Countering the industry’s claims that the NITI Aayog’s proposal for transition to electric vehicles (EVs) was “unrealistic” and “ill-timed”, the think-tank’s Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar said it was a well-thought-out policy to capitalise on the “sunrise industry” and that two-wheeler makers should work with the NITI Aayog rather than paint an incorrect picture.
“We are trying to create a policy that will attract resources and investment. How does one attract investment without declaring a policy? Work with us rather than trying to paint us wrong and saying that the policy has not been thought through,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu . The NITI Aayog has proposed that only electric three-wheelers be sold in the country post March 31, 2023. Additionally, all new two-wheelers below 150cc sold after March 31, 2025, should be electric, it said.
The industry has strongly opposed the recommendation, terming it impractical and cautioning that such a move would disrupt the automotive sector, which is already reeling under stress.
Reacting to the industry’s allegation that there had been no consultations, Mr. Kumar said this was completely wrong. “We started this consultative process very actively in preparation of our mobility conference held last October. I have myself met so many industry people.”
Additionally, he pointed out, the figure of ₹70,000-₹80,000 crore cited by the industry as investment to move to BS-VI was primarily by the four-wheeler industry.
“At this point of time, we want to achieve policy clarity. Rather than going that route [BS VI], they can switch to this route [electric]. And if investments have been made, then they have five years to fully utilise these investments... Plus they can continue to export ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles,” he said.
About 90% of the two-wheelers now sold in the country are 150cc or below.
Massive imports likely
“This is a sunrise industry…If we don’t have a policy, no targets… then we are simply muddling through. As a result, there will be no domestic capacity and we will see massive imports as in the case of the electronics sector,” Mr. Kumar said.
In a recent meeting between the Aayog and the industry, “Everyone agreed that the transition to electric is in the national interest. Some players said 2025 was too short a time-frame, but when we asked them to give a time-frame, they said they can’t give one and the market should decide. If you are the dominant player and will continue producing ICE vehicles, how will the market decide,” Mr. Kumar said.
The Aayog’s Vice-Chairman added that when the industry was asked to give a road map, they said they would take four months to do so. “We said two weeks. We are not insisting on that. But we need a firm response. Even after recognising that the move is in the national interest, why is the industry not working with the government and instead trying to kill the policy?”
“We are willing to engage with the industry but not at the cost of national interest,” he stressed.
In the meeting last week, one of the major two-wheeler makers pointed out that we need to have proof of concept, but in the same meeting there were start-ups which pointed out that electric vehicles were already on the roads and there was sufficient proof of concept.
Asked if the Aayog may look at city-wise implementation, Mr. Kumar replied in the affirmative. “Yes, we are open to considering that but no one suggested it thus far. We have requested for a time-bound plan from the industry and we are waiting for it.”