Dealing with Air Pollution: Why India has got it right

India has a plan, and it involves batteries. Lots and lots of batteries…

The return of electric vehicles has set a lot of companies on edge – mostly oil companies according to Bloomberg. And that is understandable. A mass-uptake of electric vehicles could flatten the world’s demand for oil as early as 2020, displacing approximately 25 million barrels per day of oil by 2050. Oil giant British Petroleum has even admitted that EVs could reduce oil demand by 10%, although they are scarce on detail. All of this points to a large-scale fear of electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, India has announced an ambitious goal: to sell only electric vehicles by 2030. That is only 13 years away! It is good to see such ambition, and to see the world’s third-largest car market taking action.

Indian EV manufacturer Mahindra Electric has come to the party with a range of electric vehicles, including a van which bears an eery resemblence to a Manatee

Mahindra eSupro. Source: http://www.mahindrasupro.com/esupro/

However questionable the design of their vans, Mahindra Electric nonetheless offer an affordable full-electric vehicle for indian customers, at just ₹875000 for the 8-seater passenger version, and ₹845000 for the workhorse. I would probably install bigger wheels for the sake of efficiency though. The Mahindra eSupro can take a payload of up to 600kg (cargo version) and offers a range of up to 115km (cargo version).

Tata Motors has also released a small PHEV called the Mega Pixel, featuring a 13kWh lithium-ion battery, an all-electric range of 87km, and a total combined range of 900km.

These are just two of the affordable EVs available on the Indian market, and while their range is nothing special, I suspect that will be less of a problem than the 1.1 million premature deaths caused by air pollution each year in India.

India’s goal of going fully electric by 2030 may be ambitious, but they are one of the few car markets to already be equipped with affordable, practical electric vehicles. The country is also pushing hard for renewable energy, currently installing 50% more solar energy systems than the USA, and they even have a government-subsidized program to encourage uptake of LED lighting.

In light of other reforms happening in India, the push towards electric tranportation, while very ambitious, is completely logical. Air pollution in New Delhi rivals that of China, and premature deaths have increased 50% from 1990-2015. The switch to LED lighting will free up large amounts of electricity, which can be used to charge electric cars, and the switch to renewable power sources will clean up the electrical system.

As one of the largest oil importers on the planet, we can expect the price of oil to do one of two things; it will rise rapidly as India’s oil usage plummets, or it will plummet with India’s oil usage as more oil is displaced, taking the value of oil companies down with it. Either way, it will be a significant setback for the oil industry.

The way that India is addressing the issue of air pollution is the best I have yet seen, with the US government offering incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, while remaining largely indifferent to the much more pressing issue of pollution from electricity production.

And then there is the laughable attempt by the New Zealand government to incentivise uptake of electric vehicles. The biggest draw of EVs in New Zealand, as far as government regulations are concerned, is the ability to drive in bus lanes. These lanes are virtually non-existent outside of the major cities, so it doesn’t really do much. At least the small country is up to par with renewable energy I guess…

The fundamental message of this post would be that air pollution is a cumulative problem, thanks to the way we have conducted our industrial operations these last 120 years, and the only way to deal with it properly is to approach it with a holistic solution. Don’t blame cars, trucks, planes, buses, energy plants etc. Blame the whole system. Because that is what is at fault, and it is sad to see that India is one of the only countries to see that.


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