The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the Indian economy. The latest figures from the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) showed that the Indian economy contracted by 23.9% in the April–June quarter. The breakdown of the GDP data outlined that the construction sector was the hardest hit (50.3%) followed by the trade, hotels and transport segment (47%) and manufacturing (39.3%). Based on a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the coronavirus-led contraction of the economy combined with modest growth in the preceding years have put India’s economy at a “decisive point” in its journey towards prosperity. The report highlighted that India would require crucial structural reforms over the next 12 to 18 months and identified opportunities in manufacturing, urbanisation and sustainability to achieve the employment and productivity growth needed in the country. One key initiative that would help drive these opportunities together is the adoption of electric vehicles in India. The Indian government has already set a target of 30% electric vehicle penetration by 2030 with incentives to make in-country manufacturing of the components economically viable.
However, despite these measures, Bloomberg’s Electric Vehicle Outlook 2020 report shows that India’s growth in passenger vehicle sales has lagged behind other countries and remains below the global average. The launch of the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME 2) programme has provided policy stability, but state-level programmes will be needed to make the central government’s plan achievable. For these reasons, the announcement of Delhi’s Electric Vehicle Plan is timely and much needed. With Delhi’s Electric Vehicle Plan, the government aims to register 500,000 new vehicles by 2024 and will provide financial incentives on top of the central government’s existing income tax rebates for purchasing electric vehicles. For Delhi, a city that continues to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak as well as pollution, the implementation of the Electric Vehicle Plan is critical in regenerating sustainable growth and tackling pollution. However, given the changing dynamics of the global economy and uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Delhi will need to build upon existing policies and incorporate three innovative solutions that help install charging infrastructure, develop smart grids and scale the production of electric vehicles. The additional measures are essential because by leveraging innovative solutions, Delhi will be able to spur growth in the retail sector and integrate more renewables into the grid to decarbonise the power sector.
1) Set up charging stations at shopping malls & retail outlets
In the past few months, Delhi, India’s capital, has become the country’s biggest coronavirus hotspot. The BBC reported that insufficient testing and poor bureaucratic coordination have led to a surge in numbers. As the economic figures indicate, the impact on businesses has been challenging, with many struggling to survive due to reduced revenue and ongoing operating costs. For retail and shopping malls, the lockdown restrictions and surge in the coronavirus have resulted in only 5 to 10% of regular business taking place in Delhi’s markets. Given the vital role these retailers play in Delhi’s economy, the recovery of this sector could be supported through the newly developed electric vehicle plan. In Delhi’s Electric Vehicle Plan, the government aims to set up 200 charging stations per year so that there will be a charging station within every 3 km by 2024. An effective way to drive this initiative forward and support retail businesses would be for the government to incentivise shopping malls and retail outlets to adapt their business models and set up electric vehicle charging stations in their parking lots that can autonomously operate from the main electric grid. The concept would be beneficial for consumers, government and businesses because many homes and office locations would not be able to set up reliable charging facilities given the large amount of energy required from the grid and Delhi’s power outages. Furthermore, since the land for shopping mall parking has already been allocated, the charging stations would be built on acquired land, which would streamline project processes for developers. By incentivising the charging infrastructure to be stationed at shopping malls and retail outlets, these locations would become charging centres and create a dynamic experience for consumers and delivery service providers.