Busting the clean electric car myth

Even though roads across this country are bursting at the seams due to traffic, data shows that just 18% Indians own vehicles.

Published: 23rd November 2019 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd November 2019 03:29 AM   |  A+A-

Even though roads across this country are bursting at the seams due to traffic, data shows that just 18% Indians own vehicles. An urgent push towards clean public transport is required to avoid the increasing vehicle density from turning into a public health catastrophe.

Experts have been pitching electric vehicles (EV) as the perfect solution. But, are they? Studies show that if the production standards are poor, EVs could be more polluting than their conventional Internal Combustion (IC) peers. Chinese researchers found that their method of manufacturing EVs, especially batteries, produced 60% more CO2 compared to IC vehicle production.

However, emissions can be cut by 66%  by following European methods. Though no such study has been done in India, it’s likely that when companies turn to mass production of EVs, many will use high-emission manufacturing methods. The other question is, where is the electricity to power EVs coming from? Studies show that in Germany, where less than 40% of electricity is produced from coal and oil, charging an EV could be as polluting as using a diesel car. In India, over 75% of electricity is produced from coal and oil. Instead of burning diesel or petrol, we will burn coal and oil to power EVs. 

The solution, apart from switching to a healthy energy mix, is clean public transport. EVs powered by renewable energy sources could soon become a reality, with the country setting a target of increasing renewables in the energy mix to 40% by 2030. Interestingly, it’s not the car but common-man’s transport that is leading the way towards electrification. As of date, over 80% EVs on our roads are e-rickshaws or e-scooters. With German and Japanese assistance, Indian cities are also buying electric buses. Ride-hailing companies like Ola and Uber have begun inducting EVs into their fleet. Food delivery companies like Swiggy and Zomato are planning to use cyclists as delivery agents. Meanwhile, governments will have a lot of catching up to do—making cities more public transport-friendly, introducing dedicated bicycle lanes, and incentivising EV owners.

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