Short Circuit

25th May 2017 11:09 am

India's target of having an all-electric car fleet by 2030 is just pure fantasy.

Oh no! Not again. Not another harebrained scheme. An all-electric car fleet in India by 2030! No more petrol or diesel cars on the road? Is this for real? Or is this Comedy Circus?

Now I know. Earlier on, it was me ranting on about how we weren’t doing enough about electric cars. And how China was going ahead, as it always does. But do we have to swing from one extreme to the other, every single time? Yes, I’m aware, in this day and age, everyone and his electrician wants to be disruptive. But do we really want to totally disrupt our own economy and bring it crashing down? 40 percent of all manufacturing GDP in India comes from the car industry. Stop petrol and diesel cars, and suddenly you will have to say sayonara to profitability and growth for the next decade.

Think of the ramifications, the effect on the stock market, the chaos, the number of jobs lost. It will be a train wreck in slow motion, as the industry collapses in on itself. And to what end? Even Maruti, which is quick to adapt and is pretty agile for a company of its size, will be massively out of pocket. Those in the know must know this. Or, is disruption the real goal, and the electric car just a means to an end? Think about it. Is someone with massive leverage and the ability to go large, waiting in the wings? Waiting to feast on the carnage? On the blood and the guts?

Then there’s the question of charging all these cars. Assuming our industry doubles by 2030, we would be putting out at least six million electric cars a year. And those cars, just for that year, would need at least two hours of charge every day. That’s 12 million collective hours between a four- and a five-hour window. Where would this happen? Wireless charging is all very well, but will the technology be ready? Remember, unlike a fuel station, there are only a finite number of cars one charger can manage.

Now to raise the question of power itself. Forget villages, there aren’t even towns today where a reliable 24-hour supply is assured. And vehicles go to places where electricity isn’t just sparse but, in some cases, not even there. So, in just over 10 years will electricity be available to every nook and corner of India, and enough of it?  

The crux of the matter is that the electric car still isn’t as practical as we’d like it to be. It’s fine in an ideal world, where each person has their own house and a place to charge it. And that’s why Tesla works. But back in the real world, where everyone isn’t a millionaire, there are still massive issues that need to be overcome before the electric car can go mainstream. Why do you think electric cars still only form a small percent of the car parks all around the world, developed countries included? Why do you think no one else has announced that they are going to replace their whole car park to electric cars? Why do you think the rest of the world is having a good laugh? Yes, go full throttle on electric cars, by all means, but allow the transition to happen seamlessly. It’s actually the only way.

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Shapur Kotwal

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Deputy editor at Autocar India.

Shapur is at the forefront of the magazine's extensive road testing activities and oversees the test instrumentation and data acquisition. Shapur has possibly the most experience among all road testers in the country.


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