Modi’s Electric Vehicles Push Can Help Softbank Gain Its India Solar Ambitions

In order to facilitate the use of renewable energy like solar to charge electric vehicles in the country, SoftBank Group is in talks with the Indian government, reported the media quoting a senior executive at the Japanese group’s local unit.

In a plan that could boost SoftBank’s solar ambitions in the country if the government adopts renewable energy to charge the vehicles, India is considering electrifying all its vehicles over the next 15 years.

SoftBank estimates the electrification drive could create a requirement for over 150 gigawatt (GW) of additional power and it has said it will invest up to $20 billion along with Foxconn Technology and Bharti Enterprises in solar projects in India.

India is sticking to its renewable energy commitments, while President Donald Trump is pulling the United States out of the Paris accord on climate change, and India has an ambitious target to generate 100 GW of solar power by 2022.

Ride-hailing firm Ola, which in May launched its first trial project to test viability and is preparing for a large-scale rollout of electric vehicles by next year, has the SoftBank as one of the biggest investors.

“Clearly we are at the intersection – on the solar side we are building plants and on the electric vehicles side Ola is planning induction of vehicles,” Manoj Kohli, executive chairman of SB Energy, SoftBank’s solar business, said in an interview.

Kohli said that there may be need for dedicated solar plants to supply energy for transportation in a few years when the number of electric vehicles and charging stations is significant.

A policy blueprint last month aimed at electrifying all vehicles in the country by 2032 was unveiled by India’s most influential government think-tank, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a strategic shift.

Lower taxes and loan interest rates for electric fleet taxis like Ola while capping sales of petrol and diesel models is suggested by the blueprint which has been designed to help India reduce emissions and cut its oil import bill.

Mainly due to high battery cost and lack of charging infrastructure, problems automakers say could make electrification unviable, electric vehicle sales in India have been negligible despite government subsidies.

The new policy, expected to be finalised before the end of the year, is likely to include suggestions to enable the local government which would need to take the lead on setting up charging infrastructure, Kohli said.

Kohli said that discussion on the manner in which the local government would need to take the lead on setting up charging infrastructure have been held by SB Energy with government officials.

“The intention is very clear that electric vehicle charging should be done using renewable energy. How it is done, the modus operandi, the architecture is still to be finalised,” he said.

(Adapted from Reuters)

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