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      Eyes on the Horizon: India embarks on sustainable mobility.
      Country targets only electric cars by 2030

      Mobilizing India

      India is expected to emerge as the world’s third-largest passenger-vehicle market by 2021, after the USA and China. Rapid economic development, ongoing urbanization and a growing consuming class are driving this development alongside the strong support by the Indian government, which has emerged a strong proponent for sustainable development. High-tech plastics are a key enabler of the sustainable mobility targets.

      Chaotic flow of motorbikes, rikshas and cars, constant construction work accompanied by clouds of dust, and lively honking – the congestions of big Indian cities like Mumbai or Delhi do not exactly shout hotbed for urban sustainable mobility. But that’s exactly the path India, the world’s largest democracy, is on.

      India has impressive demographic figures. In 2020 the average age will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan. Half of the 1.3 billion population is under 25 years old. An ideal platform for tech-savvy innovators to experiment.

      At the same time the country has, according the World Economic Forum, seven of the world’s ten most polluted cities. Plenty of motivation to act quickly towards sustainable mobility.

      Ambitious vision

      Today only about one percent of India’s total vehicle sales are electric, but the country has published the ambitious vision of selling only electric new cars from 2030 onwards. Jumpstarting electric vehicles sales shall not only help reduce pollution, but will also boost a new economy.

      “The collective vision of the government of India and the Indian automotive industry targets the automotive sector to contribute twelve percent of India’s gross domestic product by 2026, up from today’s seven percent” said Günther Butschek, CEO of the country’s largest automotive manufacturer TATA Motors.

      Tata Motors is one of the innovators in Pune, India’s automotive hub.
      Tata Motors is one of the innovators in Pune, India’s automotive hub.

      India’s attempt to build an ecosystem around sustainable mobility can already be witnessed on many fronts. Several major car and bike makers in the country have started work towards launching “made in India” electric vehicles. Mahindra has e2O and eVerito on sale, Maruti will launch WagonR electric, Tata already has the Tiago, Tigor, Altroz electric in the pipeline. And more is coming.

      “We are developing our architecture to accommodate alternative powertrains” said Butschek. “The Omega architecture that underpins the new Harrier SUV is already compatible with alternative fuel powertrains, allowing other setups in the future”.

      Multi-year government program

      India promotes faster adoption and manufacture of hybrid and electric vehicles with its government program FAME, first initiated in 2015. The first phase promoted electric transportation infrastructure and pilots, the second phase directly subsidizes vehicles utilizing EV technology, from buses to cars, rikshas as well as two-wheelers.

      “Clean mobility powered by clean energy” proclaimed the recently re-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a recent automotive summit. To tackle emissions, the government seeks to bring local standards up to par with global standards, enabling India to leapfrog from BS-4 to BS-6 emissions (the Euro 6 equivalent) by 2020. Additionally, India has implemented Average Fuel Efficiency norms in which the manufacturers have to improve their fuel efficiency by ten percent between 2017 and 2021 and by another 30 percent or more from 2022.

      Advanced materials have long held an established role as an enabler of mobility. For example polycarbonate, a lightweight and transparent high-performance plastic, as well as polyurethane foam, coatings, and films. Today, a midsize car for developed markets already contains about close to 20 percent of such high-performance materials – and this trend is growing.

      The lighter, the better

      Lightweight construction is one of the keys to minimizing emissions through reduced fuel consumption and to meeting increased environmental requirements without compromising safety or comfort.

      Two CEOs, one common goal: Günther Butschek of Tata Motors (right) and Covestro’s Markus Steilemann want to take mobility in India to the next level.
      Two CEOs, one common goal: Günther Butschek of Tata Motors (right) and Covestro’s Markus Steilemann want to take mobility in India to the next level.

      The latest developments of Covestro in this field include composites created on the basis of polyurethane and polycarbonate that are used for especially lightweight yet extremely rugged structural components. Such composite materials will soon be found more and more in vehicles, increasingly replacing steel and aluminum.

      “India will invent its own way, building on its specific market needs” commented Covestro CEO Markus Steilemann during a visit at TATA Motors facility in Pune. “While India is very different from other major vehicle markets, it benefits from the features of engineering plastics like everyone else: making vehicles lighter, more efficient and functional, while improving safety. For companies like Covestro it is exciting to be part of the Indian mobility development, developing what the country needs.”

      Niko Palosuo


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