Government panel outlines plan  for successful ZET adoption in the country

In the first significant step towards electrification of trucks, India has defined a technical roadmap for the deployment of ZETs which focuses on undertaking field research, reporting of trucks presently running across the country, expediting product development, designing tools to enable the successful implementation of pilot projects as well as identifying and modifying regulatory requirements. This has been done by a Consultative Group on eMobility (CGeM) formed by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser in August last year.

The roadmap identifies the various technical actions required for the successful implementation of ZET in India and for each of these, a plan for executing them is given in the form of a methodology, the stakeholders to be dealt with, a rough-cut time plan for the various sub-actions that are to be carried out, and the overall budget for the action item. It estimates the need for Rs 850 crores over four years to implement this plan.

Why now?

India is the world's third-largest net importer of crude oil and petroleum products, importing over 80% of the crude oil needs, and it is of strategic interest to reduce the country's dependence on imported fuel. Road transport, which is one of the biggest guzzlers of this oil, at present contributes about 20% of the total emissions. In this, long- distance heavy trucks contribute the largest, at about 35%~40%  of all road emissions.

Another recent report states that road freight accounts for more than 25% of oil import expenditures at present — and is expected to grow over 4x by 2050. ZET adoption can eliminate a cumulative total of 838 billion litres of diesel consumption by 2050, which would reduce oil expenditures by ₹116 lakh crore through 2050.

By 2050, if no action is taken on long-distance heavy trucking, the emissions from these vehicles in India may account for as much as 15% of the total country's emissions. In this scenario, Battery Electric Trucks (BETs) and Fuel Cell Electric Trucks (FCETs), operated at scale on electricity generated through renewable resources, can lead India to Zero Emission Trucking and address the country's high energy import bills.

A basic commercial assessment of cost trends over the next 10 years indicate that ZET with BETs will be competitive on a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) per kilometre basis for those applications that cover about 320 km per day. Therefore, given the long preparations, it is imperative to start the transitional activities now.

The ZET sector is a performance-sensitive commercial sector, and the lack of preparedness during the technology transition may impact India's economic growth. Therefore, the transition from extant ICE-based trucks to ZETs will require due diligence and a clear roadmap that will provide a pathway for scaling up and deployment of the technology.

Fig 1: Trucks parked at Azadpur Mandi during the nationwide lockdown, New Delhi, April2, 2020. Photo: Shahbaz Khan/PTI

Roadmap for successful ZET adoption

A precondition for the successful adoption of Battery Electric Trucks (BET) is the design of the right product. The nature of Indian trucking is markedly different from the rest of the world. Given the varied nature of the geography, nature of cargo carried, road conditions, loading patterns and vehicles used, it is important to conduct pilots in multiple corridors for which extensive field research is required so that variations across these major freight corridors can be mapped out.  The document details the roadmap for the research and outlines the tasks that include identifying the major freight corridors of freight, collection of data from them, analyse them and shortlist at least 10 candidate corridors for pilots.

Fig 2: Infraprime Logistics (IPLT) claims it is catalysing a $200 million investment for enabling the deployment of 1,000 e-trucks within2 years.

The document also presents a roadmap for developing a Driver Rating Application (DRA) based on data collected from freight trucks. This application aims to provide quantitative and qualitative feedback on driving behaviour to BET drivers among others and helps in evaluating the drivers for energy-efficient driving habits, comparing driving patterns of various drivers on the same route and linking the driving pattern to the energy consumed among others.

It also provides the roadmap for field research for successful adoption of FCET. The initial part of the field research—in terms of identification of major corridors and collection of data for each of these corridors—can be combined with the exercise being carried out for BETs to avoid duplication, it says.

Noting that designing and developing robust battery recharging mechanisms by connecting to the electrical power grid is an an important task towards realising ZET, the document also provides a roadmap for updating the vehicle side regulation and standards for an Overhead Automated Charging Device (OH-ACD) for Battery Electric Trucks. It also provides details about developingOverhead Automated Charging Devices (OH-ACD for BETs).