Does Electric Make Sense?
There’s a debate about how ‘green’ fully-electric cars really are. Sure, they have zero tailpipe emissions, but the electricity is still being produced (creating pollution) elsewhere. This act of taking pollution away from the cities to other locations is called de-centralizing pollution. Moral implications aside, it’s considered to be a good thing. We’d only be de-centralizing power (not pollution) if hydro, nuclear, solar and wind were the major sources of power, but India still gets around 60% of its electricity from coal, with the next biggest chunk coming from petroleum.
Taking a deeper look, ‘internal combustion engines’ found in conventional cars are extremely wasteful – they run at about 25% efficiency, and less than 20% of the energy makes it to the road. All the other energy gets wasted as heat. Now, car engines have to be designed as portable and light, whereas power stations can be huge and heavy, enabling them to harness energy that otherwise gets wasted. This makes power stations 2-3 times more efficient than car engines. They also have far better means of converting the resultant bi-products into more eco-friendly elements. Keep this in mind when people say that electric vehicles are only moving the pollution problem further away from us.
Are electric vehicles the correct way forward for the future? I’m not an expert on the subject, but I think they are definitely a step in the right direction. Perhaps, EVs will find their success working in tandem with other new-age fuel & power source technologies.
Price & the Indian Market
In other markets, Governments have seen the need to reduce their oil consumption and provide several incentives to EV owners. Some of the biggest advantages of electric cars include the ability to have heavy congestion taxes waived or circumvent traffic by getting access to exclusive ‘car-pool lanes’. Unfortunately this doesn’t apply to us. However, I’m sure our Government will add perks for EV buyers once they are under more pressure from the car manufacturer’s lobby.
Why would such a small car cost so much? Well, my best guess would be a mix of un-harnessed economies of scale, expensive imported batteries, heavy taxes and lack of subsidies…all adding up. Delhi offers a 29% subsidy on electric cars. Other states haven’t followed suit yet. It’s unclear if the Central Government has a subsidy planned, even though talks have been happening for years now.
It’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison between EV and any other car in the Indian market. The disparity between electric vehicles and fueled ones becomes apparent once any figures are compared on paper. If we were to compare, would we choose its competitors based on price? Running costs? Alternative fuels? Automatic transmission? Vehicle size? Features? Engine power?
To be honest, EVs are still new in India and at this price-point, prospective EV buyers are those early adopters who have an ideology in their minds that makes them want to purchase an electric-vehicle.