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A global movement to use electric vehicles has reached Indian shores, with a few big corporations pledging to switch their entire fleets to non-polluting vehicles by 2030

Electric vehicles are expected to mitigate the impacts of climate change (Photo by Pixabay)

Wipro Limited and State Bank of India have become the first major Indian businesses to commit themselves to a global movement for switching to electric vehicles. The companies have recently pledged to transition their global fleets to electric vehicles by 2030, which also makes them the first major Indian businesses to join the Climate Group’s global initiative, EV100, for accelerating the rollout of electric vehicles worldwide.

Wipro, which is an India-based global software giant, will begin rolling out its plan in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune, involving nearly 2,000 vehicles, before also addressing international markets. The company has set phase-wise targets to scale up the use of electric vehicles to 500 in the next three years and 1,000 by 2023. The Climate Group is an international non-profit organisation that aims to contain the global temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times.

“Integrating electric vehicles into our fleet and supporting its adoption by our employees is one of our key initiatives. We hope our commitment to enhance and promote the use of electric vehicles, which offer a cleaner alternative to the use of fossil fuels, will contribute to increased adoption of these vehicles and help improve the quality of the air we breathe in our cities,” said Hari Hegde, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Operations, Wipro.

Wipro has already leased around 50 electric vehicles in the cities of Hyderabad and Delhi. To encourage employees to use electric vehicles, the company has also launched corporate vehicle ownership and lease programmes, and installed charging points at all its major facilities in India.

State Bank of India (SBI), which is India’s largest commercial bank in the public sector with a network of more than 22,000 branches across India and 206 offices in 35 countries, will also switch its fleet by 2030. SBI will not just make a transition to electric vehicles, but will also set up charging stations in major residential spaces to support the uptake of EVs by staff.

Lack of charging points and supporting infrastructure are one of the biggest impediments for those who want to switch to electric vehicles in India.

“Sustainability is a large part of SBI’s business ethos. Our willingness for transitioning to electric transport reaffirms our commitment to drive climate action solutions. We believe EV100 is destined to transform global markets and policies, and would leverage innovation to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. It’s crucial that all stakeholders show leadership in boosting a low carbon economy in the world,” said Prashant Kumar, Deputy Managing Director and Corporate Development Officer, SBI.

National E-Mobility Programme

The green pledges of the companies came around the Indian Government’s launch of the National E-Mobility Programme in March 2018, which will lead to the purchase of 20,000 electric vehicles by the government. This is in line with India’s most recently stated ambition of ensuring that 30% of all vehicles on the road are electric by 2030. Earlier the government had announced an unrealistic goal of switching 100% to electric vehicles within the same time.

Jarnail Singh, India Director, the Climate Group, said, “We are thrilled to welcome Wipro and SBI to EV100. Their leadership on electric vehicles will send a strong demand signal to the market in India and beyond. We expect many more companies to follow their lead, joining hands with the government to bring about a faster roll-out of electric vehicles, boosting low-carbon economic development for all.”

The transport sector now accounts for 23% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Electric transport offers a major solution, as well as curbing transport related air and noise pollution. With businesses owning over half of all registered vehicles on the road, there is a focus on business houses to take the lead in switching their fleet to greener options.

Also, by setting out their future EV purchasing requirements on an ambitious timescale, experts say that companies can increase demand, drive mass roll-out, and make electric cars more rapidly affordable for everyone.

Though EV100 that has just begun to roll out in India, it aims to improve the availability of charging infrastructure — currently a significant barrier to their adoption in India. There are now 18 members of EV100 from a wide range of sectors, committed to switching to electric vehicles across their operations globally.

Amitabh Kant, chief of the government think tank NITI Aayog, explained that the transition to electric vehicles is much easier in India than it is for developed countries, simply because the developed world has well entrenched fleets with diesel and petrol, and there is a growth curve for India.

However, one limiting factor that is not being adequately addressed is whether we have enough lithium in the earth’s crust to support the world in its endeavour to switch to electric vehicles. The batteries of electric cars use lithium, which is a rare element and is available in far less quantity than required if the global fleet is to switch to electric vehicles. See: Electric car dreams lead to blind alley

However, Kant said it is unclear if lithium will continue to be used in batteries in future. There are innovations happening every day.

The most important element of electric vehicle transition for India is the need to push public transport. The municipalities and state transport corporations will have to be the agents of change. Kant suggested that group tenders, which a group of municipalities can float, would make the costs fall quicker.

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