On 13 October 2020, the Climate Parliament and the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) co-organised a virtual parliamentary roundtable on sustainable transport. This event was supported by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) and co-sponsored by the Pan-African Parliament. Dr. Pawan Goenka, Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra, the Indian multinational vehicle manufacturing conglomerate, outlined the ways in which the automobile sector can reduce its carbon emissions through the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Parliamentarians from Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Zimbabwe contributed to the discussions.
Road transport currently accounts for 7-8 per cent of CO2 global emissions, and the transition to EVs can help reduce these emissions, Dr. Goenka informed the parliamentarians. However, some common misconceptions about EVs have created a barrier to their wider deployment. Dr. Goenka clarified a number of these misconceptions. First, EVs are significantly cleaner than other vehicles, even if one takes the CO2 emissions from power generation into account. Second, the import of lithium will not be as expensive as the import of oil. Dr. Goenka stated that it is not true that India may not have sufficient energy to power EVs. In fact, he explained, 10 million EVs in operation across India would consume only 3.2% of the country’s total generation capacity. He also emphasised that EVs are not only for the wealthy. On the contrary, EVs have the potential to be extremely utilitarian, especially two- and three-wheeled vehicles, and in terms of shared mobilities. For a smooth transition to EVs, stable policies and regulatory road-mapping, along with governmental fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, are necessary. All of this requires a 360-degree engagement between different stakeholders, including the private sector and local authorities.
In the discussion that followed, the parliamentarians agreed that the transition to EVs requires the implementation of sufficient infrastructure and regulatory frameworks. The parliamentarians raised concerns about the cost of EVs, which remains high in relation to the average living wage. Moreover, they explained, unreliable power supply in some regions constitutes a real challenge to the average person’s ability to transition to EVs. These issues should be addressed before developing an EVs market. According to Dr. Goenka, in order to make EVs mainstream we must develop technology to lower their cost. Additionally, we need to increase the availability of charging infrastructure. There is potential for a rapid shift to EVs, especially for two- and three-wheelers and buses. When the number of EVs increases, the cost will decrease and, consequently, there will be less need for government incentives in support of this transition. Dr. Goenka concluded that the transition to EVs is not merely about transportation; much deeper than that, it is about transforming mobility, health, and energy security.