Millennium Post

Why electric mobility

It is important to ask ourselves whether our obsession with technology can drive us to a point where it impinges on our environment. The ideal answer would be no. We have this understanding that any innovation is to improve the current situation but, sadly, not all of those are eco-friendly. The combustion engine was perhaps a landmark innovation. It gave us cars, motorcycles, heavy vehicles, ships, aeroplanes, and space rockets. While we have always been keen on developing technology that will provide convenience, we have missed the repercussions it may have on several occasions. Years of using combustion engine have taken a toll on our environment and brought our attention to air pollution. In essence, trading the convenience of travelling in a car or a bike with the quality of the air we breathe would never materialise, yet it did. As much as our obsession catapulted us to innovate, our conscience urged us to minimise adverse impact. The entire discussion about air pollution and global warming and how to innovate in a manner that does not take a toll on nature brought us at the crossroads of eco-friendly innovation. So, combustion engines started to develop in a manner that would produce less pollution compared to their predecessors. But that was alright till the damage hit alarming levels. Today, we have developed our engines to produce minimal emissions and discovered alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG) or electric-powered engines but the prevalence of former over latter still has an adverse effect on the air. Minimal emission engines are still producing emissions and that adds to the air we breathe, often leading to depressed air quality. New Delhi is a case in point. The city has been, on several occasions, choked with critical air quality—unhealthy to breathe for a human and prolonged exposure could have serious repercussions on humans. Plagued with bad air quality today, New Delhi is literally fighting a battle to keep its head over the water when it comes to air quality. The air quality index has on multiple occasions sprung beyond poor and remained so, much to the dismay of citizens. Amongst the potent culprits, vehicular emissions stand out. Having an adverse impact on the air we breathe, vehicular emissions, nevertheless evolving engines, have wreaked havoc. The economic survey 17-18 stated that Delhi has 556 motor vehicles per one thousand people, with every second person in the city owning a vehicle. With a city having a population of 1.9 crores, as per the last census, one can imagine the number of vehicles on the city's ever-packed roads and, therefore, the plight it burdens the environment with. Therefore, novel thinking became absolutely necessary to cure this burden which, if not checked, would make New Delhi ground zero for unbreathable air. This paved the way for checking air pollution and a reinforced push was given to alternative policies to avert a dystopia. New Delhi needed a change and the AAP government introduced the odd-even system. While the system had potential, regulations around it spoiled the plan. The odd-even rule allowed cars with odd-even numbers on alternate days which not only brought down traffic but was a good way of curbing vehicular emission per day—halving it in essence. But there was an integral flaw. The novel rule exempted two-wheelers which contribute the most in the vehicular emission segment constituting almost 64 per cent of the total vehicles registered and operating on city roads. Hence, odd-even could not be fruitful. Containing air pollution and curbing it through policy change nevertheless took precedence. While GRAP is there as an emergency mechanism, resolving the air pollution and bad air quality crisis requires urgent solutions on the grass-roots level. Push for alternative fuel was a good lead. CNG does not add much but bringing the emissions down to a complete zero would be the best-case scenario. Hence, the push for the adoption of electric mobility enters the fray. While the Delhi government proposed a draft electric vehicle policy as well as induction of electric buses to its DTC fleet, the problem would remain intact unless changes are brought in the biggest contributor—two-wheeler.

NITI Aayog has proposed the establishment of Giga factories in India for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries in the next couple of years in line to promote electric mobility. Their recommendation comes in a package with the proposal to only sell electric three-wheelers in the country in from April 2023 and electric two-wheelers below 150cc from April 2025. The establishment of Giga factories takes precedence so that when the market for electric mobility picks pace, domestically produced batteries are there to fill the demand. NITI Aayog pointed out how this is a sunrise industry and India's effort in developing a capacity for it would yield tremendously, not just in Indian markets but global as well. Conversely, the lack of domestic production would make India import these and electric mobility will then become costlier and probably fall out of public preference which will be a grossly undesirable impact. Naturally, the two-wheeler industry opposed this due to apprehensions of curbed sales should electric mobility hit the market. Under 150 cc internal combustion engines are perhaps the most preferred products for two-wheeler companies and NITI Aayog's proposal cuts their business drastically but it does so for the greater good—clean air. To this end, anything should be pursued no matter the cost for it is about the air we breathe. Profits will do little good if the air is toxic.

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