Working Paper

Understanding the emissions impacts of large-scale vehicle electrification in India

In an effort to address critical air pollution problems and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, India has implemented policies promoting the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and the decarbonization of the power sector. This paper seeks to understand how large-scale vehicle electrification might alter emissions in India by estimating vehicle tailpipe and power sector emissions through 2040 under various scenarios representing plausible evolutions of the electricity grid.

Results show an ambitious vehicle electrification pathway under which EVs reach 95% of total new vehicle sales by 2040 could reduce tailpipe emissions between 18% and 50%, depending on the pollutant. The additional electricity demand from vehicle electrification results in just a 0.9% increase in generation in 2030 and a 1% increase in generation in 2040 compared to the Baseline scenario under which EVs remain at about 1% of new vehicle sales. Even considering a pessimistic scenario in which the electricity for EVs is generated by coal and gas power plants, and no new policies to control power plant emissions or decarbonize the grid, analysis of the combined effects on road transport and power sector emissions shows that EVs lead to a modest increase in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in 2040 and net emission reductions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), CO2, and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Additionally, as illustrated in the figure below, the increase could be more than offset by emissions reductions due to improved power plant emission controls (IEC scenario), coal power plant retirement (Coal Phaseout [CP] scenario), or both (COM scenario). Indeed, compared to the Baseline for the power sector in 2040, reductions of up to 27% for PM2.5, 85% for SO2, 77% NOx, and 25% for CO2 are achieved.