India’s government has postponed its electric vehicle replacement plan to next year

Going green is never as easy as it sounds, and this is a fact that India is slowly digesting.

Citing delays by state governments and a shortage of charging points, Energy Efficiency Services Ltd, a joint venture between four public-sector power companies, has decided to postpone a plan to procure and operate 10,000 EVs to March 2019.

The battery-powered cars are meant to replace the petrol and diesel cars in the government’s fleet, which comprises of 500,000 vehicles. As most of these cars are for use within cities, the relatively short distances required to be traveled make electric cars a suitable alternative. The replacement period is expected to take three to four years.

A modest original target

The government had originally planned to have 500 EVs on the road by November 2017, sourced from Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra, with the remaining 9,500 ready by June 2018. The move dovetailed with the central government’s somewhat unrealistic plan to have battery-powered vehicles make up 30% of the cars (not just government cars) on Indian roads by 2030 in order to reduce dependence on oil and curb air pollution.

However, Saurabh Kumar, the head of Energy Efficiency Services, which is leading the government’s electric vehicle charge, told Bloomberg that there were only 250 government-procured electric cars in operation in India at the moment - 150 in Delhi and the rest in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Worse still, only 200 charging points have been constructed to date, half of which are in Delhi. While this could be due to the confusion over the licences and permissions required to set up charging stations, the Ministry of Power had issued a statement last month clarifying that companies setting up these points did not require a separate licence for the transmission or distribution of electricity.

Despite its lack of progress, the government released a second tender in March 2018 inviting bids for the supply of 10,000 new EVs. That will likely be put on hold as the first phase of the plan moves towards completion.