The rate at which new cars are being added to an already suffocating breathing space and overcrowded road network, someone had to choke the pipe somewhere. As a result, Road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said he wants the pace of car sales in India to slow down as growth in vehicle sales, particularly those running on diesel, is choking roads and causing increased pollution. Explaining the rationale behind his thoughts, while addressing representatives from the auto industry, he said, “You may not like it, but I wish it from my heart that your growth should be less. If this growth continues, I will need to add one more lane to national highways, which will cost a whopping Rs 80,000 crore.”
India’s transport Minister is hell bent on realizing the current Government’s rather ambitious vision of an all-electric future for cars by 2030. With regards to that plan, he said, “Petrol and diesel vehicles will need to make way for electric powertrains and engines running on other fuel variants such as ethanol and biofuels. I am going to do it, whether you like it or not. I will bulldoze. Petrol diesel banaane walon kaa band-baajaa bajaanaa hai.”
Mr Gadkari advised the industry to “innovate, research and work on new technologies” in order to find alternative transport solutions. He invited personal car manufacturers to explore the idea of diversifying and bringing new solutions to the public transport arena. Citing an example, the minister said, car usage has seen a rapid rise. “Even my chef comes in a car. If only one person needs to travel, why should he use a car? There are too many cars, which is also leading to parking problems. I think the car industry should also go in for finding parking solutions and look at an integrated approach.”
Not focusing on major cities and towns alone, the Minister said that to cut down on use of cars, especially in smaller towns, the government is planning to come out with a platform or an app – on the lines of Uber and Ola – that would facilitate the use of two-wheelers as a taxi. Such arrangements already exist in states like Goa.
Talking about India’s huge import bills, he said, “I want the import bill and pollution to be reduced. These are big problems, we need to move towards alternative fuels such as ethanol. The government has decided to start 15 industries for second-generation ethanol. Ethanol can easily be produced from agro-based cotton straw, wheat straw, rice straw, bagasse and bamboo. Alternative fuel is an import substitute, cost effective and pollution free.”
The minister said that the industry should increasingly focus on electric vehicles and added that cost of batteries has also been coming down. His ammo pointed at Industry body SIAM, he said that the society has been trying to go slow on the transition towards cleaner fuels. He said, “I told my officials that you are influenced by Siam. I asked them to get consultants and introduce European and US standards, right from fuel to auto engineers. There is a big concern around pollution. Even the courts are very serious and strict on this issue. Diesel will not work. I will shut it down. You have to change.” he said, asking manufacturers to focus on cleaner technologies for commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses. The minister also warned them not to approach the government on the ground that they have a huge stock of vehicles that do not run on alternative fuels.