Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had shocked industry with his assertion that India will need to move to 100 percent EV's, back in 2017. That ambitious announcement might have been rolled back under pressure, but events in the UK this week could yet prove him prescient.
It was only in February this year that British Prime minister Boris Johnson had announced plans to bring forward the date to ban petrol and diesel cars from the UK to 2035. The announcement moved the new goalpost from the previous target date of 2040. Now it seems that the new date will be 2030, likely to be announced next week. The announcement, when it happens, will only signal how quickly change has enveloped the transportation sector , where electrification, seen as a goal for 2050 and beyond as recently as 2015, is now seen as a essential achievement by 2040 or earlier in key markets. This is driven by a new wave of climate change acknowledgement, with massive market like the US and China, and some of the larger European markets like Germany, and now the UK, have come around to the view that 2050 ought to be a line in stone. When it comes to targeting zero carbon emissions.
The news from the UK will make India’s Minister for Road Transport, Highways and MSME’s Nitin Gadkari, think about how he was forced to roll back his advise to Indian auto manufacturers, to prepare for an ICE (Internal combustion Engine) free future by 2030. The 2030 figure was considered, and still probably is, too ambitious for India, considering the high stakes in an existing manufacturing base for ICE vehicles, as well as the lack of infrastructure to support a full transition to EV’s in that time.
A key argument against the ‘impossible’ target was also the example of developed economies like the UK and France that had a target of year 2040 to meet those numbers back then. That had led to the target for India being scaled down to 30 percent by 2030. A figure that looks way too conservative now, as more countries will follow the UK to upgrade their own EV ambitions. With the auto sector heavily west-based in terms of global players and technologies that decide global trends, India might have no other option but to follow soon. Or risk being left well behind.
“Legacy” firms like German auto maker Volkswagen AG plans to invest around $86 billion in the development of electric vehicles and other new technologies over the next five years, as it seeks to overtake Tesla Inc. as the leading maker of electric cars by then.
China presently has a target of 25 percent by 2025, and 40 percent by 2030. The share of EV’s in India’s total auto market is currently under 3 percent, but the figure is growing fast, especially among two wheelers. In smaller European markets like Norway, EV’s have already reached almost 80 percent of new sales in a month, as figures for October show
Clearly, what was impossible in 2017, seems to be a lot more closer in 2020 to policy makers in the UK.
On the anvil are also plans to make firms declare their risks from climate change by 2025, in their financial reportings. That would be a first for any major economy.
For the record, in 2019, electric vehicles were less than 25 percent of the UK auto market.
For the solar sector, this new urgency, backed by improvements in storage technology thanks to massive investments and larger addressable markets, means a clear pathway to growth for the next decade . In India, we have already heard from government think tank Niti Ayog last week, on a desire to plan for the next wave of EV charging stations that will be powered with renewable energy.
We have consistently argued for firms and industries to look at a speed of change that, if not disruptive, is at least more challenging than the ‘orderly’ change they seem to want, with targets set for 2030, 2035 and beyond for their own net zero ambitions. Its the same story in highly polluting sectors like food processing, that need to move on from single use plastics and worse, sooner.
States like Delhi, which have announced ambitious EV policies with strong incentives, have seen strong traction already, which could show the way forward to shift te market faster towards the segment too.