The State is all set to join the country’s e-mobility push, setting ambitious deadlines and targets for itself to fully electrify all classes of motor vehicles by 2030. Its Electric Vehicle Policy aims at fostering green mobility and keeping a check on the spiralling increase in vehicle population
When the country was not even talking about an electronic revolution way back in the 1980s, Kerala came out of nowhere to become a trail blazer. It failed to capitalise on that early foray but compensated for it by being the first to set up an electronic technology park in the country, which continues to be on a growth path. Now, the State is all set to join the country’s e-mobility push, setting ambitious deadlines and targets for itself to fully electrify all classes of motor vehicles by 2030.
With over 10 million vehicles on its roads, Kerala is literally choking. The State cannot wait for everything to fall in place to hop on to the electric mobility bandwagon. Prompted probably out of this compelling circumstance, the State government has come out with an Electric Vehicle Policy (EVP) to foster green mobility, check the spiralling increase in vehicle population, solve present and future mobility issues and bring down the mounting number of road accidents.
Kerala is only the fifth State in the country, after Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana, to roll out a policy to encourage e-mobility as desired by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog). While the NITI Aayog push was the primary reason for the EVP, the need to accelerate the use of clean energy technologies in various sectors to address the global challenges of energy security, climate change and sustainable development also played a role in the State deciding to make an early entry into the e-arena. Further, though air pollution due to high level of particulate matter in Kerala does not exceed the national guideline value, it is substantially higher than the WHO guidelines.
Tax holiday, low-cost power
The key elements of the EVP, which is the product of combined efforts of various departments and institutions such as the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd. (KSEB), Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), are a three-year exemption in road tax for newly registered electric vehicles, creation of robust infrastructure, incentives for vehicle manufacturers, sops for EV charging infrastructure providers, creation of a favourable power tariff regime, provision for quality power round the clock and steps for human capacity building. “The policy will help conserve fossil fuels, bring down atmospheric pollution caused by vehicles and result in sweeping changes in different spheres,” says Transport Minister A.K. Saseendran.
The government has already set up a State-level task force to initiate, develop and sustain e-mobility and set an ambitious target of putting one million EVs on the road by 2022, with a ‘pilot fleet’ of 2,00,000 two-wheelers, 50,000 three-wheelers, 1,000 goods carriers, 3,000 buses and 100 ferry boats beginning to ply by 2020. The KSRTC has been asked to convert a part of its 6,000-odd strong fleet into EV by 2025 through funding from the Government of India. The conversion of three-wheelers (autorickshaws) and stage carriers of the State has been accorded top priority. “New permits for three-wheelers in the cities of Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode will be given only to EVs. Drivers, owners and trade union leaders have responded positively to the move. The only apprehension is about the charging stations. In the second stage, we will focus on EV buses and boats,” says State Transport Commissioner K. Padmakumar.
Big role for KSEB
It is a multi-pronged transition strategy that the State government has worked out. It includes creation of a common charging infrastructure, incentivisation of the end user, standardisation of specifications, creation of enabling policies and regulations and promotion of localisation coupled with training and skill development. The KSEB will be the power provider for the project and has been entrusted with the job of creating the charging infrastructure. Initially, 20 charging stations will be set up by the KSEB in the pilot districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Kozhikode and 150 swapping stations of 2W/3W/4W capacity across the three districts. The KSEB has also been given the right to set up additional battery swapping stations in petrol bunks jointly with oil majors.
Home and workplace chargers will be aggregated to reduce charging costs and employers will be incentivised to allow charging at subsidised rate. Oil majors such as IOCL and BPCL will be encouraged to invest in the charging networks. Adoption of renewable electricity source will also be encouraged. The battery swapping infrastructure for two-wheelers, three-wheelers and stage carriers plying in the State will be based on the standards formulated under the policy. For city buses, the depot charging mechanism will be made based on techno-commercial feasibility and route planning. State-of-the-art Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Management Systems will be deployed to help the EV drivers to locate the nearest charging and swapping stations and schedule a charging slot.
The government also plans to promote manufacturing facilities to boost localisation of the components and vehicles. An e-Auto manufacturing facility has been mooted as a collaborative venture between the public sector Kerala Automobiles Ltd and the private sector. Electric drive train that includes motor controller, inverter, on board charges and power electronics, energy systems and storage facilities have been identified. The present plan is to adopt swappable battery model as a predominant mode of battery recharging. The EV manufacturing units set up under the policy framework will get all the benefits, both financial and regulatory, that are available to manufacturing units under the government’s Industrial and Information Technology (IT) policies. Manufacturers will get electricity at concessional tariff, tax breaks, priority in allotment of land and investment allowance under the ‘Make in India’ policy.
The government has mooted formation of a fund for technology acquisition so that local manufacturers will be able to collaborate with technology suppliers at the global level. It also plans to set up EV clusters where component manufacture can happen, especially under the leadership of start-ups.
The curriculum of technical schools will be revised to incorporate the emerging technologies in the electric vehicle industry. Centres of innovation and excellence for the development and manufacture of various components of EVs and Autonomous Vehicle (AV) industry and a state-of-the-art infrastructure for safety tests of AVs and connected vehicle technologies will be created in Thiruvananthapuram. The mobility corridor envisaged in the policy will be equipped with high capacity fibre optic cables connecting various road infrastructure.
Pilot projects and promotion
The government will soon set up e-mobility zones in select regions to familiarise the public with e-mobility prospects using demonstration hubs. Munnar and Kovalam have been shortlisted for e-bikes and e-scooters; Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram, and Infopark, Kochi; have been selected for launch of e-bikes, e-scooters and e-autos; central business districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode for e-buses, e-autos and e-scooters; and Kochi Metro for last mile connectivity for urban transportation networks. “Our goal is complete avoidance of fossil fuels and promotion of personalised vehicles running solely on renewable energy. Once the policy reaches the implementation stage, citizens can look forward to a cleaner and greener city,” Mr. Padmakumar says.