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India + Sustainable Mobility

It's Electric - India's Transition to Sustainable Mobility

Maggie Kearns Francis

July 17, 2017


India is home to 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world. Along with the obvious environmental issues, this smoggy air is a health hazard to the growing population. The air pollution index in cities such as Delhi has hit 999. Anything over 500 is considered hazardous.


A portion of the pollution in India comes from the heavy traffic and congestion. Driving home from work in Delhi, you will encounter a similar traffic situation to that of Los Angeles, California. Only 18 in 1,000 people in India own a car. With a population of over 1.3 billion, that’s still a lot of cars (over 23.4 million)! Looking to ‘leapfrog’ the technology of the western world and remedy air pollution problems, India plans to have electric vehicles country-wide by 2030.


India has done it before, and they see electrical vehicle rollout as an opportunity to do it once again. In the early 1990s, only .05% of the population had access to a phone. Instead of expanding landline infrastructure, the country encouraged the spread of mobile phones. India ‘leapfrogged’ the technology timeline of the western world. Today, there are more than a billion mobile subscribers across India.


Due to the expense of owning and operating a vehicle, many Indians still make most trips by foot, bike, or public transit. Ride sharing is also widely accepted and normalized throughout the country, making India the perfect environment for sustainable mobility. Working to add electric vehicles into the market as they become more affordable could catapult India ahead of most western countries in terms of sustainable mobility.


The rollout of electrical vehicles will happen in phases. First, incentives would be created for manufacturers and consumers, designed to build market confidence. Fees would be added to the sale of less efficient vehicles to reduce costs and promote electric vehicle sales. The sale of two-wheeled electric vehicles will be promoted first (and are already cost-competitive with the non-electric models), followed by three-wheeled vehicles, and finally, cars. Then, in 2020, a few hand-picked cities will begin to rollout new technology and business models that would slowly phase across India. By 2023, electric infrastructure and ride hailing networks (like Uber or Lyft) will pop up throughout the country.


As India makes the shift to sustainable mobility. it could become a model for other countries hoping to do the same. If India is able to create and produce low cost, high-quality electric vehicles, there is a potential global market opportunity. India would serve as both a supplier and a model for sustainable mobility rollout.


Want to see more electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure near you? ms has the smart city capabilities to help you design and implement these technologies, contact us to learn more and start a project in your city!