Together in electric dreams


It is easy to be pessimistic when it comes to electric vehicles. Rohin’s current blog, triggered by the nomenclature of the new product from Mahindra Reva – the e2o ( argues beautifully why acceptance of EVs will take a lot of time, patience, money, government intervention, infrastructure and what-not to be considered seriously. Yes, there are tremendous issues to be sorted, but we have to make a beginning – and it can only be done when manufacturers take the initiative and have the energy to see it through. Here are my reasons why EVs are the way forward, especially for India:

1. All of us are not enthusiasts who want to redline all the time and drag-race at stoplights. Many of us in the cities just want a comfortable, fuel-efficient, safe and reliable way to commute and get back home. We will not compromise on the above factors and we should not do so. If EVs provide this solution, then we Indians will definitely be open to accepting it. We are sensible folks and are not averse to accepting new technology if it provides us with the exact solution we are looking for.

2. Unfortunately, we need cars and bikes for commuting simply because the government has not been proactive and visionary to provide safe, comfortable and convenient mass transport. Even if it exists, like in a city like Mumbai, it is bursting at the seams at hypercapacities. The government is investing in roads and flyovers but that’s because most of the decision-makers travel in airconditioned cars. If they get around travelling by public transport, they will realise what needs to be done. This will perhaps never happen. So we are faced with an explosion of vehicles on the roads, leading to the related problems like air and sound pollution, traffic jams and gridlocks and... Well, we know it, don’t we? So if cars are inevitable for the urban commute, why can’t they be clean in emissions? At least the problem of air pollution is being addressed.

3. The bigger issue of EVs is that they are not exactly pollution-free because the source of electricity is not, while their end-of-life problems have yet to be faced. If there are lot of EVs, what do we do with the batteries? To answer that, what do we do with the current cars and bikes anyway? A green product lifecycle has become critical for manufacturers, and it will follow suit with EVs as well. Product Lifecycle Management is even more critical here, but I am sure manufacturers know that very well. Also, regarding batteries, aren’t they used in existing IC-engined vehicles anyway?

4. Assuming EVs give us all that we want out of a car – like safety, comfort, reliability and low ownership costs – there still remains the big issue of range anxiety. Again, most of us are sensible and we know exactly what we want. If the real-life range of the e2o is 80 km, then I guess we will work our way around it and use it accordingly. At the moment, an EV will always be the second car – well, at least the second car is not the IC-engined one, right? Plus more EVs from more manufacturers will only mean a better breed that evolves over time. Sooner or later, they will become first cars if they are allowed to evolve. So in other words, Mahindra may not be happy, but they better get strong competition for the e2o. I hope Tata Motors is doing the honours.

5. Nitin Pakhide’s comment on Rohin’s blog is right. Which is why Nitin, carmakers like GM has introduced the Chevrolet Volt/Opel & Vauxhall Ampera – which addresses the issue of range anxiety. Unfortunately, this car is still facing an uphill battle in the US and Europe, so it will take some time. But again, it’s an interim solution as there is an IC engine involved. But so be it: to paraphrase Chairman Mao, let a thousand alternate energy vehicles bloom.

6. Again, the presence of competition cannot be understated. It makes manufacturers stay on their toes, and will help in making EVs a no-compromise transport solution. Be it in reliability, range, interior quality, fit and finish, etc, engineers will be egged on to make their cars better and better. When customers have options, then things happen. The small car market is an awesome example of that, isn’t it?

7. India has been leading the world in making frugal engineered cars and bikes. Our competence has worldwide recognition and we are setting the trend for emerging markets to follow. There’s no reason why we cannot replicate that with EVs. With a common vision of all stakeholders, which includes us consumers, we can show the world the way forward. Er, actually not, as China is going all-out with the EV revolution. So what, we are a democracy. Just joking, but you get the point.