Tesla enters India: What does this mean for green transport in the nation?

With issues like pollution and climate change becoming a major concern across the world, the demand for electric vehicles has risen, especially in the West. In the subcontinental region, however, the prevalence of electric vehicles is a phenomenon which is yet to be seen. Since electric cars produce fewer carbon emissions when compared to a car running on fossil fuel, they contribute towards making the quality of the air surrounding the car cleaner. Electric cars also contribute less to noise pollution as against traditional vehicles. Elon Musk’s Tesla has been instrumental in the emergence of green transport. With the recent announcement of Tesla to expand into India, the question arises as to how quickly India will accustom its infrastructure to accommodate any surge in the usage of electric vehicles and ultimately how this will impact green transport in India. 

Tesla – A Fueller of Green transport 

Perhaps the most significant and obvious advantage of Tesla’s electric vehicles is the reduction in carbon emissions its usage brings.  According to an impact report by Tesla, more than 550 thousand Teslas have been sold till date which has resulted in saving over 4 million metric tonnes of carbon emissions.

In addition, although Tesla has been criticized for using batteries which are not sustainable, the automobile giant has been working on alternative battery options which can be made using renewable resources. Tesla has also invested significantly in designing and constructing shuttles for The Boring company, which would serve as a substitute for traditional methods of commuting such as subways. Its Hyperloop project also intends to facilitate faster transportation. All of these projects are not based on fossil fuel and advocate green transport.

The automobile sector in India  

The American Electric Vehicle company, Tesla, recently announced its entry into the Indian market by incorporating its Indian entity in Bangalore. Considering that electric vehicles occupy less than 1% of the automobile sector of India, there is undoubtedly an untapped market presenting opportunities to companies like Tesla.  But the question remains, does India’s infrastructure really facilitate the introduction of electric vehicles?

Tesla’s entry into India is definitely a revolution in the nation’s automobile sector. While the optimistic outlook is that Tesla’s entry will certainly shift India’s dependency from fossil fuel-based automobiles to electric cars, it becomes imperative that Indian people and infrastructure easily and readily become accustomed to this transition. A very apt example of this would be the fact that there is currently only 500 electric vehicle charging stations in India whereas the current need is estimated to be around 2600 stations. On the other hand, China has more than 5 lakh charging stations. This contrast can be attributed to the lack of demand for electric vehicles in India. High ownership costs coupled with low resale values make electric vehicles an unpopular trend among the masses. 

On the other hand, according to a report by Indian Energy Storage Alliance (IESA), India’s electric vehicle demand is projected to reach over 63 million cars per year till 2027.  This means that while the current scenario is not ideal, there definitely exists some scope for expansion in the EV market.  Consequently, this will also bring about an increase in products with a derived demand such as batteries. This means that the requirement of public charging infrastructure will also increase multifold. 

The clear deduction from the present scenario is that while it is true that India is an attractive market to tap into for Tesla, the infrastructural requisite is a barrier that it needs to overcome. The transition of India’s automobile sector from fossil fuel-based automobiles to electronic vehicles is to a great extent contingent upon the government’s ability to augment the groundwork for electric vehicles. 

Green transport in India  

The Indian government has introduced and implemented many policies such as “The National Electric Mobility plan” to encourage and incentivizes production and usage of electric vehicles. The government had also publicized the idea of green highways in a bid to reduce the pollution on the lengthy roads. Non motorised Transport (NMT) Policy, The National Urban Transport Policy and The National Mission for Sustainable Habitat are some of the other initiatives taken up by the government of India to advocate green transport. 

While the number of electric vehicles sold in India every year is in lakhs, most of the sales comprise of electric two-wheelers. The Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV) has said that over 1.5 lakh electric two-wheelers were sold last year in comparison to a mere 3400 electric cars. It can thus be inferred that the scope for four wheeler expansion is significantly higher than the former. 

It thus becomes safe to say that a green transport revolution in India is a distant scenario and would require significant private and government investment for it to become a reality. While Tesla’s entry immediately does not implicate a significant inclusion of EV’s in the automobile sector, it surely creates the pathway to a chain of events that could potentially make green transport an integral part of our everyday life. 

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