Roar for Quality Roads to Curb Road Accidents
With the latest invention of the electric mode of communication, the number of electric vehicles (EVs) is growing and more and more people are opting for the cheapest mode of communication. However, the lack of charging stations across the nation has created anxiety among people about batteries running out of charge. To bridge the gap and ensure drive growth in EVs the state governments are trying hard to offer a resolution.
The West Bengal government is setting up 849 EV charging stations along the highway network of the state, with one station being planned every 25km on four-lane highways and one within a 3 sq km area. The government is hoping to cross the target and install 1,000 charging stations in the next two years. The Goa government is also soon installing 40 such stations for Rs 3.2 crore. While private cars, bikes, and small-sized carriers in the EV range are attracting consumers the manufacturers are yet to plan on trucks. It is high time that manufacturers plan to engineer EV trucks as it will solve a lot of issues.
For instance, the transportation sector is responsible for nearly 14% of India’s total GHG emissions. Road transport, in particular, accounts for over 90% of transport emissions in the country. Therefore, to achieve the net-zero goals, India has to decarbonise road transport. Electrification of road transport will go a long way in the reduction of the country’s overall GHG emissions.
India has more than 2.8 million trucks that run over 100 billion kilometers per year. By number, trucks are just 2% of the on-road vehicles, yet they contribute over 40% of emissions and fuel consumption from road transport. According to a few studies, to reach net-zero emissions, the share of electric trucks to overall freight trucks should be at least around 8% by 2070.
Currently, India is far behind in the electrification of road carriers. There are multiple reasons because of why the sector hasn’t yet got the traction it needs. Following are some of the major reasons.
Doubt on Competence of EV Trucks
There is a common doubt about the competence of trucks, even pickup trucks, in carrying heavy roads, and also about the maintenance they may need.
Road Transportation is an Unorganised Sector
The truck market is highly unorganised. About 75% of the fleet is operated by owners owning five or fewer trucks. Further, once the cargo is delivered, about 30-50% of trucks return empty, leading to a waste of time and resources. Thus, the challenges included waste of resources, high costs, heavily intermediated returns, and redundancies in the sector.
Thus, replacing them with electric options becomes costlier. Moreover, an electric bus case is a classic example. Instead of purchasing the buses from the state transport undertakings (STU), they asked manufacturers to operate the buses themselves. But when it comes to trucks, the operators are small and fragmented. Due to this sole reason, the technical and financial risks are enormous to be tested by these operators.
The barrier to Financial Incentives
To initiate any new thing finances are required in good numbers. So, for manufacturers as well as buyers financial incentives are a must. Unfortunately, as of now, no such initiative is in place for EV trucks.
In FAME-II, the second phase of the EV scheme, it was declared that 7,000 electric buses, 500,000 electric three-wheelers, 55,000 electric passenger cars, and 1 million electric two-wheelers will be launched with the support of Rs 1,000 crores. There was no mention of electric trucks.
The government is Not Putting Enough Power to Push the Policy
Government policies will play a crucial role in switching fossil fuels with electrification and, thus, reaching net-zero emissions, especially in the transportation sector. India is the sixth-largest commercial vehicle market in the world and a large exporter of vehicles and spare parts. The right policy move will be a perfect boost for the electric trucks to flood the Indian logistics sector. Many states in India have their electric vehicle policies; yet, the freight sector is ignored in most of them. India needs a policy for electrifying its trucking fleet. International Council on Clean Transportation studies estimates that heavy-duty truck activity might quadruple by 2050 to over 400 billion kilometers annually. Thus, decarbonising the sector is vital for reaching the net-zero targets. The zero-emission trucks are aligned with India’s ambitious climate, air quality, and energy security goals.
The volatility of the Logistics Market.
The logistics market, not just the Indian logistics market, is volatile and depends on cost. But in India, since the COVID-19 debacle, it has affected almost all business operations in every sector across the country. Logistics has been particularly hard-hit. Even before the second wave of the pandemic began, in the spring of 2021, the pace of recovery was still unclear. Thus, this makes it even harder for fleet owners to invest in new unchecked technology.
Electric Trucks are Costly too
Another challenge is the high cost of electric trucks. As we know, most of the owners of fleets are generally small and fragmented. Hence, high-cost investment in a new technology becomes riskier for them. For instance, a TATA LPT 1613 Truck comes at a price of around Rs18.3 Lakh (around $23,000) in India. The truck comes with 16.2 Tonnes of GVW. Comparatively, Tesla’s Semi 500-mile range model will come to around $180,000, a 6-7 times price range. The high costs make electric options less unviable, even after accounting for lower running costs thanks to fuel savings.
Despite all the negatives and the hard facts that we analyzed, positive hopes have not dried up yet. At CoP26, India has not only pledged net-zero carbon emissions by 2070 but also committed to reducing the total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes (BT) by as early as 2030. To reduce fuel consumption and GHG emissions, electrifying trucks will prove to be helpful. Thus, India must introduce electric trucks in the first half of this decade so that by the end of the decade the aim of reducing carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes gets materialized by the time of the deadline.
Agreed, with the new focus on the use of green hydrogen in transport, hydrogen-powered trucks might actually be seen at the same time, or even earlier than full-fledged electric trucks in India well before 2030 but seriously EV trucks could also be a handy option for the future. When this will be materialized the truckers will be in a win-win situation!