Severe traffic gridlocks, with the ensuing air and noise pollution, are the bane of modern urban sprawls worldwide. In India’s metros, the problem is compounded by bad roads and drivers who lack basic road etiquette. Which is why Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari’s aggressive push to shift to electric vehicles by 2030, though laudable, addresses only a part of the problem.
Calling out startled members of the automotive industry at the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) annual convention in New Delhi Thursday, Gadkari said: “You may not like it, but I wish it from my heart that your growth should be less. If this growth continues, I will need to add one more lane to national highways, which will cost a whopping `80,000 crore.” Instead, petrol and diesel vehicles must be replaced by battery-driven vehicles or engines running on biofuels like ethanol, in line with the Centre’s decision to take all fossil fuel-run vehicles off the road by 2030, he said, warning: “I am going to do it, whether you like it or not. I will bulldoze.”
Apart from easing pollution, this would drastically cut down India’s fuel import costs, and add to our attempts to fight climate change. However, this radical shift would require major initiatives from both the vehicle manufacturers as well the government in terms of infrastructure—like better public transport—and policy decisions. For one, the engineering, manufacturing and designing of new vehicles would require not just time, but heaps of money.
For instance, when the government announced in January that it would start enforcing the stringent emission standards of BS-VI from BS-IV by 2020, one report said that “auto firms, parts makers and oil refiners will end up spending anywhere between `70,000 crore and `90,000 crore.”
Then there’s infrastructure: Getting charging points for electric vehicles only in metros is not enough. They need to be there on every highway, every rural road. Unless all that is sorted out first, setting a deadline for such a massive change seems futile.