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By Yuvraj Sarda

Chronic dependency on foreign countries for oil and hazardous pollution levels are reasons India needs to go electric with its vehicles

Globally, the automotive industry is going through a paradigm shift. The past century has been the era of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) primarily on account of ease of use, availability and low cost fossil fuels. The shift to electric mobility has become necessary on account of fast depletion of fossil fuels, rapid increase in energy costs, impact of transportation on the environment and concerns over climate change.

“In 2010, ~85% of our oil was imported; this number is expected to reach ~92% by 2020. The transportation sector alone accounts for one-third of the total crude oil consumption and road transportation accounts for more than 80 percent of its consumption. As a result of high GDP growth, India’s energy consumption is expected to increase by 70% in 10 years. This will result in further widening of the gap between domestic crude oil production and consumption”

India’s Dependence on Foreign Oil—Energy Security Issue

India as a country has been mostly dependent on fossil fuels as the prime source of energy. Most of these are imported (in 2010, approx 85% of our oil was imported and this is expected to reach approx 92% by 2020). The transportation sector alone accounts for one-third of the total crude oil consumption and road transportation accounts for more than 80 percent of its consumption. As a result of high GDP growth, India’s primary energy consumption is expected to increase by 70 percent in the next 10 years. This will result in further widening of the gap between domestic crude oil production and consumption.

Air Pollution & Health Hazards

As per the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) report, petroleum based transportation is the second largest source of CO2 emissions globally. Delhi is considered to be the most polluted city in the world by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It has the highest PM10 (fine particulate matter of 10 microns or less) levels compared to most other cities in the world. The current air quality in Delhi can cause “significant aggravation of heart or lung disease” and a “significant increase in respiratory effects” in general population. Health impacts contributing to premature deaths include lower respiratory infections, cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, and cancers of the trachea, bronchitis, and lungs. Of all the pollutants, the public health concerns in India are focused on PM that contributes to a host of respiratory and cardiopulmonary ailments, increasing the risk of premature death.

In 2012, more than 20 million people suffered asthma attacks due to the exposure to total PM10 pollution. Increasing vehicular pollution is also leading to congenital and acquired diseases in foetuses, newborns and children. It is estimated that the monetary cost associated with these heath impacts exceeds Rs 16,000 to 23,000 crore per year. This burden is distributed heterogeneously across the population. Geographically, the largest impact is felt over the states of Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the Indo Gangetic plain and most of central India. Adverse effects are especially severe for the elderly, children, and those suffering from respiratory diseases.

Electric Vehicles’ Potential

Harnessing the use of electric drivetrain technologies offers opportunities to mitigate the abovementioned issues. One of the ways to reduce vehicular pollution is to shift transportation to ultra low emission or zero emission vehicles. This would reduce pollution emitted from tailpipes of vehicles. Battery operated vehicles (BEVs) such as Mahindra e2o can run on electricity generated from any source, including solar.

EVs, an Effective Solution

EVs are very efficient. One litre of petrol is equivalent to approx 8.8 kWh of energy but in a petrol hatch it yields only 15 to18 km of driving distance. Approx 9.6 kWh of energy from battery in a compact electric car yields approximately 100 km of driving distance. EVs are almost five times more efficient than ICE cars. A typical diesel hatchback in Indian driving conditions is estimated to emit 130 to 140 gm/km CO2, whereas a compact EV hatchback when charged from the Indian grid (which is powered mostly by thermal) emits 106 gm/km CO2 (emission from the grid to produce the required energy); and if charged from a solar charging station, it emits zero CO2. EVs will not burden the already loaded Indian grid (instead, they can help to balance it).

One of the apprehensions about EVs is power. People fear that in a power-poor country like India, the provision for charging EVs would be lacking. To that this author says: Every year more than 3 million air conditioners are sold in India and their eight hours of operation per day for five hot summer months in the year consumes energy which is equivalent to powering 2.2 million 4-wheeler EVs for a decade! If these ACs can be accommodated in the Indian power scenario then why not EVs? EVs are generally charged during the night when power demand is low and they are capable of feeding the grid back with power during abnormal power cuts. This can help in balancing the load on the grid.

 

 

At the time of writing this article, the author was Deputy Manager, Strategic and Business Planning, Mahindra Reva


This article appeared in the April 2015 issue of Pure & Eco India

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