Does India’s EV market growth signal the end of petrol pumps? Not yet

India’s electric vehicle (EV) market is having a great year. EVs accounted for as much as 2 per cent of all new vehicle sales between January and August 2021. Seven states, including Assam and Odisha, have announced EV policies. While this growing interest in electric mobility bodes well for India, we still have a long way to go to wean our passenger road transport sector off oil. 

India had around 65,000 fuel retail outlets in FY19. Their number has grown at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5 per cent over the last decade to cater to the country’s rising oil demand. This trend is unlikely to change in the near future. A study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) shows that India’s passenger vehicle and two-wheeler ownership will increase 2.9 times and 2.2 times, respectively, between 2016 and 2030. If EV sales continue to grow at the current pace to reach a 4 per cent sales share in 2030, oil demand from the passenger road transport sector will still more than double in the same period. This means India will need to add around 80,000 new fuel retail outlets, assuming their throughput and economics remain the same in 2030. 

What if India reaches a 30 per cent EV sales share by 2030 in line with the Clean Energy Ministerial’s (CEM) EV30@30 campaign? It will still need around 60,000 new fuel retail outlets to cater to a nearly two-fold increase in oil demand. Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in particular are expected to contribute significantly to oil demand as motorisation levels increase. CEEW’s 2019 pan-India mobility shows that such cities have a higher share of private vehicles due to inadequate public transport systems. 

Raise the bar for EV growth

Some research groups project a growth rate that surpasses even the CEM’s target. In this scenario, EVs could account for 80 per cent of two-wheelers and three-wheeler sales, 70 per cent of taxi sales, 40 per cent of bus sales, and 19 per cent of private car sales by 2030. Even so, India’s oil demand will increase 1.5 times by 2030. This will add 40,000 new fuel retail outlets in 2026, of which as many as 30,000 will still be needed in 2030. 

This means India will need to significantly scale up its EV ambitions to reduce its dependence on oil to power passenger road transport. Targeting an ambitious 67 per cent EV sales share by 2030 can advance the peaking of the sector’s oil demand to 2026. But achieving this requires aggressive EV policies to capitalise on India’s competitive advantage and iron out barriers to EV uptake. 

First, India will need regulatory policies to accelerate the phase-out of internal combustion engine (ICE)-based vehicles. The world’s leading EV markets – the US, EU and China – have demonstrated the effectiveness of stringent fuel economy norms and zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandates in accelerating demand for EVs. Electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers are already cost-competitive in the Indian market today and offer a variety of use-cases. It is time for India to take bold measures to accelerate EV adoption in these segments. 

Second, the vehicle scrappage policy should be made mandatory and linked with schemes and programmes for EV transitions. Incentives must be graded based on the energy efficiency of new vehicles purchased against certificates of deposit. Offering users who opt for fuel-efficient vehicles and EVs better incentives could accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient vehicles in the fleet, thus reducing the demand for oil. 

Third, the government should diversify revenue sources to compensate for reduced petrol and diesel sales. CEEW’s research shows that a 30 per cent EV sales share in 2030 will lead to annual losses of INR 1.1 lakh crore in central and state government revenues. Policymakers should explore alternative revenue sources through schemes such as feebates and congestion pricing. 

Ambitious policies and a carefully drafted EV roadmap are both paramount for ensuring the Indian passenger transport sector’s energy security and managing trade-offs resulting from the transition. To achieve sustainable economic growth and the vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, the time to act on these policies is now.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of

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