Diesel hike fades India’s electric mobility
As smog covered Delhi’s weather and viral hit the city, one good news emerged from the government raising hope for a cleaner and better India in future which otherwise looks bleak in pursuit of highly polluting economic growth numbers.
The news was the aim of the government to ensure that 6 to 7 million electric vehicles are sold in India by 2020, a task not easy to accomplish considering that the world is still awry of cars running on greener fuels.
Less than one percent of cars across the world run on electric mode. Vehicle running on another clean fuel — hydrogen – is still in its infancy and vehicles running on little polluting bio-fuels have not found many takers.
The hybrids — a mix of electric and fossil fuels — have failed to make a mark because of its high cost in India. Japanese vehicle manufacturer Honda was forced to first sell its Civic Hybrid for half its price within two years of launch and later withdraw the product from India. Other car manufacturers had not even tried to test their hybrid vehicles in India because of the market being high.
The government’s grand plan, which came two years after former Finance Minister and now President Pranab Mukherjee announced Special Purpose Vehicle for electric vehicles in 2011 budget, would fail to take off without unless the auto-makers chip in seriously and does not worry about the sale of cars running on fossil fuels going down.
A few months ago I visited Solarisis, the solar automobile section of the Delhi Technological University at Bawana. The showcase of the university was a solar energy driven vehicle developed with the help Mahindra and Mahindra. A senior professor said that once the vehicle was developed the company did not take any interest in taking it to the market.
IIT Bombay also had a similar experience. It’s invention electric vehicle failed to find any business takers. A Banaras Hindu University’s motorcycle running on Hydrogen cells meet the same fate.
What was the reason? Car companies claim that most of these inventions were not market oriented and appeared one-off experiment for laboratory. Unlike the west, they claim that the Indian universities are willing to convert their laboratories as hub for market based inventions.
With such mistrust between research institutions and companies, the government’s Rs 13, 0000 crore plan is not only ambitious but daring also. The government’s National Electric Mobility Mission would fail if anew mindset for collaboration between research institutions and private sector is not created.
If the mission succeeds, India could drive the world’s electric car industry giving additional boost to economy and checking rising air pollution. Let’s hope it does.