Nagpur Is Now The Electric Vehicles Capital Of India; Here’s What Your City Can Learn From It

  • Nagpur is about to see massive infrastructure overhaul for electric vehicles.This gives it the opportunity to lead the way as India’s electric vehicles capital.

On Friday (26 May), Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis launched India’s first ‘electric mass transit project’ in Nagpur, the winter capital of Maharashtra. As part of the project, the city will see a massive overhaul of infrastructure for electric vehicles. Two-hundred electric cabs manufactured by Mahindra will be added to the city’s fleet, operated by Ola, of which 63 are already on the road. Kinetic Green Energy supplied 100 Kinetic Safars, the company’s flagship e-rickshaw model.

Fadnavis also inaugurated an electric charging station operated by Ola at the Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport. Three more such charging stations are set to be installed in the future with a total of 53 charging points.

Electric vehicles, particularly electric rickshaws, have been a particular area of interest for the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari. The minister had pushed for an amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act in 2014 to allow e-rickshaws to ply on the streets of New Delhi after the High Court had banned them. He had even invited Chinese automobile manufacturers to set up joint ventures to manufacture them locally.

Nagpur, which is represented by Fadnavis in the Vidhan Sabha and Gadkari in the Lok Sabha, had earlier seen India’s first bio-fuel-powered buses, manufactured by Scania.

So, what are the lessons we can learn from Nagpur?

One, leveraging the private sector. The entire plan currently involves three players from the private sector: Ola, Mahindra and Kinetic Green. While the latter two are manufacturers, the former is an operator of services. By letting Ola own and operate charging points, electric vehicle owners now have the option to charge their cars if Ola decides to enable them as public charging platforms.

Two, charging stations are here. Along with this project, Fadnavis announced that Maharashtra has exempted all electric vehicles from road taxes and registration.

How should the government take this forward?

One, the city’s transport operator, Nagpur Mahanagar Parivahan Limited, needs to get electric buses on the roads. As I had suggested earlier, bus stations and depots need to set up public charging points. This will lead to a win-win situation for buses, auto rickshaws, cabs and privately owned cars. Further, it will create mild competition between different service providers, which will result in better quality of transport.

Two, encourage more private participation in setting up charging infrastructure. Ola has four stations, and surprisingly, there are no other charging points in the city. Even nearby Raipur in Chhattisgarh has one. With Mahindra and Kinetic being the key manufacturers of electric vehicles, they should be encouraged to set up charging stations. Further, malls, shopping areas and designated parking spaces should be encouraged to set up public charging points. Bengaluru’s leading electric cab company, Lithium Urban Technologies, only offers services to large corporate establishments that provide them with space to charge vehicles. This mild competition will enable more such companies to arrive on the scene.

Union Minister for Power Piyush Goyal had announced plans of India doing away with fuel-based vehicles entirely by 2030. NITI Aayog further suggested making electric vehicles mandatory in five cities (which didn’t include Nagpur). With Nagpur getting some of the basic steps operational, it won’t be long before Nagpur turns electric entirely.

Getting the private sector to enter the electric vehicles space is the perfect way to get things going. Let’s hope Nagpur leads the way as India’s electric vehicles capital.

This article is a part of a Digital Special Series on the Power Sector sponsored by Powergrid.