Eyebrows were raised within industry circles when the Telangana government recently cancelled an event meant to showcase its new electric vehicle policy.

The fact that this was a last-minute cancellation only fuelled speculation that something had gone wrong. As per the original schedule, there were two invitations for the press meet on June 29, one each from the Telangana government and Mahindra & Mahindra.

However, media houses were told a day prior late in the evening that the event was being cancelled. There were no reasons offered and journalists were clueless about what triggered this abrupt turn of events.

Later on June 29, Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, Telangana government, came forth with an explanation. He said that with the Centre and Niti Aayog working on a rebooted EV policy, the State would now adopt a wait-and-watch approach.

Other sources within the bureaucracy said Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had “pulled the plug off the EV policy” for the time being. He had apparently decided to do a little more research on the subject before taking a final call. Officials were told to have “more consultations on the issue” and fine-tune the policy.

Industry sceptical

One would have thought that the clarification was adequate to explain why the event was cancelled but industry circles remained sceptical. For now, Telangana will encourage companies to set up charging infrastructure and offer concessions applicable under the industry policy.

The State has also decided to procure battery-powered electric buses from the Goldstone-BYD combine, which has included Hyderabad in its pilot project in 11 cities. Telangana is now contemplating issuing more contracts for electric buses.

Meanwhile, it has tied up with cab aggregators and car rental firms like Uber, Ola, and ZoomCar for EVs that will cater to last mile connectivity in metro stations. Talks are also underway with M&M and Tata Motors.

Its neighbour, Andhra Pradesh, is also keen on promoting use of e-mobility and has a framework to encourage use of EVs. According to AP Principal Secretary (Energy), Ajay Jain, the state’s e-mobility policy provides exemptions from registration fees, road tax, and development of EV manufacturing parks and public charging stations.

It now remains to be seen what eventually emerges in the electric landscape. Maharashtra and Karnataka are keen on taking the story forward even while a host of challenges remain on issues relating to infrastructure and fiscal sops.

The Centre had originally announced an ambitious target of going 100 per cent electric by 2030. Within the auto industry, top leaders privately admitted that this was a tall order.

Too ambitious

After all, even a leading market like China, which is showing the way in e-mobility, did not set such an unrealistic goal.

Car-makers also argued that it made sense to have hybrids in place first before embarking on the fully electric route. It was further suggested that the e-initiative also kick off with two- and three-wheelers before expanding to include cars.

Finally, the Centre made it known that the 2030 target was being dropped, but the clean air intent was intact, which would include electric mobility as one of the agents of change. Yet, it is clear that there are too many flip-flops in the electric space.

The ambitious National Electric Mobility Mission Plan for 2020 has done a volte-face while the two-year FAME policy ended on March 31, 2017. FAME II, which will be announced soon, will focus on public transport and perhaps herald a larger EV movement in the country.

Time for disruption?

There is a school of thought that believes that it makes sense for the Centre to aim for the sky so that stakeholders at least achieve half as much. It is their view that India, which has been somnambulistic for so long, needs a disruption to awaken it from its slumber.

Not everyone buys this argument since this hardly helps from the viewpoint of long-term product development planning. In addition, there is a far more important priority just around the corner in the form of Bharat Stage VI emission norms, which come into effect from April 2020.

The industry has its work cut out in making substantial investments in technology while keeping its fingers crossed on availability of cleaner fuel. It is only after this that it can focus on electric in earnest while hoping that there is greater consistency in policy.