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India may be behind on climate goals but its one-stop shop for electric vehicles is visionary

The more drivers know about their options — & the more govts can address worries about how far EVs can travel — the less likely they'll be to resort to old, fossil-fuel-driven habits.

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India may appear to be stalling on climate goals, having fought to maintain coal use at the COP26 summit and setting faraway targets for cutting emissions. But it’s got one thing right: building awareness about electric vehicles.

Last week in Glasgow, India unveiled E-Amrit, a government-run portal that’s a one-stop-shop for all your electric vehicle questions. From subsidies for drivers and manufacturers to charging facility locations and financing options, the goal is to boost consumer knowledge.

This is a masterstroke of sorts and will shape the EV adoption story globally. The more drivers know about their options — and the more governments can address worries about how far EVs can travel — the less likely they will be to resort to old, fossil-fuel-driven habits. It’s not just about making the technology available, but equipping potential buyers with the tools to make informed decisions.

No doubt, there’s plenty of information on the internet. But relying on various reviews, news articles and disparate sources isn’t necessarily the clearest or easiest mode of getting details. In India, where a significant portion of oil consumption goes to motor fuel, this education campaign has the chance to make a big difference. There is a better, cleaner alternative — at the same price.

India’s advantage — like several other emerging economies — is that the market is dominated by two-wheelers. Scooters and motorcycles comprise three-quarters of vehicles, while cars and SUVs make up only 13%. Two-wheelers lower the bar for the central challenge to EVs: batteries. They don’t need to drive as fast or far, and their power packs are about eight times smaller than those for electric cars. This reduces the cost of the battery, which typically accounts for about 50% of the vehicle. In a price-sensitive market where mobility is aspirational, that will go a long way.

Electrification may first bring to mind Tesla Inc., and Elon Musk’s big goals for operating in India are all well and good. But drivers need to know how they can play their part, too. Globally, a lack of public awareness has been a huge hurdle to adoption, and campaigns to promote EV visibility have had significant success. Some surveys have shown that even those who have gone electric can have misconceptions, showing how deep misinformation can run.

The E-Amrit portal is a good start, even if it’s a bit bare and doesn’t get into details on safety issues, battery systems, or pitfalls around battery replacement and recycling. This is the kind of policy thinking and action we need.

If there is one thing COP26 has shown the world, it’s that we can no longer solely rely on summits, semantics, and policymakers to breathe cleaner air. Consumers need to get involved. E-Amrit seeks to enable them to do just that.—Bloomberg

Also read: The electric revolution needs to be about much more than cars. We need the bigger picture


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