For various reasons, India simply wasn’t a driving force in the internal combustion era of mobility. Now, there is little doubt that electric mobility is the way of the future. The recent launch of the scheme for Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India, or FAME India, is a very positive development that gives India a much-needed shot at the electric mobility wave.
FAME India provides support for R&D investment, demand creation, charging infrastructure, and pilot projects to gather data on technologies, markets, and implementation. It addresses a wide range of vehicles, from scooters to buses. This reflects a comprehensive view of the multiple aspects of electric mobility, which is truly the need of the hour.
For example, domestic R&D is essential because driving conditions and market needs vary from country to country. Technologies and standards that are built around Indian needs will allow deep, sustained penetration of electric vehicles in the Indian market.
FAME India also strikes the right chord on another point related to penetration – the explicit recognition that hybrid vehicles should be included in the category of electric vehicles. Hybrids are an important bridge in the transition from a world deeply entrenched in the fossil fuel era to a world of full electric mobility. They must, therefore, occupy a vital place on any roadmap to electric mobility. I am thrilled that FAME India recognizes their importance in the electric vision.
The transition to an electric world needs hybrids, but it also needs retrofitment. The number of new vehicles sold is a mere fraction of the number of the total number of vehicles on the road. In other words, even if every new vehicle sold today were an electric vehicle, it would take years before they made any dent in our inventory of polluting, inefficient, import-dependent vehicles. We need to achieve as much as possible of the electric advantages – for industry, society and the environment – with the vast stock of existing vehicles. Retrofit technologies are the answer, and once again FAME India does well by including retrofit technologies in its ambit.
Reliable data is indispensable for solid assessment. The pilot projects envisioned under the scheme will allow policy makers and industry players to gather data on the performance of different technologies. This will allow assessment of individual solutions as well as of the overall scheme. Pilots will also yield data on market dynamics. This leaves the door open to quick fine-tuning of the scheme based on market response. This would be vastly preferable to static, prescriptive targets, and I am keen to see whether and how pilot projects are leveraged to make the scheme more dynamic.
The Ministry of Heavy Industries has taken a commendable step. The ball is now in other agencies’ court. For example, relevant bodies can think of providing non-financial incentives to electric vehicle owners, such as access to less-congested lanes on highways and city streets, or preferential parking in cities. Simultaneously, we should revisit the pricing of petroleum products. While prices have fallen in line with global oil prices, what of the huge losses caused by petroleum use? For example, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate recently found that premature deaths due to air pollution cost India over 6% of GDP. Isn’t it time that petrol and diesel prices reflected these enormous social costs?
We at KPIT Technologies are fundamentally committed to making a better world through technology, and so we have been engaged with India’s National Electric Mobility Mission since its early days. Therefore, seeing FAME India come to fruition is very satisfying. What is equally satisfying is the knowledge that thanks to consistent investments, we now find ourselves well ahead of the curve with respect to electric mobility in India. We already have solutions lined up to help customers leverage FAME India. These include OEM and retrofit hybridization solutions for three-wheelers, a wide variety of cars and UVs, all the way up to full-sized buses. We are also in a position to share data that is so critical to the assessment and prioritization of these technologies.
Since we at KPIT are driven by similar values and convictions as those that FAME India seems to reflect, I will be sure to follow the course of this scheme with particular closeness and enthusiasm.