The draft electric vehicle (EV) policy that mandates the transition of all commercial vehicles to be electric by 2026 is an unsound directive. Unsound because the policy in its quest to bringing in electric mobility also proposed banning the sale of all internal-combustion engine (ICE)-based three-wheelers by 2023 and two-wheelers below 150 cc by 2025 subsequently. Contained in this idea of the government is the desire to push electrification of public transport. But given the dismal statistics of EV sales—a mere 0.1% of the total 3.3 million vehicles sold in the country annually—there is a crying need for a well-calibrated approach.
While laying out grand visions maybe the objective of the government, this needs to be supplemented with practicality. The case in point is the auto industry. Plagued by multiple challenges of leapfrogging to BSVI emission norms and compliance with new safety norms, the industry is already grappling with an investment trap of around ₹70,000-80,000 crore. So a decision to phase out mature automotive technologies (in this case is the ICE) in the face of nascent EVs will do irreparable damage and might stunt an already slowing automotive industry.
Another moot point is the classic case of chicken and egg problem that India has with its EV policy. Fast-track adoption of EVs is only possible through the creation of a robust EV ecosystem that will incorporate efficient charging mechanisms, localization of EV components, and adequate market penetration, among others. Suffice to say that an efficient sales network could work only if it is accompanied by an efficient supply chain for EV components. Until then, any policy to forcibly accelerate the transition to EVs would lead to a policy-induced disruption that could even also cripple the overall economy.