Even as the Centre ropes in states to launch low-emission hybrid and electric vehicles on a pilot basis amid rising pollution level, the sector is unlikely to take off anytime soon given the non-availability of infrastructure, lack of support from state administrations, and dismal state of public awareness, say industry players.
The Indian Express spoke to several industry players who said that while in several cases state governments are apathetic to the challenges faced at the local levels, there is no systematic push from the Centre in terms of targeted reduction of diesel/petrol vehicles and introduction of low-emission vehicles.
“There are several problems — difficulty in getting permissions for these vehicles, high taxes, multiplicity of permissions… I have written two e-mails to the Delhi government on the issue but there has been no response. There is no one agency that takes care of permissions for such vehicles,” Sohinder Gill, CEO, Hero Electric India, told The Indian Express adding that due to policy flip-flops of the state, retail sales dropped for the first time in seven years.
He said that the 30 per cent subsidy being given by the state was scrapped on the grounds that it will be credited directly to the customers. “However, while it continued for April-June, it was withdrawn after that from retrospective effect. So people who bought it during this period have faced several hardships,” he said.
It is to be noted that the company was in talks with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and the state government to station 20 e-bikes at every metro station. However, Gill said that there has been a significant dip in the sale of electric vehicles in Delhi owing to a number of issues including withdrawal of subsidy on such vehicles by the state.
Further, Gill said that raising Value Added Tax on the vehicles to 12.5 per cent also impacted the sectoral growth in the national capital, which has been termed as gas chamber by the Delhi High Court due to high level of pollution.
“If the state government is serious about tackling pollution, it should facilitate single window for group buying of electric vehicles. Gurgaon has already started e-bikes from point to point. Another thing is setting up charging infrastructure. We have developed a charging pillar for Rs 16,000 per pillar. We sought the government’s help in floating a tender and installing them but there has been no help so far,” he added.
Similar issues are facing the industry across the country. Bengaluru-based electric cab service Lithium Cabs, which has tied up with several corporates, including Tesco in the city to provide services to their employees, is planning to launch in cities including Delhi, Gurgaon, Hyderabad and Pune.
However, says Sanjay Krishnan, CEO, Lithium Cabs, the government needs to provide at least basic infrastructure for the sector to take-off.
“The transition to e-vehicles can only be gradual. So while first the government should ensure that aggregators move on to CNG, some structural thinking is required for promoting e-vehicles. Apart from charging infrastructure, power availability has to be 24X7. Individuals must be incentivised to buy electric vehicles. The quantum of change required is huge,” he said.
Moreover, he said, the government needs to fix a target, for example that, say, by 2020, 15-20 per cent public vehicles will be electric vehicles. “Only then will it be able to bring about a change. Norway has highest penetration in electric vehicles of around 12 per cent. It is a large oil producing country and still is giving thrust to electric vehicles,” he added.
As such, the Centre is already in talks with states to launch electric and hybrid buses on a pilot basis. While it has finalised Indian standards for charging infrastructure and has already handed out two pilot projects for installing solar charging infrastructure to Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) and Rajasthan Electronics & Instruments Ltd (REIL), it has also sanctioned 25 hybrid buses to Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), and Navi Mumbai each and the work is on to implement it in next 4-5 months.
Interestingly, after Beijing issuing a first three-day pollution red-alert last week, there has been reportedly a surge in demand for electric cars. According to Reuters, government subsidies and other measures have helped pure-electric car sales soar nearly five-fold to 1,13,810 units nationwide in the first 10 months of the year, putting China on track to overtake the US as the largest market for electric cars this year.
Coimbatore-based Ampere Vehicles, which had earlier tied up with Domino’s Pizza in Delhi to provide 50 lithium battery fitted e-bikes for delivery is yet to launch it.
Hemalatha Annamalai, founder and CEO, Ampere Vehicles, said that while lack of charging stations is a problem, banks are also apprehensive of financing such vehicles leading to a decline in consumer interest.
“It is an opportune time for electric vehicles but the industry is not very enthused because of infrastructure issues… It is very difficult to register high speed vehicles. Financing them is also very difficult as banks are not willing to give loans for electric vehicles. The government needs to spread awareness about this,” she emphasised.