In her Union Budget 2022 speech, Nirmala Sitharaman said that special mobility zones will be set up for EVs, where fossil-fuel vehicles won’t be allowed
At the Glasgow summit in November 2021, India announced that it will cut 1 billion tonnes of carbon emission by 2030, by raising its dependence on renewable energy up to 50 per cent. By 2070, the country aims to achieve net-zero emissions. At this year’s Union Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a few announcements that seem to fit that agenda.
Apart from the announcement of a battery swapping policy, the minister revealed that restricted zones will be set up in the country where ICE vehicles won’t be allowed. “To promote a shift to the use of public transport in urban areas, special mobility zones with zero fossil fuel policy to be introduced,” she said. We’re not sure when this no-go policy for ICE vehicles will come into effect, but there’s a lot to consider here. Let’s take the example of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London.
Petrol cars that don’t comply with Euro 4 emissions standards and diesel cars that don’t meet Euro 6 standards have to pay money every time they enter the ULEZ in London. This also includes motorcycles that don’t comply with Euro 3 emissions standards. The charges discourage vehicles below these emissions thresholds from entering the ULEZ without outright banning them, in the hopes of keeping air pollution through automobiles in check.
Air pollution is a major health concern in big cities in India. New Delhi has already implemented laws to keep it in check – petrol and diesel cars beyond a certain age are banned, and converting old cars into EVs is made legal (with applied conditions). Setting up exclusion zones for fossil-fuel vehicles will help matters, but one can’t simply ban vehicles from operating in any city, not right now at least, as that would completely disrupt everyday life.
As such, we don’t expect exclusion zones to cover entire cities, where the push for greener mobility would make much more sense. CNG conversion for BS4-compliant cars is already allowed, and the same for BS6 cars has been proposed to be legal soon. The govt is also pushing for electric mobility by offering subsidies to early adopters.
The special mobility zones are likely to be set up at ecologically sensitive areas, like forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. Currently, Jungle safaris are usually carried out in off-road-capable ICE cars. The zones could also include some hill stations and tourist destinations that are ecologically sensitive.
There’s a possibility that the special mobility zones will eventually be set up in major cities in India, like New Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai, to combat the poor air quality there. The implementation would have to be gradual, likely starting with commercial vehicles, to allow the general populace to adapt without it being too much of a burden. We’ll have to wait for the govt to announce more details to know what they have planned.