2012 had a speedy start. We are talking about the recent International Auto Show held in Delhi folks! While new designs and models were the main attraction at the gala event, it was ‘concept cars’ boasting of green technologies that stole the show. Most major automobile brands displayed their hybrid and electric cars and Hero Moto Corp went a step ahead. It even showcased India’s first hybrid scooter. But who is buying?
A HYBRID CAR uses two or more distinct power sources to run. A small fuel-efficient gas engine combined with an electric motor assists the engine when accelerating. The electric motor is powered by batteries that recharge automatically while one drives. Hybrid cars focus on using electricity and lesser amounts of fossil-based fuel.
The wheels of Climate Change
Who can deny the fact that automobiles are a major contributor of greenhouse gases (GHG), leading to Climate Change? Curbing GHG emissions from personal vehicles has thus become a major environmental challenge globally. While curbing vehicular population and growth is a gigantic task, improving fuel efficiency seems more achievable.
Recently, automobile giants Fiat and Toyota claimed to have achieved fuel efficiency as high as 130gCO2 per kilometer.
It is for this reason that hybrid vehicles are slowly gaining popularity. Increased fuel efficiency and reduced pollution make them a viable option. We all understand how supply and demand are the most fundamental concepts of economics. Simply put, demand refers to the quantity of a product or service desired by buyers and supply represents how much the market can offer. If the Indian market for hybrid cars is examined, supply is good, but demand is not.
Reality check! Petroleum supplies 95 per cent of the total energy used by world transport
“India is far away from using this sort of technology. It is expensive, and needs both government support and the necessary infrastructure to become popular." Kou Kimura, chief executive and managing director, Nissan-Renault India
Mahindra Reva is the only automobile company manufacturing electric cars in India. Wondering why? Because the excise duty and taxes levied on the import of items like lithium ion batteries make manufacturing of these cars expensive. Many automobile companies have expressed their interest in setting up a ‘National Mission for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles’ to encourage the manufacturing and selling of eco-friendly vehicles.
Global auto giants have also stayed away from the Indian market because of the lack of infrastructured support for the much-touted hybrid and electric cars. Electric vehicles need charging stations and these stations would require huge investments to equip a country as large of India. And isn’t India struggling to deal with electricity shortage anyway?
TVS Scooters has launched electric and hybrid models but have received a very poor market response. The customers are not left with any choice but to go in for cheaper petrol variants. Let us not forget Indian consumers are price sensitive and not many are willing to pay a premium price for clean technology. Yet.
The road ahead
Hybrid vehicles live up to their promise of providing cleaner technology with reduced emissions. However, a combined effort, involving the government, public and automobile manufacturers is needed to promote them in India.
Awareness programmes should be launched by the government for promoting green technology. Most importantly, policy makers need to consider the consumers and not just the manufactures while strategising incentives.
THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY in India is one of the largest in the world and one of the fastest growing globally, with an annual production of more than 3.7 million units in 2010.