Clearing the Air – A Call to Electrify India’s Truck Fleet

Clearing the Air – A Call to Electrify India’s Truck Fleet



The air quality index (AQI) in various Indian cities has frequently dipped into hazardous levels, posing severe health risks to millions. The key contributors to urban smog, as outlined by critical studies, are PM2.5 and PM10 pollution, largely emanating from the transport and construction sectors. This editorial analysis navigates through the complexities of combating air pollution, focusing on the urgent need to transition to electric trucks, a significant source of PM emissions.



GS-02, GS-03 ( Government policies and Interventions, Science and Technology)


Mains Question:

Examine the role of diesel vehicles in exacerbating pollution in Indian cities and evaluate the feasibility of transitioning to electric vehicles. Discuss the challenges, potential solutions, and the broader implications for urban air quality and sustainability. (250 words)


Dimensions of the Article:

  • The Importance of Electric Vehicles (EVs)
  • Challenges Facing Electric Vehicles
  • Government Initiatives to Promote EV Adoption
  • The Diesel Truck Dilemma
  • Electrification Challenges
  • Decarbonizing through Green Freight Corridors



The Importance of Electric Vehicles (EVs)


  • Environmental Benefits

– EVs significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combatting climate change.

– Zero tailpipe emissions compared to fossil fuel engine vehicles.

– Reduction of pollutants contributing to air pollution, smog, and global warming.

– Positive impact on public health by reducing respiratory and cardiovascular disease risks.


  • Energy Diversity and Security

– EVs contribute to energy diversity, reducing dependence on oil imports.

– Electricity grid powered by renewable sources enhances sustainability.

– Reduced vulnerability to oil price fluctuations for enhanced energy security.


  • Technological Advancements and Job Creation

   – EV development spurs advancements in battery technology and drivetrains.

– Broad applications in energy storage, renewable energy, and job creation.


  • Long-Term Cost Savings

– Lower operating costs with cheaper electricity and reduced maintenance.

– Fewer moving parts lead to lower servicing and repair expenses over time.


  • Decongesting Cities

– EVs promote shared mobility and compact design.

– Shared mobility reduces the number of vehicles on the road.

– Compact design facilitates easier integration into urban spaces, reducing congestion and emissions.


  • Innovations for Shorter Distances

– Smart EVs for intra-city trips with smaller batteries for quicker recharging and lower costs.



Challenges Facing Electric Vehicles


  • High Initial Cost

– Upfront cost of EVs is higher, limiting affordability for many potential buyers.

– Primarily due to the expensive battery technology used in EVs.


  • Limited Charging Infrastructure

– Developing charging infrastructure concentrated in major cities.

– Inconvenient for EV owners without dedicated parking spaces or living in apartments.


  • Range Anxiety

– Concerns about limited driving range affecting EV adoption.

– Perception that EVs may not offer sufficient range for long-distance travel.


  • Battery Technology and Supply Chain

– Dependence on imports for battery manufacturing leading to supply chain challenges.

– Longer charging times compared to conventional vehicles affect convenience.


  • Limited Model Options

– Availability of electric vehicle models in India is limited compared to conventional vehicles.

– Need for more diverse options, including affordable EVs.


Government Initiatives to Promote EV Adoption

  • FAME Scheme II: Incentives for EV manufacturers and buyers, including subsidies, tax rebates, and preferential financing.
  • National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP): Target to achieve 6-7 million annual sales of hybrid and electric vehicles by providing fiscal incentives.
  • National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage: Creation of a comprehensive ecosystem for EV adoption and support for giga-scale battery manufacturing.
  • Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme: Incentives for the manufacturing of electric vehicles and components.
  • Vehicle Scrappage Policy: Incentives for scrapping old vehicles and purchasing new electric vehicles.
  • Go Electric Campaign: Aims to create awareness about the benefits of EVs and EV charging infrastructure.
  • EV30@30 Campaign Support: India supports the global campaign aiming for at least 30% new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030.
  • Ministry of Power Guidelines: Requires at least one charging station within a 3 km grid and every 25 km on highways.
  • Model Building Bye-Laws Amendment: Mandates setting aside 20% of parking space for EV charging facilities in residential and commercial buildings.



The Diesel Truck Dilemma:

  • The surge in the truck fleet, with 9 lakh new trucks added annually, significantly contributes to PM pollution, impacting both air quality and public health.
  • These trucks, relying on diesel-fired internal combustion engines, not only devour a substantial portion of oil imports but also contribute overwhelmingly to road transport CO2 emissions.


Electrification Challenges:

  • While India has made strides in electrifying rail freight and achieving a 6% penetration rate for electric vehicles, electric trucks face hurdles due to upfront costs and charging infrastructure limitations.
  • The focus on electrifying buses is commendable, but urgent attention is required for diesel trucks, posing immediate threats to air quality.
  • The recent call for 7,750 e-trucks by 2030 is a positive step, potentially saving a colossal amount of diesel. However, with the truck fleet projected to reach 1.7 crore by 2050, there’s a critical need to accelerate the transition to e-trucks.
  • Public funding alone falls short, demanding a robust pipeline of projects that attract private and institutional capital.


Decarbonizing through Green Freight Corridors:

  • Truck electrification emerges as a pivotal pathway for decarbonization in the transport sector. However, the upfront costs of mid-range electric trucks present a substantial obstacle.
  • The comparison with diesel trucks, which cost significantly less, underscores the economic challenges. To surmount this, innovative financial instruments and the designation of expressways as green freight corridors can demonstrate the viability of electric trucks.


Way Forward:

  • Swift action is imperative for a breath of fresh air in cities grappling with air pollution. Transitioning to e-vehicles is a crucial step, and the government’s ambitious targets need robust support from both public and private sectors.
  • The creation of green freight corridors, coupled with incentivization and innovative financial strategies, can pave the way for a cleaner, sustainable future.
  • Addressing air quality challenges demands a paradigm shift, and electrifying the truck fleet emerges as a key player in this transformative journey.