The Need For Sustainable Transportation In India

Karan Mittal, Partner, EV2 Ventures
Karan Mittal, Partner, EV2 Ventures Sep 25 2023 - 5 min read
The Need For Sustainable Transportation In India
The definition of sustainable transportation also takes into consideration the use of non-renewable sources by the transportation system at a rate lower than the pace at which renewable substitutes of fossil fuels are being developed.

Replacing the conventional transportation system with a sustainable one needs a holistic approach and mandates serious efforts on the part of all relevant stakeholders in the mobility ecosystem.

The pressing issue of climate change has put the focus back on the need to have a sustainable transportation system. Worldwide, transportation accounts for 25 per cent of total CO2 emissions with commuting by road contributing around 77 per cent in this entire release of greenhouse gases. In India, road transport is the major medium of mobility with a 60 per cent share in the entire commute and is responsible for 10 per cent of the country’s total CO2 emissions. Clearly, with the ever-growing clamour to prevent climate change, India needs to make a switch to sustainable transportation that can not only reduce emission levels but also offer affordable, last-mile connectivity to its people. 

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines sustainable transportation on two major themes: a) public health and b) generation and substitution of renewable resources. It defines sustainable transportation as a system that won’t endanger public health and offers mobility by using renewable sources below the speed of their regeneration. The definition of sustainable transportation also takes into consideration the use of non-renewable sources by the transportation system at a rate lower than the pace at which renewable substitutes of fossil fuels are being developed.

India has the ambitious goal of reaching net-zero emission targets by 2070. Further, the country has committed to reducing its economic emissions by 45 per cent by the year 2030 as compared to the emission levels in 2005. While there are many ways to push for sustainable transportation, here are key measures which can help India reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and make a transition to safer and greener modes of transportation:

Transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs): With their zero-tail pipe emissions, EVs are among the cleanest modes of transportation around. Government of India has taken a host of measures to push the adoption of EVs through faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid and electric vehicles (FAME II) scheme and a production-link incentive (PLI) scheme, among others.

Further, under the EV30@2030 mission, the government is aiming to achieve 30 per cent EV in total sales of private cars by 2030 along with 80 per cent EV share in 2W and 3W segments and 70 per cent in case of commercial vehicle segment. With these efforts, the country also needs to focus on decarbonising electricity to reap real gains while shifting to EVs. The good news is that India’s installed electricity generation capacity from renewable resources totals 42 per cent, according to Ministry of Power, which means our excessive reliance on coal power plants is expected to come down going forward.

Strengthening Public Transport: The lack of well-connected and, efficient public transport system is one of the major reasons behind the use of private vehicles. However, the country has made notable progress in the last decade with metro rails, cab aggregators, and bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors delivering affordable connectivity to the people. Not only have these efforts reduced emissions but they have also played a crucial role in decongesting roads by encouraging the use of public transport. Going forward, the government of India aims to strengthen the public transport system by inducting 8,000 electric buses by 2025.

Technology Integration: Like other fields, new-age technologies can play a crucial role in making transportation systems more efficient in delivering services to end users. Innovations in the fields of AI, ML, and automation can help in multi modal transport optimization, sharing drives, and offering real-time automated updates to commuters. Further, the use of data analytics can optimize routes and reduce excess fuel utilisation.

Building Planned Infrastructure: To reduce emissions, new infrastructure projects can be guided in a manner that encourages efficient movements of people, goods, and vehicles within their defined perimeters. Aligned with the provision of the National Urban Transport Policy, 2014, developers could offer inbuilt provisions of flyovers, underpasses, and foot-over bridges to facilitate a safe, secure, and congestion-free transportation scenario. The Interoperability across infrastructure can be facilitated by encouraging the development of smart cities and a circular economy in the country.

Alternative Fuels: Auto players have been able to demonstrate flex-fuel engines capable of running on ethanol-blended fuel, a technology that can substantially reduce vehicular emissions. Further, in the recently concluded G20 summit in New Delhi, a Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA) was launched under the joint leadership of India, the USA, and Brazil to encourage the adoption of biofuel over fossil fuels. GBA aims to offer a global platform to help member nations accelerate technology development, exchange ideas and best practices, and make a conducive policy framework for enhancing the adoption of biofuel in the coming years.

The adoption of sustainable transportation is a part of the larger strategy that the world can adopt for building a sustainable future for the next generations. It's based on the holistic viewpoint that considers 3Es - Environment, Economy, and Equity - as a premise for economic development. For successful integration and implementation of sustainable transportation in India, all stakeholders in the sector need to come together and put in concerted efforts, thus becoming instrumental in creating mutually beneficial partnerships across the mobility ecosystem.

(The author is partner at EV2 Ventures and views expressed here are those of the author.)

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