The "Vehilectrical" Future
Climate change is real, and it affects us all in several ways. Be it our daily habits or the latest industrial norms; everything seems to be designed and implemented to tackle this crisis. We have a responsibility towards our planet and to our species. So, where do electric vehicles come in the equation of this responsibility?
Their Importance today
Electric vehicles are not a new thing; at least the concept isn’t. Robert Anderson had designed a crude electric buggy (pictured) by 1832 (that’s years before the first Model T, folks).
So, one can’t say with certainty that they are a modern fad. We can safely ascertain that even with the current trends, the future seems electric; how electric, time may tell.
They aren’t really popular in India. There are several reasons for it. These are;:
- Lack of Charging Infrastructure.
- The cost.
- A general lack of awareness.
In the rest of the world, predominantly in developed nations, EV’s popularity is growing day by day. Some automotive manufacturers exclusively design and produce electric automobiles, but recently other big manufacturers of conventional vehicles have entered the market to claim their share of the profitable pie.
What electric vehicles have managed to do is pretty fascinating. In the regions where they are present in comparatively larger percentages, pollution levels and noise idex have significantly reduced. They have also contributed to the happiness metrics of the said regions, so something seems to be going right.
Their Feasibility - Now and Tomorrow
Although Electric Vehicles seem to be the boon that everyone desired, some hitches in terms of feasibility need to be addressed.
Humongous Batteries are not Ecologically Beneficial
Electric Vehicles have few moving parts; only the motors that turn the wheel actually move. But, they do need humongous batteries to be feasible as an alternative. Efficiency is getting better by the day but still is not up to par. Another problem with the batteries is manufacturing them. They use a significant amount of resources and are responsible for the pollution, which they intend to dispel; it defeats the point of electric vehicles, more or less. And the batteries, unlike engines, have a limited life and are very difficult to reuse or recycle. Again, if not disposed of correctly, they can be hazardous to the environment.
Charging infrastructure and Electricity Production
Now, take the charging of the vehicles itself. Charging infrastructure is harder and more resource-intensive than petrol pumps to construct. On average, electric vehicles are more inefficient; mind you, we are making comparisons with high mileage fuel-efficient hatchbacks and not oil guzzlers like supercars or muscle cars. Another hitch is the production of electricity around the world. It is still highly dependent on fossil fuels, and on average, the amount of pollution generated by a gasoline vehicle over a certain distance, as of now, is less than what is generated to create the same amount of electricity to travel the same distance. Compound this with the differences in price, availability of fuel pumps and time saved in refueling; the case for electric vehicles become feeble and weaker by minute.
Cost of Electric Vehicles
Coming to the price of the vehicles themselves, even the most compact electric vehicles are significantly costlier than their fossil fuel based counterparts. Now, this can be easily explained; all new technologies start off significantly pricier than they eventually come down to be. This is true for all kinds of products, be it electronics, automobiles or heavy machinery. Hence, it falls on the shoulders of early adopters to subsidise the cost of these technologies for future customers. Keeping this in mind, we might be able to explain away the lack of enthusiasm for EVs and say, “Oh, they’ll come around eventually”. But EVs have been around for some time now, and the prices, though slashed, still haven’t reduced significantly.
These impediments make the early adoption of EVs on a larger scale even harder.
Innovation is key to the development of any kind. That is particularly true for EVs. However, rapid innovation in recent years has allowed significant improvements to ingratiate themselves in the space. But, this could have been much faster and achieved much earlier. It is hard to comprehend that something that had its beginnings in 1832 has only recently been improved to modern standards. Profiteering by fossil fuel tycoons and Automotive manufacturers impeded the progress of the Electric Vehicle. Now, with concerns over significant climate change and hazardous pollution caused by fossil fuels has opened up people’s eyes and allowed innovative individuals and companies to improve the Electric Car to its Modern Incarnation in the present day. We need more technological specialisation and progress to make the Electric Vehicle so feasible that it eclipses any of its counterparts.
With the advent of greener technologies for energy production, the practicality of EVs become more and more apparent. Solar technology is now being integrated with EVs to produce electricity from the Sun in the day, which can be used at night, or even while it is being produced. Integration of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System), which recovers a moving vehicle’s kinetic energy under braking that can be used later for acceleration or any other use that it may be put to, allows for energy savings at an all-time high.
With green energy solutions, electric vehicles will become more and more environment - friendly. New Battery technologies and the recent introduction of Super Capacitors allow EVs to be efficient and extract more kilometres from the same amount of electricity. As the industries supply components for EVs progress, so do the EV manufacturers. City life will become cleaner and more pleasant, with lowered pollution levels and a lack of noise. The capabilities of EVs allow even the most basic ones to produce immense amounts of acceleration and speed. This would mean that in the future people would be able to achieve sports car calibre speed and handling in hatchback price brackets. Motorsports would evolve and is evolving to use electric power modules, which again popularises EVs in general.
Off-road vehicles would also benefit from the instant acceleration possible with electric motors. It would allow them to climb sheer ledges with ease, trek through nature without causing disquiet with engine noise, and allow for individuals to observe wildlife with relative comfort.
The first actual policy to promote EVs was launched in 2010. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy introduced a Rs 95 crore scheme for promotion of EVs in India. However, the scheme was withdrawn in 2012.
Talking about recent policies by the government to promote EVs in India, the Union Cabinet recently announced a Rs 10000 crore initiative under the scheme of FAME-II, which came into force from April 1, 2019. The initiative focused on offering good incentives for promoting sales of EVs in India.
Rs 1000 crores have been earmarked for constructing Charging Stations all over the nation. Particular focus is to be put on small businesses to construct charging stations, allowing for the growth of small businesses and for the government to reach remote locations. Special Incentives are also made for taxis to convert to electric modes of transportation. Drivers will receive government support to expedite this conversion. The centre plans to roll out an incentive of Rs 10000 per kilowatt for two-, three- and four-wheelers, based on the size of their batteries. It will offer incentives to manufacturers, who invest in Charging Stations and Electric Vehicle components.
EVs are being produced in record numbers worldwide. They are being adopted by the thousands; charging stations are popping up everywhere. Green solutions that are being widely adopted now allow EVs to advance and innovate into new dimensions of technology. World leaders understand and implement policies for incentivising early adoption.
We can all look forward to a future that is less polluted, less noisy, faster, cleaner and more efficient. India, although slow in its adoption of the EV, is still rapidly moving forward to embrace. We are investing in renewable energy solutions, increasing forest cover, lowering our dependence on fossil fuels. EVs are sure to follow.
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Q. Why are electric vehicles important?
Ans: Be it electric cars, electric motorbikes, scooters, or even heavy-duty vehicles; Electric power is a clean solution that allows for efficient use of energy. With a minimum amount of moving parts, it also reduces maintenance costs, repair worries, and also bestows a longer life to the machine. Also, with zero emissions it reduces pollution significantly.
Q. Are EVs efficient?
Ans: They can extract more power per unit fuel over a short distance, but, at present, over longer distances, they lose efficiency. However, with proper innovation in the coming years, we will be able to transition to EVs without hesitation.
Q. What is the FAME II scheme?
Ans: Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME India) Scheme in the year 2015 to promote manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicle technology and to ensure sustainable growth of the same.
Q. Are there subsidies on electric vehicles in India?
Ans: There are subsidies up to Rs 10000 under the FAME II scheme, depending upon your battery capacity and credit scores.