While the rest of the automotive world is progressing at a rapid pace with regards to electric vehicles and hybrids, India has been dragging its feet. What could be taken as a start towards a change is the news that the Delhi government is mulling offering a subsidy to car owners choosing to go electric. The move comes after the Centre offered a subsidy in this year's budget under the National Mission on Electric Mobility.
There are exceptions to this subsidy, the e-rickshaws will not be able to avail of this. The initiative has been taken by the ministry with the hope that it will lead to opening up of more research and manufacturing centres, in India, for vehicles running on alternative/eco-friendly fuels, thus boosting this nascent segment.
"As part of the pilot project, the government will offer a substantial subsidy to those who want to switch to electric mode using a specialized conversion kit," said Kuldeep Gangar, special commissioner, transport department. Further details on the subsidy are being worked out. These retrofitted hybrid-electric kits can be used on any vehicle not more than two or three years old.
The Centre has proposed that half the cost of this fitment will initially be borne by the government and as the system falls into place, new ways will be derived to bear the costs. At present, only one company is manufacturing this kit, and it costs less than Rs 1 lakh and with such support the government is hoping other manufacturers also join the bandwagon.
The government will also identify deployment points for public charging installations in places like parking lots, malls, cinemas etc to make this move feasible.
According to the minutes of a meeting held earlier this month, it said, "This has to be geographically spread out, so that, on an average, a public charging facility should be available within 2-3kms.”
The government is also readying a Rs 14,000-crore scheme to push green vehicles. The subsidy will be a proportion of the difference between the price of a car running on fossil fuel and that of a green vehicle, said sources.
Electric cars are run by an electric motor and a battery pack. Hybrid cars may use more than one power source to move the vehicle. All in favour of this move argue that it will be beneficial to the environment, reduce pollution and help in prolonging our depleting oil reserves. Naysayers, however, contend that helping the environment is all in good faith but what about affordability, the technical challenges that come with it, how effective it is for a consumer and plus, given the Indian consumer’s mindset regarding luxury, space, speed and looks, the move will fail to make a dent.
Arguments aside, we feel that this subsidy is a step in the right direction and with other facilities also falling in place, electric/eco-friendly vehicles might just receive the needed boost. Companies like Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, Nissan, Toyota who have been involved in developing electric and hybrid technologies will be largely facilitated by this move and it is only a matter of time before the results are seen.