Home / Industry / Energy /  The quiet losers of India's electric vehicle revolution

MUMBAI : Last week, when Mumbai’s transport authority, BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking) announced tenders to procure 1,900 fully-electric buses, it left city gas distributors on tenterhooks. These buses will be added in a phased manner over two years and will comprise about half the fleet of BEST buses.

Officials at city gas distribution (CGD) companies said state transport undertakings (STUs) are key customers for compressed natural gas (CNG) and any shift towards electric vehicles is a cause for worry.

“If Mumbai does it, other cities may follow and CGD companies will have to look at newer avenues to expand their customer base," a senior official at a city gas distributor said on the condition of anonymity. Under its EV Policy 2021, the Maharashtra government aims to electrify public transport in Mumbai and other cities, including Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and Amravati. Meanwhile, as many as 13 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, and Karnataka have also approved or notified dedicated policies to promote the adoption of EVs, Minister of State for Heavy Industries Krishan Pal Gurjar told the Rajya Sabha on 9 August.

Though Mumbai-based CGD player Mahanagar Gas Ltd (MGL) plans to introduce 1,000 new buses for BEST and convert 500 diesel buses to CNG, EVs will impact its customer base. MGL currently caters to almost 3,000 buses, most of them belonging to the government.

MGL did not respond to an email.

“While the state government has ambitious plans for electric buses, MGL believes that diesel takes the first hit and CNG and electric can co-exist in the medium term," said Antique Stock Broking in a 7 September report.

The shift to electric mobility is part of the Indian government’s push to reduce costly oil imports and curb rampant pollution in its major cities. As per the FAME India Scheme II, the sales penetration target for EV is set as 40% of buses, 30% of private cars, 70% of commercial cars and 80% of two- and three-wheelers by 2030.

However, CNG is not the only fuel losing market share to EVs. Auto LPG is also at the receiving end. Officials at oil marketing companies said they are not keen on promoting Auto LPG with the increasing popularity of EVs.

“We are not very bullish about Auto LPG anymore. EVs and gas-based economy is where we see the future," a senior official at an oil marketing company said.

Suyash Gupta, director general, Indian Auto LPG Coalition, the nodal body for the promotion of Auto LPG in India, said however that Auto LPG can address vehicular pollution in cities such as Delhi as its carbon monoxide (CO) emission levels are less than even Bharat Stage VI compliant petrol.

Tailpipe emissions from Auto LPG, were found to have almost 52% less carbon monoxide (CO), 47% less total hydrocarbons (THC) and 50% less non-methane hydrocarbons (NmHC) compared with petrol. As compared to BS-VI fuel, it had 82% lower emissions for CO, 70% lower THC, 62% lower NmHC and 81% lower oxides of Nitrogen.

Also, auto LPG is nearly 45% cheaper than petrol which is currently selling for about 100 per litre. “Auto LPG can immediately impact air quality whereas it will take decades for electric vehicles to impact air quality," said Gupta, adding that a policy is needed to encourage use of Auto LPG to improve air quality.

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