- Nitin Gadkari promises 'miraculous' urban transformation in five years
- Says India will convert to less harmful fuels, reduce imports
- Air pollution spike this month pronounced need for clean fuel vehicles
In an interview to NDTV, Mr Gadkari, the Road Transport minister, was clear: "Our country will convert into bio fuel, electric, ethanol, methanol, bio-diesel and bio-CNG and import will be less and it will be a cost effective, import substitute, pollution-free, indigenous, Made in India, Make in India, dream of Prime Minister -- 100 per cent going to fulfil."
Mr Gadkari insisted that he wasn't exaggerating. "You register my statement in your bank," he said, "100 per cent register and see the result after 5 years."
The minister's remarks come at a time when the need for clean vehicles has never been more pronounced. Till last week, North India was choking under a blanket of pollution, sending thousands rushing to hospital.
To counter it, the government brought forward emission norms, announcing that cleaner, Bharat Stage 6 quality fuels will be introduced in the National Capital Region from next year - two years ahead of schedule.
The impact of this move, however, will be limited until the fuel is used in conjunction with Bharat Stage 6 engines, which are still several years away from being rolled out by vehicle manufacturers.
Electric vehicles have typically been more expensive than vehicles powered by traditional fuels such as petrol and diesel. This, Mr Gadkari insists, will cease to be a deterrent within a few years, as the cost of manufacturing Lithium Ion batteries, which power electric motors, will come down drastically.
"Ten to 12 people in India are taking the initiative of producing lithium-ion batteries" in India, which, he said, would result in a drastic drop in its imports.
But more than anything else, it is the operating cost of electric vehicles which already make these a viable alternative, the minister said.
In Mumbai, the running cost of existing diesel buses is Rs.110 per kilometer and in Nagpur, air-conditioned buses powered by ethanol cost Rs.78 a km. In contrast, the electric air-conditioned bus is available at Rs 65 a km, he said.
Convinced that the prices are attractive enough to drive a nationwide change, Mr Gadkari said there was no need for strict legislation. "In this field, we do not need danda (the stick), because the market-driven choice of the people will be to purchase electric cars and vehicles," the minister said.