Union Government Should Consider Inclusion of ZEVs as Part of Phase Out Policy for Ice Trucks

Priyadarshini Alok, February 8, 2024

The Air Quality Index considers eight pollutants namely, (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb). The BS VI regulation for heavy-duty vehicle regulates six gases namely, (CO, HC, CH4, NOx, PM and PN).

The Supreme Court’s recent directive to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH) to formulate a policy for phasing out heavy-duty diesel vehicles and replacing them with Bharat Stage VI (BS VI) vehicles, is a welcome step in the right direction. With air pollution being a compelling issue in India, this can also be an opportune time for the Government to build a momentum towards advancement and adoption of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs).  With the gradual elimination of heavy-duty vehicles, it may be advantageous for MORTH to include ZEVs as part of its policy intervention.   We would like to elaborate some important points in favor of this suggestion.   

Transition to BS VI to resolve air pollution.

The Air Quality Index considers eight pollutants namely, (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb). The BS VI regulation for heavy-duty vehicle regulates six gases namely, (CO, HC, CH4, NOx, PM and PN).

The heavy-duty vehicles, estimated to be the largest on-road source of Particulate Matter (PM) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) emissions in India, has an overall impact on the ambient air quality and human health. Currently, most of the heavy-duty vehicles found on road are of BS II, BS III, and BS IV standards.

The BS VI emission standards went into effect nationwide in April 2020, which mandates 50% reduction of PM emission (from 0.02 g/kWh to 0.01 g/kWh) for heavy-duty vehicles, and 89% reduction of NOx emission.

The recent judgment by the Supreme Court of India addresses critical environmental concerns surrounding the Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Tughlakabad. This landmark decision, issued on January 11, 2024, carries significant implications for addressing pollution and optimising cargo handling in the region. The judgement in the case titled, “Container Corporation of India Ltd. v. Ajay Khera & Ors.”, outlines four key areas that require attention: the shift to cleaner vehicles, optimal utilization of ICDs, extension of testing facilities, and upgrading parking areas. It underscores the importance of implementing these recommendations within specified timelines and commits to monitoring progress regularly.

The basis of the verdict was the pollution created by the Inland Container Depot (ICD) at Tughlakabad. Delhi has seven ICDs where the movement of the heavy-duty vehicles, are not destined for Delhi, but rather used for delivery/pickup to and from locations outside Delhi. According to Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA), in 2020, a total of 22,082 vehicles entered the ICD Tughlakabad, of which 75% (16,562) were bigger vehicles, using diesel, with average capacity of 19 metric tons. This is under a scenario of 60% utilization of ICD Tughlakabad, while other ICDs are being underutilized.

Also, the Indian container market is expected to grow at 2% CAGR. India, currently the world’s fifth-largest economy at USD 3.4 trillion, aims to become the third largest by 2027-28, reaching a GDP of over USD 5 trillion. This means, India’s truck stock is expected to almost double by 2030.

Which means, even if all the heavy-duty diesel vehicles are replaced by BS VI in coming years, given the rise in trucks, the issue of air pollution from heavy-duty vehicle is bound prevail. This also provides ineffective signal to the industry.

Propelling the ZEV market

While EPEA had recommended ICDs to consider the CNG/Hybrid and Electric ZEVs, some of the reasons that hindered the decision to include ZEVs was the perception of unavailability and feasibility of the ZEVs.

However, we would like to point out that both the Union and State Governments have already signaled the market for ZEVs by providing a host of subsidies, and measures to induce and promote ZEV demand. This includes income and corporate tax deductions besides the 5% GST rate on EVs against 28% of ICE vehicles.

Additionally, if we consider the supply side measures, such as Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme and advanced chemistry cell (ACC), especially for battery manufacturing, we can see that there is already a forward movement for promoting the ZEV market.

Another positive development is that the giants in the heavy-duty vehicle segment, like Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland have pledged to achieve net zero target by 2045 and 2048 respectively. New companies like, the IPLTech Electric, has too launched electric truck in India.

A commendable initiative towards mitigation of air pollution and present a clear direction to the industry, it will be a welcome development if the Government were to formulate a policy of phasing out heavy-duty diesel vehicles that includes ZEVs as part of the phase-out plan of heavy-duty vehicles. The support to markets to drive zero-emission vehicle transition will be an important enabler for India to realize its net zero targets and commitments.

Published in Energyworld.com from The Economic Times on January 31, 2024

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