Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sustainable mobility has assumed greater significance in the past decade owing to concerns related to depleting fossil fuel reserves and increasing carbon dioxide emissions. 

According to a 2009 report by the International Energy Agency, global energy consumption is likely to rise by 53% between 2006 and 2030, and about three-quarters of the projected increase in oil demand is likely to come from the transportation sector. Fossil fuel-based transportation constitute the second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions globally. The world over, these concerns are driving governments and automobile manufacturers alike to invest heavily in developing vehicles based on alternative propulsion systems including hybrid and electric drives.

Various alternate powertrain technologies such as hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), range extender electric vehicle (RE-EV) and battery electric vehicle (BEV) have been developed and experimented with globally. But their development across the world has not yet reached a critical mass because of the vicious cycle of technology complexity, low volumes, high cost, low demand and underinvestment. 
Therefore, across the world, governments are playing a key role in facilitating greater adoption of electric mobility through interventions such as demand and supply incentives, investments in R&D; and the creation of power and charging infrastructure. 

What a Hybrid Car ?
  • For instance, the US still provides various direct subsidies to customers of electric vehicles in the form of cash and tax incentives. 
  • In addition, direct subsidies are also granted to private industries for new technologies such as new generation battery development and manufacturing. 
  • Japan has targeted 2 million electric vehicles by 2025 and has earmarked $250 million for R&D and the development of new technology components required for such vehicles.

In India, the gap between domestic crude oil production and consumption is widening due to rapid economic growth. This, coupled with increase in crude oil prices, has led to widening deficit; thereby, posing a serious challenge to India’s fuel security. The Indian government is also working on defining fuel efficiency norms for vehicles. Considering the long-term requirements of the country, a strong need was felt to develop a national mission plan for electric mobility and a detailed study was initiated by the department of heavy industries and the industry.

In January 2013, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled the national electric mobility mission plan 2020 (NEMMP 2020). NEMMP 2020 outlines India’s vision and provides the roadmap for achieving penetration of efficient and environment friendly electric vehicles in India by 2020. India is expected to announce various schemes, interventions, policies and projects to activate this.

Factors and Challenges in India

In line with the initiatives by governments the world over, the Indian government’s focus is on demand and supply creation, promotion of R&D, and the development of charging infrastructure. While it is always good to benchmark and learn from other developed countries about policies implemented for greater penetration of electric vehicles, the policies and solutions for India need to be developed keeping in mind the country’s unique requirements. 
  • Unlike other countries, the Indian passenger car market is predominantly a small cars one. 
  • India has a huge two-wheeler population and the country is the world’s second largest manufacturer of two-wheelers.
  • The Indian customer is highly cost-sensitive and therefore India-specific electric vehicles solutions have to be cost-effective. 
  • This is essential to retain India’s small car market leadership (even in the electric vehicles domain) as envisaged in auto mission plan 2006-16.
Similarly, Indian component and vehicle manufacturers are also likely to face the same situation like other countries, where, in the initial phase, volumes will be low, and not justify the huge investments required. Keeping this in mind, it is important that NEMMP 2020 outlines incentives over a longer period of time that will provide confidence to vehicle and component manufacturers to make required investments.
  • Another challenge for India is the development of charging infrastructure. Currently, there are issues around the availability of electricity in India. Much of the electricity generated in India comes from fossil fuels. Given this, electricity vehicles may not help meet the objectives of reducing carbon emissions and reducing import of fossil fuels. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids may be the more viable solution in the short to medium term; these do not require as much charging infrastructure, and will also help reduce fuel consumption.
  • In the long term, battery-operated electricity vehicles will become popular only if the government’s policies focus on widespread availability of charging infrastructure. In addition, building laws may also require amendments to facilitate charging at the parking lots.
With regard to the technology development, India has a good chance to lead in the areas of systems integration, and the development of motors and battery management systems. Indian traffic and weather conditions are very different from western countries and hence solutions for India need to be India-specific. We should be continuously collecting data on Indian conditions and validating the performance of electric vehicles in such conditions. 

The NEMMP R&D projects should be more focused on systems integration at component sub-system level and the vehicle level. In addition, focus is required on developing skilled manpower to work on these new technology areas.

A Plan yet to materialize

To be sure, in 2010, the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) did introduce a Rs.95 crore subsidy for EV buyers. Under the scheme, subsidies of up to 20% was to be given on ex-factory prices of EVs, translating into discounts of Rs.4,000 for low-speed, and Rs.5,000 discount for high-speed electric two-wheelers; and nearly Rs.1 lakh for electric cars.
EV sales jumped nearly 70% in the following year. But after the scheme expired, there was a major drop in sales to about 3,000 units a month with not a single electric car being sold in April and May in 2012.

Challenges for Battery technology
  • So far, limitations of battery technology in terms of range (how far the car can travel before the battery runs out of charge), battery replacement and its costs, battery composition and safe disposal, energy efficiency of battery, and infrastructure constraints have narrowed the scope of its application”.
Battery technology needs to evolve more to improve energy, power density/efficiency, increased useful life, and use of environment-friendly substitutes for harmful lead and cadmium 
The trajectory of zero-emissions vehicles will become clearer after some of these uncertainties are resolved.
“This is the policy challenge. EV regulations will have to address these barriers and the fiscal incentives that the government is crafting must be linked with performance benchmark of the EV technology.”

Conclusion :-
In summary, for reaching a sustainable position in the area of alternate propulsion system, such an ecosystem needs to be developed with long-term government support and the involvement of industry and academia. NEMMP 2020 is expected to play a key role for creation of a sustainable ecosystem for the development of electric vehicles in India.


Some facts :-

  • At least 15 Indian-made electric, hybrid vehicles are on display at the Delhi Auto Expo,a radical shift from the previous editions this year.
  • Some of these cars are Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s Swift RE, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd’s Camry Hybrid, Tata Motors Ltd’s Iris and Magic, TVS Motor Co. Ltd’s electric scooter and electric three-wheelers and Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd’s e2o and Maxximo.
  • A report by Yale and Columbia universities last week called Delhi the world’s most polluted city. Electric Vehicles could be a viable solution to this (Arvind Kejriwal r u hearing me ?)
  • In India, the department of heavy industries has undertaken studies on how sales of hybrid cars had been incentivized around the world, including the US, the UK, China and Germany.
  • A major incentive to increase EV sales is subsidies, and there have been scattered attempts by the government on that front.
  • In the UK, the Toyota Prius—a hybrid of electricity and petrol—is one of the most common cars used by government departments, including senior ministers, members of parliament and civil servants.


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