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View: On World Earth Day, shared miles and riding towards a greener future

View: On World Earth Day, shared miles and riding towards a greener future

View: On World Earth Day, shared miles and riding towards a greener future
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By CNBCTV18.com Contributor Apr 22, 2022 4:46:47 PM IST (Updated)

New mobility services, encouraging shared use, will play a central role in meeting our transport climate goals. Innovative technologies, the rise of electric vehicles and a young demographic with access to the internet will help fuel the uptake and commitment to a greener, cleaner future.

Unbeknownst to most people, the choice and mode of daily travel are each unique climate decisions, even if climate change is not central to a commuter's daily decision. While we all understand, at some level, the impact of personal mobility on climate change, the convenience of a car or a bike compensates for any such guilt. We often catch ourselves even complaining about foreseen consequences like traffic, knowing fully well the root cause of it. And yet, while the convenience is enough of a justification, the underlying knowledge of the impact makes one, at least at times, wonder if there is an alternative.

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The alternative is not a paradigm shift or a new invention, but a change in our understanding of our existing transportation norms. For example, every empty seat on the road represents an opportunity to reduce emissions. New mobility solutions driven by ride-hailing and ride-sharing need to exploit this opportunity to have an impact on carbon emissions by increasing shared miles. While COP26 laid minimal stress on shared mobility as a driver for the net-zero goal by 2070, shared mobility may be the unsung hero for our climate future. In a country where road transport contributes to nearly 90 percent of the total transport emissions, the push from drive (i.e. owning a car) to ride (i.e. accessing a vehicle) can see the monumental impact of shared miles.
By adopting ride-sharing services, India's four metropolitan cities can reduce an estimated congestion cost of $22 million annually, in fuel waste, reduced productivity and most importantly, air pollution. For instance, Bengaluru can free up an area 12 times the size of the City palace grounds if all private car owners opt for ridesharing services. A simple coherent understanding of these numbers suggests that promoting shared mobility, and catalysing a vehicle’s increased utilisation and occupancy will invariably lead to lower per capita emissions.
The global north, however, argues that shared mobility increases vehicles on the road, shifting commuters away from public transport to ride-sharing, adding to the already exacerbating emissions from cars. While this may be true to some extent, the same cannot be extrapolated to India. India has one of the lowest passenger vehicle penetrations at 32 per 1000 population as compared to 349 per 1000 individuals in the USA. Having said that, studies suggest that vehicle occupancy in metropolitan cities in India averages at 1.5 per car. If we consider ridesharing with an occupancy of 4 per car, this would increase passenger capacity by almost 266 percent without increasing the number of vehicles on the road.
India is already on its path to becoming a global leader in shared mobility. By 2030, shared miles would account for 35 percent of all miles travelled, which by 2040, is expected to rise to 50 percent. Thus, sustained adoption of shared mobility can reduce personal mobility demand by 1,800 billion vehicle kilometres in India. Moreover, with increasing electrification, shared mobility could help eliminate 1.5 gigatons of CO2 by 2035. Alternatively, ceteris paribus, and we would require 1.8 billion acres of afforestation in a year, just to offset equivalent emissions.
It is generally agreed the world over that reducing our carbon footprint is necessary. For India, shared mobility will be part of the solution framework. Several state governments have initiated a path toward sustainable mobility with policies provisioning for electric shared mobility along with aggregator rules mandating a certain percentage of the fleet to be electric. This also comes with economic efficiency as higher utilisation of vehicles reduces the overall Total Cost of Ownership per km for electric vehicles.
A transition to electric mode within the shared mobility space will thus see a multiplier effect in reducing carbon footprint through higher asset utilisation. India's high dependence on shared mobility will lead to the electric revolution, collectively contributing toward green shared miles. This is evidenced in a study by the Ola Mobility Institute (OMI) in Nagpur which identifies the benefits of EV adoption to ride-hailing fleets. A combination of e-rickshaws and e-cabs covered 7.5 million clean km, reducing over 1,230 tons of CO2 emissions.
New mobility services, encouraging shared use, will play a central role in meeting our transport climate goals. Innovative technologies, the rise of electric vehicles and a young demographic with access to the internet will help fuel the uptake and commitment to a greener, cleaner future. Witnessing the tangible environmental benefits, in the long run, motivates citizens towards sharing the carbon footprint and offsetting emissions which otherwise will be high due to dependence on private vehicles.
The long-term vision of sustainable and low carbon mobility requires an effective and concerted effort. Understanding that every vehicle kilometre saved and shared reduces our per capita emissions will tremendously impact our approach and potential solution. India has made strides towards becoming a shared mobility leader, presenting a great opportunity to complement our climate goals. And as we champion towards a greener future, shared miles could well be the start for India.
—Anish Michael is Research Associate-Urban Mobility at the Ola Mobility Institute. Sayani Mandal is a consultant at the Institute. Views expressed are personal
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