Vehicle manufacturers are racing to adapt to the rapidly evolving dynamic EVs present to transform the transportation sector

Amid a debate on the high relevance of EVs’ environmental impact across their entire life cycle, a new study has found that electric vehicles perform significantly better than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in several categories such as global warming potential (GWP), ozone depletion, ionising radiation, marine and freshwater ecotoxicity.

These findings have come at a time policy makers around the world are promoting EVs as a key technology to roll back dependence on fossil fuels and fight climate change. Vehicle manufacturers are racing to adapt to the rapidly evolving dynamic EVs present to transform the transportation sector.

While doubts have been raised whether EVs really are a better alternative to ICE vehicles, the study busts many such myths. It found the GHG emission for four-wheeler EVs (24.8 tons) were better than ICE vehicles (27.2 tons for diesel and 30.2 tons for petrol) during their entire life cycle. A similar trend is observed for 3-wheeler EVs, followed by CNG-fuelled 3 wheelers.

Why is transitioning to Electric Vehicles is important?

Earlier this year, India became the third-largest automobile market in the world. It is said to become the largest in the next 5 years. With a significant number of vehicles set to be added to the country’s fleet, it is imperative that the policy around the transportation sector and the related technology be fully analysed. And the best available option is chosen to mitigate the impacts of climate change and make the country future-ready.

India’s transportation sector contributes about 10%of total national GHG emissions. Of that, road transportation contributes about 87%. It is believed that CO2 emissions from the transportation sector will continue to grow by 4.1-6.1 per cent per year. By 2050, CO2 emissions are expected to be seven times relative to 2010.

Fig 1. EVs are the key technology currently available to decarbonise road transport. Image via Shutterstock

Broadly speaking, most electric vehicles today produce zero tailpipe emissions, thereby not adding carbon dioxide or other harmful emissions. Considering these factors, the government is pushing for a shift towards the cleaner mode of transportation, including for commercial vehicles. It is planning to launch the third phase of the FAME incentive scheme soon, with a likely marked increase in outlay. The FAME III scheme will likely cover electric trucks, bicycles and quadricycles. A substantial allocation could be made to support e-buses and charging infrastructure.

Efforts are also being made to recycle the spent batteries of EVs. Experts say lithium-ion batteries, which are now mostly used in electric vehicles, contain valuable metals and minerals that can be recovered and reused. This recycling process may, however, release air pollutants into the environment. There’s also the case some have made about the pollution from the grid that supplies electricity to recharge EVs. That is a valid concern but most countries are now working to clean their grids.

Fig 2: There is a need to power the charging points using renewable energy. Image courtesy Nature journal

Electric vehicles in India

According to the government’s e-vahan portal, there are a total of 28.85 lakh electric vehicles in the country. A report by real-estate consultant CBRE says the EV sales in India surpassed 10 lakh units in 2022 alone, registering a growth of over 200% year-on-year. It adds EV sales in India are expected to touch 1.70 crore units by 2030. EV adoption is likely to create a $100-billion revenue opportunity in India in the next seven years.

To accelerate India’s transition to green mobility, the government launched the FAME scheme in 2015. During the initial phase, the government allocated around Rs 900 crore. The outlay was increased to Rs 10,000 crore in the second phase, which began in April 2019 and will conclude in March next year.

The scheme has been successful in nudging people to adopt EVs. More than 8.70 lakh EVs have been provided subsidy under FAME II so far.

What can be done to make EVs more appealing?

  • More efficient and effective rollout of schemes like FAME. For instance, schemes like FAME can be clubbed with associated policies of renewable electricity generation to accelerate EV adoption.
  • Doubling down on boosting renewable electricity generation. The government has set an ambitious target of achieving 500 GW of renewable installed capacity by 2030, markedly up from the current 174 GW, by having a mix of solar (west) and hydro power (northeast).
  • Advance funding for critical sectors like solar under the PLI scheme. The government allocates funds under this scheme but they are disbursed only after a plant (for polysilicon cells, ingots, wafers and panels for PV modules) is set up. This may discourage small businesses.