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Anchoring India’s Vision of Energy Independence in Mobility Transitions

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Anchoring India’s Vision of Energy Independence in Mobility Transitions

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In his independence day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an aspiration to be “energy independent” by 2047, emphasizing India’s huge annual energy import expenditure of Rs 12 lakh crore. This amount is 20 times the amount the Australian government spent on fuel, energy and industry (mining, manufacturing and construction) in 2019-20.

To achieve energy independence, the Prime Minister called for further diversification in the country’s energy mix through increased renewable energy production capacity and appreciated India’s efforts to further advance electric mobility and rail electrification.

Transport is of particular importance as one of the most energy intensive sectors in India, accounting for 10.22 percent of the country’s total energy consumption. Road transport alone uses more than 10,000 kilo tons of oil equivalent units (ktoe) of natural gas and 35,000 ktoe of petroleum products. The demand for transportation fuels will only grow with economic development. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), India could see energy demand for road transport more than double in the next two decades, and oil demand double from around 1.9 million barrels per day (mb / d) currently at 3.8 mb. / d by 2040.

This would make India the fastest growing oil market in the world. The alarm bells should be ringing. Any vision of energy independence requires a bold mobility strategy.

Projections aside, an emerging industrial revolution suggests that India can mitigate some of these catastrophic developments through a strategic bet on vehicle electrification. Electric vehicles (EVs) convert nearly 80 percent of grid energy into power at the wheels and are therefore considerably more energy efficient than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles for which the figure equivalent is only 12 to 30 percent. India’s first multimodal electric mobility project in Nagpur from 2017-19 saw savings of 5.7 lakh liters of fossil fuel dependent on imports. If EVs can make up even 30 percent of India’s new vehicle sales by 2030, the country can save more than Rs 1 million a year on oil imports.

India’s commitment to renewables such as solar and wind can generate a windfall for EV charging that can moderate imports and lead India towards a green and self-sufficient future. Today, solar and wind power account for about 10 percent of the country’s electricity generation, and solar power alone is expected to contribute more than 30 percent by 2040. Solar rates are expected to fall. stabilize around the 2 rupees / unit mark. With both PV modules and advanced chemistry battery packs expected to continue to fall in price after a nearly 90 percent reduction in the last decade, low-cost renewable energy generation and low-cost storage they can completely change the conversation about the cost dynamics of electric mobility.

Mobility transitions are central to India’s energy independence dreams. The potential for interaction between renewable energy and electric mobility opens up extended possibilities, including the reuse of second-life electric vehicle batteries for energy storage applications. According to a study by the Ola Mobility Institute, vehicle-to-grid integration can help balance the grid by leveraging electric vehicle batteries to manage intermittent production in wind and solar power. Additionally, disruptions to energy storage R&D should help accelerate research advances in fuel cells, solid-state batteries, and new battery chemistries. This has the potential to put India at the forefront of a new energy transition that meets an inevitable surge in demand domestically.

However, we do not have everything we need to make this transition. Electric vehicles have their own import requirements, especially with regard to raw materials for batteries. Addressing these needs should be a strategic priority. Promoting the domestic manufacture of advanced chemistry batteries and creating an ecosystem for urban mining, i.e. the recovery of precious metals from used car batteries and electronic products, can boost India’s mobility transition to the import substitution. This can also help the Prime Minister’s call to entrench the principles of the circular economy and promote thousands of green jobs.

Efforts towards energy independence will need to be complemented by additional mobility transitions. These should pursue efficiency gains, prioritize R&D in alternative fuels, and conventional practices such as carpooling and other forms of shared mobility using public and intermediate public transport. Research can also be undertaken on the use of green hydrogen for mobility. The seamless integration of passenger mobility and hyper-local deliveries, the promotion of non-motorized transport and the increase in freight load on the soon-to-be-electrified railways are complementary measures that can be taken.

Transportation has been the fastest growing end-use sector in terms of energy demand in recent times.

years and is central to India’s growth story. Determined action can help the sector emerge as a benchmark for radical industrial and energy readjustments. A clear vision accompanied by a detailed plan will send the right signals to the world that India is a beacon for true energy independence.

The Prime Minister has given a wake-up call. It’s time we stepped on the gas to make mobility a catalyst for making this vision a reality.

Author Anand Shah is Senior Advisor, Ola Mobility Institute, Shilpi Samantray is Electric Mobility Lead, Ola Mobility Institute, and Yash Narain is Research Associate, Ola Mobility Institute. The opinions expressed are personal.

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Anchoring India’s Vision of Energy Independence in Mobility Transitions

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