Kerala, which is one of the major automobile markets in India and among the biggest buyers of fossil-fuelled vehicles, is undertaking a major shift in mobility practice. The state aims to have a million or 10 lakh electric vehicles (EVs) on its roads by 2022, which is just about three years from now.
Chief minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan announced this ambitious target yesterday, at the inauguration of the two-day 'Evolve' mobility conference and expo that was held at the Grand Hyatt, Bolghatty Island, in the presence of Amitabh Kant, CEO of government think-tank NITI Aayog. The one million EVs will include a pilot fleet of 3,000 buses, 2,00,000 two-wheelers, 50,000 three-wheelers and 1,000 goods carriers.
The chief minister also, via virtual reality, inaugurated Kerala's first EV charging station at an Indian Oil retail outlet (M/s United Fuels) in Edappally.
Meanwhile, as per a Hindu BusinessLine report, the state-run Kerala Automobiles Ltd (KAL), which manufactures the electric Kerala Neem G autorickshaw (which has recently secured ARAI certification) plans to produce 8,000 units a year. KAL has also signed an MoU with Swiss electric bus maker HESS to initially assemble and subsequently manufacture e-buses. KAL plans to produce around 3,000 electric buses for Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). It is understood that KSRTC has invited bids from EV makers for the supply of 1,500 e-buses on a wet lease contract.
According to the chief minister, the city of Thiruvananthapuram would get full-electric public transport operations in 12 months. Later today, an MoU on developing the EV charging infrastructure in Kerala will be signed at Evolve with NTPC, Energy Efficient Services Ltd (EESL), and for hydrogen fuel. The state government has already begun deploying electric buses and other EVs, taken on wet lease from OEMs, for use by its various departments.
The Kerala government also plans to earmark e-mobility zones in popular tourist locations such as Munnar, Kovalam and Bekal.
NITI Aayog CEO asks Kerala to plug into e-mobility
Speaking at the e-mobility expo, Amitabh Kant, a 1980 batch IAS officer from the Kerala cadre, who has recently received a two-year extension of his position, and a strong votary of electric mobility in the country, called upon Kerala to be the frontrunner in manufacturing the entire EV componentry which will go towards reducing the high imports on this score.
In a tweet on June 29, he said: "Disruption in mobility is inevitable. India lost out in the mobile manufacturing, solar, semiconductor fab sectors. We can’t afford to lose out in shared, connected & EV revolution. We need to use our size & scale & in 5 yrs, export not import EVs, battery & its components."
Kerala is going about its e-mobility programme in a focused manner and across mobility options like rail and water ferries. According to Principal Secretary (Transport) KR Jyothilal, two pilot Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) corridors have been identified in Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. What's more, a carbon-neutral, solar, semi-high-speed train corridor is in the offing, while Kerala Metro and Cochin Shipyard aim to jointly launch water-metro hybrid ferries. There is also to be a sharp focus on setting up an adequate number of fast EV charging points. Kerala has also inked a pact for identifying ultra-low emission energy sources for EVs with Birmingham University, UK.
What from is known, Kerala clearly is accelerating its e-mobility programme. And that's good news for EV makers like the fast-expanding Mahindra Electric and other players which get a new business opportunity. Will other states take the cue? And how fast? Keep watching this space for more details.