer, CESL, said.


Alisha Sachdev

Alisha Sachdev is an assistant editor with Mint based in Delhi. She reports on the auto and mobility sector, with a special focus on emerging clean mobility technologies. She also focusses on developing multimedia properties for Mint and currently hosts the 'In A Minute' series and the Mint Primer podcast. Previously, she has worked with CNBC-TV18 and NDTV.
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