Pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and premature death in the world today.
Last year, the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, attributed to air pollution an estimated 6.5 million premature deaths globally, with 1.1 million being from India.
The World Health Organisation’s urban air quality database had found four Indian cities to be among the world’s 10 most polluted.
As vehicular pollution is the main cause for deteriorating air quality in India, solutions like shift to Electric Vehicles (EV) is widely discussed.
Why is Pollution a major cause of concern?
Pollution is one of the great existential challenges of the Anthropocene epoch. Pollution endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems.
Pollution in low-income and middle-income countries is caused by industrial emissions, vehicular exhaust, and toxic chemicals.
Fuel combustion is also a major source of the greenhouse gases and these short-lived climate pollutants drive climate change.
Pollution is a major cause of concern as it disproportionately kills the poor and the vulnerable.
Children are at high risk of pollution related disease and even extremely low-dose exposures to pollutants can result in disease.
Pollution is very costly. Pollution-related diseases cause productivity losses that reduce gross domestic product (GDP) in low-income to middle-income countries by up to 2% per year.
Pollution endangers planetary health and destroys ecosystems.
The data from the Global Burden of Disease study, brings together comprehensive estimates on the effects of pollution on health, provides economic costs, and information on contaminated sites across the world for the first time.
Can Electric Cars Solve Air Pollution Problems?
Internal combustion engine vehicles are responsible for the vast majority of pollutants. Whereas Electric vehicles produce little or no pollution directly except pollution created at the power plant that provides their electricity.
The electric vehicles reduce air emissions associated with typical internal combustion vehicles (ICVs), thereby decreasing the emission of environmentally damaging products such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
Since electric vehicles run on electricity generated from batteries and do not emit air pollutants, these vehicles are termed zero emission vehicles (ZEV).
While transforming from an ICV to EV based engines is to be an arduous task, the long term benefits could outweigh the hardships.
But to reach a goal of moving towards electric mobility by 2030, India needs to address all fundamental issues immediately.
What are the fundamental issues that need to be taken care of?
- Coordination among various stakeholders:
- EVs, unlike ICE vehicles, involve several actors at the national, State and city levels, respectively
- Multiple ministries such as Road Transport and Highways, Housing and Urban Affairs, Heavy Industries, Power, New and Renewable Energy, External Affairs as well as national institutes such as NITI Aayog should work together.
- State and city-level players need to be involved so as to address several technical and infrastructural needs.
- Figuring out the best mode forward:
- Different countries have different approaches to increase the EV penetration.
- For example China has focussed on Electric buses as catalyst for EV penetration.
- On the other hand, Netherlands has captured the EV market using a simple yet well-crafted strategy of creating charging infrastructureand encouraging investment in charging technology. It’s a major exporter of this technology too.
- Currently India is the largest exporter of two wheelers and auto-rickshaws. So, India has to choose its own strategy according to its own requirements to increase EV penetration.
- EV battery production:
- India does not produce lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries currently, and companies making battery packs are dependent exclusively on imports from China.
- This is a cost-saving strategy as setting up a cell manufacturing unit in India would be expensive.
- But, accelerating EV use in India should be linked to the “Make in India” goal and domestic battery production.
- Charging infrastructure:
- Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in India has not been fully developed yet.
- EV charging is more than just using electricity. It involves exchange of information requiring a communication protocol.
- The three major EV users, China, Japan and the European Union, have their own charging technologies which are not interchangeable.
- The absence of a standard global infrastructure is a major deterrent for EV penetration in India, as creating infrastructure can be cost-intensive.
- The government needs to select or developappropriate and safe charging technology that avoids multiplicity and reduces the cost of infrastructure.
- Jobs and the economic impact:
- India is one of the largest producers of motor vehicles and the sector is estimated to provide direct and indirect employment to 3 crore people. And it is estimated to grow further.
- EVs have the potential to disrupt the mobility ecosystem, and, if implemented well, could have a positive impact on the economy as well as the urban environment.
- Hence, the impact on employment in the wake of shift to Electric vehicles needs to be thoroughly studied. Bold initiatives and robust investments in technological research are required to turn its EV dream into reality.
- The government has asked auto companies to start manufacturing electric vehicles in India, and is also studying global markets to come up with a policy surrounding electric mobility and storage.
- The Government started Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) scheme which provides incentives for purchasing electric vehicle.
- Government is releasing tenders to increase charging infrastructure in the country. India will get its very first electric vehicle charging station in Nagpur.
- Karnataka state approved Electric Vehicle and Energy Storage Policy 2017.
- BS (Bharat Stage) protocol for Charging was formed to build the framework for future charging stations.