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Decarbonising Road Transport

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Environment Conservation

 Source: TH


Context: The air quality crisis in many Indian cities, exacerbated by transport and construction, demands urgent mitigation strategies, including decarbonising road transport.

What is Decarbonising Transport?

Decarbonising Transport refers to the process of reducing or eliminating carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

Examples: Promoting electric vehicles, using alternative fuels, improving energy efficiency, and investing in public transport and active mobility.


Status of transport and emissions in India:

  1. Globally, the transport sector contributes around 25% of CO₂ emissions and 15% of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from fuel combustion
  2. The road freight sector is a major contributor to emissions, consuming over one-fourth of Indian oil imports and contributing to over 90% of road transport CO2 emissions.
  3. Key studies on Delhi’s pollution, namely Urban Emission (2015) and TERI (2018), highlight a significant factor in urban smog are PM2.5 and PM10 particles. These tiny particles, majorly stemming from vehicles and construction activities


Need for decarbonization of the transport sector in India:

Key Points Details
For Air Quality Improvement India has 35 out of the 50 most polluted cities globally.  Electrification of road transport can reduce NOx and PM2.5, crucial for improving air quality in densely populated cities.
Reduced Dependence on Fossil Fuels Electrification reduces dependence on fossil fuels, promoting cleaner and more sustainable energy sources. Diversifying energy sources enhances energy security.
Global Climate Change Mitigation In 2021, research suggested that electric vehicles in India emitted 19-34% fewer GHG emissions than gasoline cars.
Economic Growth India is the fourth-largest car manufacturer globally.  The government aims for 30% electrification of total mobility by 2030. Electric mobility fosters job creation and innovation in battery manufacturing, renewable energy, and charging infrastructure.
Urban Planning and Livability Electric vehicles contribute to decongesting cities by promoting shared mobility and compact urban design.


Key Challenges in the Electrification of Road Transport in India:

Challenges Description
Coal Power Generation Heavy reliance on coal power plants without pollution control measures can result in significantly higher emissions of SO2.
Carbon Emissions due to EVs The manufacturing process of lithium-ion batteries, the weight of EVs, and the energy required contribute to higher lifecycle carbon emissions.
Critical elements The production of lithium-ion batteries, a crucial component for EVs, depends on specific minerals and rare earth elements.
Import dependence India is almost entirely dependent on imports from a small pool of countries (Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Australia and China) to cater to its demand for Li for the production of Li-ion batteries.
Financing Issues Higher initial costs hinder widespread adoption and demand for EVs in the market.
State subsidies cornered by few: Much of the subsidy or tax breaks end up in the hands of the middle or upper middle classes, who are typically the buyers of battery electric four-wheelers
Poor Infrastructure Poor charging network: Only about 2,000 public charging stations are currently operational across the country.
Different charging demands: For example, e-2W and 3W models in India are suited to slow charging, unlike cars and buses.
Low Market Penetration India’s market penetration stands at around 1%, dominated by electric two-wheelers.


Indian Government initiatives for promoting EVs:

Initiatives Description
National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMPP) Focus on R&D, pilot projects, and market creation to achieve significant EV adoption.
Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles in India (FAME India) Scheme I and II Incentives for manufacturers, buyers, and charging infrastructure development.
Production-linked incentive (PLI) Scheme – National Programme on Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) Battery Storage Aimed at promoting domestic manufacturing of advanced chemistry cell batteries.
Go Electric Campaign Awareness and outreach campaign to promote electric mobility.
National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage Strategic mission focusing on transformative mobility and battery storage solutions.
Vehicle Scrappage Policy Government policy encourages the scrapping of old vehicles to promote the adoption of newer, cleaner vehicles, including electric ones.
Ministry of Power Guidelines on Charging Infrastructure Guidelines requiring at least one charging station within a 3 km grid and every 25 km on both sides of highways
Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs Amendments to Model Building Bye-laws Amendments mandating the allocation of 20% parking space in residential and commercial buildings for EV charging facilities.
Department of Science and Technology Grand Challenge on EV Charging Infrastructure Standards Focuses on setting industry standards for charging infrastructure in the country.


International Case Studies:  

Case Studies Details
Electric Mobility Roadmap United Kingdom: It released a Transport Decarbonization Plan with commitments to achieve zero-emission cars and vans by 2030.
Norway: Targets 100% electric vehicle sales in light-duty vehicles (LDVs) and public bus segments by 2025.
South Korea: Provides a one-time purchase subsidy for electric cars.
Countries Switching to EVs Norway: Achieved 80% of passenger vehicle sales as all-electric vehicles in 2022.
China: 22% of passenger vehicle sales are electric.
Decarbonising Transport initiative of the ITF (International Transport Forum) Promotes carbon-neutral mobility to help stop climate change.
Forum for Decarbonizing Transport Launched by NITI Aayog and WRI India, the project aims to bring down the peak level of GHG emissions (transport sector) in Asia.


To Read the recommendations of the NITI Aayog report on “Towards Decarbonising Transport 2023” Click Here


Way Forward:

  1. Advocate for all government vehicles to be 100% electric.
  2. Introduce instruments like Viability Gap Funding for charging stations.
  3. Bring EVs under RBI’s priority-sector lending guidelines to boost retail financing.
  4. Introduce innovative EVs such as double-decker buses for efficient mass transportation.



India needs to have a comprehensive policy to decarbonize the transport sector to meet its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) i.e., reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030


Insta Links:

Decarbonizing Transport Project


Mains Links:

Evaluate the potential benefits and challenges of decarbonizing the transport sector in India. (10M)