To cut pollution, government proposes battery swap scheme for e-bikes and rickshaws

India has proposed a battery swap program to accelerate the adoption of electric scooters and rickshaws as it tries to cut pollution and tackle climate change.

The policy, which will run until March 2025, targets two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles “highly concentrated” in urban areas, according to a statement from government policy-making body Niti Aayog. In the first phase, battery exchange networks will be built in metropolitan cities with more than 4 million inhabitants, while the second phase will cover cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants.

Although interoperability between electric vehicles and batteries is essential for safety and cost-effectiveness, the policy will not define rigid technical and operational requirements, leaving room for innovation, according to Niti Aayog’s statement. The plan will define interoperability for electric vehicle battery charging and discharging. The exchangeable batteries must be compatible with the different electric models and with the equipment of the different battery charging stations.

India will also extend incentives to electric vehicles running on interchangeable batteries based on their kilowatt-hour capacity under a new or existing subsidy scheme, according to the statement.

Decarbonizing transport is crucial for India to reach its goal of becoming net zero carbon by 2070 and to catch up with other countries like China and the United States, which are making a significant shift towards electric vehicles. A lack of charging stations, high upfront costs and range anxiety have hampered India’s shift to cleaner transport. By 2040, only 53% of annual new vehicle sales in India will be battery-powered compared to 77% in China and 74% in the United States, according to BloombergNEF.

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in February that the South Asian nation needed a battery swap as it will be difficult to expand traditional charging stations given the lack of space in urban cities overcrowded.

Delivery fleets in India are adopting the concept of swapping out a depleted battery and replacing it with a new one to eliminate long charging times. The idea of ​​swapping batteries has not been widely accepted outside of China.

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