At local level, ULBs are responsible for planning, permissions and approvals needed for EV charging infrastructure

E-mobility is showing promising growth in India, and by 2030, we could have 5 crore EVs on Indian roads. Most of this growth will be in urban cities, which means state and national level policies will have to be implemented at the city level for this transition.

This brings into focus the role of local governments and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), as they control the machinery for actual implementation on ground. Be it to allocate land for expanding EV charging points or adopting charging infrastructure mandates in building bye laws, local governments or Urban Local Bodies become the central players as they are responsible for planning, permissions, approvals, and certifications.

Fig 1: Nashik Municipal Corporation has identified as many as 106 locations to set up EV charging stations

How Urban Local Bodies can accelerate EV adoption

Charging infrastructure is a prerequisite for adoption of EVs, and ULBs can make a direct impact in expanding charging. As the primary landowner in the city, ULBs can leverage the land to provide curb-side charging facilities and EV- ready public parking lots. Further, public parking is often operated by contractors who are unwilling to provide space for EV charging at sub-market rates. This poses a high entry barrier for Charge Point Operators (CPOs). Urban planning authorities can alleviate these challenges by supporting a more rapid scale-up of public charging infrastructure.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has suggested amendments to the building by laws asking for charging infrastructure to be provided at 20% of parking spaces for all new buildings. Adoption and enforcement of these amendments can only be done by urban development authorities or municipal corporations. They can design standards for existing buildings for EV integrations and retrofitting existing buildings.

City governments and urban local bodies can lead by example and convert their vehicle fleets to electric. This is one of the most impactful initiatives a government could take in instilling confidence among its citizens towards a new technology. And lastly, but not the least, raising public awareness about the benefits of e-mobility is a key strategy required to encourage a shift to electric.

A recent report by ICLEI South Asia undertook an assessment of the existing EV transition in 10 cities, and the challenges and opportunities to accelerate EV adoption. It highlights city level barriers to uptake of EVs and outlines priority recommendations that can make cities “EV ready"

Bottlenecks to faster e-mobility adoption in cities

For better and faster adoption of EVs, it is crucial to have clarity among various stakeholders involved. However, in many cases this is often missing. Most cities rely on the guidance of the state EV policy to promote e-mobility. However, the successful implementation of the policy rests in the hands of stakeholders at the city level, and lack of clarity in their roles and engagement is a major issue faced across cities. Discussions around expanding charging infrastructure and building the EV ecosystem are also currently unfocused. Further, the limited capacity to review and evaluate progress of action plans, and course correct where needed, is another challenge. And finally, coordination between city and state governments, and a long term city level vision for EV adoption, is a big missing link.

Fig 2: Andhra Pradesh govt to adopt electric, smart waste disposal vehicles in Vijayawada

Why is it crucial for cities to step up EV adoption

One of the major benefits of transport electrification is the subsequent reduction in air pollution as EVs have zero tailpipe emissions. A recent global report highlights that India is home to 39 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities. Emissions from road transport are becoming an increasing pollution source in most of our cities today. Therefore, it is essential for cities to design their mobility towards zero emission vehicles.

Electrification of public transport (buses), shared mobility and urban freight could lead to rapid emissions reductions as these vehicles tend to represent a major share of the vehicles kilometres travelled.

With the right support from central and state governments, cities can make a significant contribution to driving EB adoption in the country.