By Sanjeev SharmaTo the millions of Indians intimately familiar with the challenges of traveling through our crowded cities and around our extensive nation, it might seem unrealistic, even idealistic, to talk about building a comprehensive, modern transport network that will deploy the latest technologies in electric mobility, clean rapid transit and cloud-based digital controls. The truth of the matter is that these are leapfrog technologies, and they are now poised to change the face of India. Just as mobile telephony revolutionized telecommunications in India and throughout the world, our country is about to experience a revolution in mobility. These sweeping changes will come to pass because these technologies are simply more efficient, more effective and more accessible than the transport systems of days gone by.Benefits of smart mobilityThe implications are vast. Given the size and huge untapped economic potential of India, the creation of an effective and sustainable transportation system has the potential to reduce the country’s dependence on oil imports, generate millions of new jobs and provide virtually all Indians with access to opportunities they now lack. A recent study by NITI Aayog, and Rocky Mountain Institute estimates that India can save up to 64 percent of anticipated energy needs for road-based passenger transport and 37 percent of carbon emissions in 2030 – if it develops a shared, connected, electric-powered mobility system. Widespread adoption of EVs could potentially save the country $57 billion in annual energy costs.Small change can trigger a revolutionE-mobility technologies are already changing India’s transport network in ways large and small. In Jabalpur, cutting-edge solar inverters are being put to good use by powering electric rickshaws with inexpensive solar energy. The new solar inverters can be remotely monitored from a mobile phone app. Even seemingly small-scale developments like these can add up to big impacts. By converting all of the quarter-million auto-rickshaws in India to electric power, the country could eliminate more than two million tons of carbon emissions per day. The gains would be far greater still if the same were done for all of India’s fossil-fuel-powered scooters.As underscored by the NITI Aayog report, even as rapid urbanization has increased car ownership, a great majority of Indians still rely on non-motorized travel and public transportation. This circumstance actually simplifies the task of modernizing the transport sector in India, as less investment is tied up in soon-to-be-outmoded systems. For example, India is ripe for new investment in advanced technologies such as all-electric buses. The latest models of these e-buses can be recharged at bus stops as the passengers are boarding – an approach developed that can extend the range, size and reliability of the vehicles, while reducing congestion and pollution. Innovations such as these are rapidly expanding the potential of e-mobility, even for the largest and heaviest vehicles on the road.India can do it In the area of mass transit, the Delhi Metro, of which Phase III will soon be completed, serves as a national benchmark for on-time project execution and efficiency. With 213 kilometers of track and 148 stations along elevated and underground sections, it is the largest metro network in the country. As it happens, it also uses an advanced digital technology – supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA,– to gather and analyze real-time data about its power system. The SCADA system monitors and controls the network, connecting the metro’s substations to central and backup control centers. The resulting efficiency of the Delhi Metro is such that the United Nations certified it as the first metro system in the world to qualify for carbon credits under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism. The same technology now appears in Bangalore’s new metro system.For India to benefit fully from the advantages of e-mobility, the country must enhance its technological capability to connect all modes of public transportation and automate data collection. The nation has already laid the foundation for the transition to e-mobility with initiatives like the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 and the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India). The government has also cut taxes on the lithium-ion batteries required by electric vehicles. These policies will promote the adoption of e-mobility by reducing costs, establishing charging infrastructure and incentivizing technology suppliers.Forging connectionsYet more needs to be done. Increased internet bandwidth and connectivity have a part to play in India’s transformation. Cloud computing and the Internet of Things are a necessary prerequisite for modern transport systems. For example, cloud-connected EV fast-charging stations, among others, make it possible for travelers to easily locate the closest available charging station. For the stations’ operators, the use of advanced connected solutions enables them to create robust charging networks that can help them perform key functions such as remote monitoring, servicing and billing. It can even improve grid stability by automatically balancing how much power a station is drawing with how much is currently available.By proactively embracing innovative solutions like these, India will soon occupy a place of major importance at the forefront of transport technology. The time to promote and implement these changes is now. All Indians stand to benefit.(Sanjeev Sharma is country head and managing director, ABB India Ltd. )Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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