ELECTRIC VEHICLES NOT A SOLUTION FOR INDIA. WHY?


Efforts are being made in the automotive sector to make it less dependent on the fuel derived from crude oil. Pollution, rise in cost of fuel are some of the obvious reasons. 

Apart from this crude oil is a non renewable source of energy and is bound to perish in next few decades. Further its availability is restricted to just few countries. As such it was the need of hour that some alternate source of energy or mechanism be developed to make it a substitute for crude oil products.

Situation in India (and in other similarly situated countries)

As far as India is concerned, it's needs are heavily dependent on imported oil. India is a growing economy with world's second largest population as such the energy needs are on a rising trajectory. 



Electric vehicles


With increase in vehicles in India and with rise in economic activities, the consumption of fuel is on rise. Since India is a net importer of oil, the pressure on it to procure the same always remains. 

The import bills are mostly cleared in dollar terms means there is always a drain of precious foreign exchange in buying of oil. This creates a lot of pressure on the fiscal front and further causes depreciation of its own currency due to high demand of Dollar. 

Moreover, we have seen that the OPEC cartel always try that the cost of oil remains on a higher footing. Whenever, there is a down side movement of price of crude oil they declare cut in oil production thus controlling the fall. 

The over dependency of India on imported crude oil creates adverse impact in its financial health. This is also one of the major reasons for high inflation in the country. In addition to this, pollution caused from vehicular emissions is also a cause of concern. 





electric vehicle


As such it's the need of hour that some alternate source of fuel be developed and there is no second thought over it. 

Recently Electric Vehicles (EV) are getting popular. Though this sounds too fascinating, but has its own hidden problems particularly when we see it from India's perspective. 

Here I am not talking about the commonly talked issues like lack of adequate charging stations or so. But am on some major fundamental issues which goes to the root of the matter. 

Before moving ahead let us have some important facts before us...

Important facts regarding EV and its power sources:

  • Unlike IC (internal combustion) engine vehicles, electric vehicles don't have any such engines. They have electric motors which derives power from rechargeable batteries.
  • EV vehicles have less moving components and as such generally needs lesser maintenance. No need of engine oils, filters, coolant etc. 😉
  • Those rechargeable batteries are mostly Lithium Ion batteries just like we have in our smartphones. In EV cars large number of Lithium Ion batteries are assembled together to create a power source for the vehicle.
  • The batteries made from Lithium Ion are high in efficiency because of their high energy per unit mass. Moreover, they are more chemically stable, have high power to weight ratio, low self discharge, longer life and can withstand the process of charge, discharge and recharge for a longer period. In simple words Lithium Ion batteries are comparatively lighter and more efficient one.
  • Lithium is a rare metal. Its atomic number is 3. It's the lightest metal and very reactive in nature. If not stored properly it even catches fire.
  • Lithium Ion batteries are manufactured mainly from Lithium, Nickel and Cobalt.
  • Australia, South America (in Argentina, Bolivia and Chilli which are often called the Lithium Triangle) and China are few of the countries where Lithium is found in quantity viable for commercial use and extraction. At present highest extraction is done in Australia
  • China controls half of world's Lithium processing and refining capabilities and has majority of world's megafactories manufacturing these batteries. 
Lithium is often referred to as white gold and with rise in demand of this element, it will definitely prove to be a treasure for it's miners and it's producers.


Lithium mining site
Lithium mining site

THE PROBLEM WITH EV CARS

  • EV or Electric Vehicle cars derive their energy from the rechargeable batteries. Which needs to be recharged frequently.
  • This recharging is done from the electricity delivered from power grid. Though at first instance EV cars may appear to be a cleaner and environment friendly mode of commutation, but the truth may not be so if the power its consuming to recharge is produced from non-renewable sources of energy. 
  • I think that the issue of supply of energy from clean source of energy can somewhat be achieved by a visionary Govt by adopting to solar power, wind power etc.
  • However, when it comes to storing of powers for the Electric Vehicles we will have to depend on the battery only.
  • But the problem again lies in the fact that the raw material needed for production of Lithium Ion batteries are very scarce in India and it mostly imports the same.
  • EV vehicles needs enormous quantity of Lithium Ion batteries and the raw materials needed for manufacturing battery set of a single car is so high that from the same amount of material battery of several thousand smartphone can be manufactured.
  • The Lithium Ion batteries are mostly imported from China and few other countries. China is presently the world's largest manufacturer and supplier of these batteries.
  • In India it's just the beginning of the Electric Vehicles. Within a span of few years more and more EV vehicles will start landing on roads as a result the demand of these Lithium Ion batteries will start skyrocketing.
  • As a result again India will have to import more and more of these batteries.
  • At present the major cost component of any Electric Vehicle is its batteries. It even goes upto 30-40% of vehicle cost. So with the rise in demand of batteries, the commodity prices will also rise. Sometime back even Elon Musk the founder of world's premium electric vehicle Tesla was seen requesting the miners to produce more and more materials for the batteries as the demand is getting higher and supply is less.
  • Again the import bill of India will start moving up and it will start putting pressure on its foreign reserves.
  • As we move deeper in the transition in automotive sector, the dependency on the Lithium Ion batteries will increase manifold.
  • After few years down the line, time for replacement of older batteries will start coming up. Believe me, to tackle that would not be an easy task. Just imagine, crores and crores of vehicles will start coming up for replacement of the batteries and it would be a gigantic task to meet out the demand.
  • Since India is mostly dependent on import of these batteries as such would always be under tremendous pressure to procure it. Any shift in foreign policy or arm twisting by the supplier nation can lead to acute shortage of these batteries and can create a chaos in the country and this can severely jeopardise the economic activities in the country.
  • Over dependence on Lithium Ion batteries will give its producers an unfair Geopolitical advantage over other countries.
  • Supply side issue will always be there. Severe shortage can compromise even national security apart from directly hampering the development process.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS

The mining of Lithium consumes enormous amount of water and mostly it is done by extracting groundwater. There are serious concerns of groundwater depletion in the region where Lithium is being mined. There are also issues related to contamination of water because of mining issues. 

As the mining activity will increase, the impact on environment and health issues will surely start cropping up. It would be something to see then as to how the raw material producing countries of Lithium would deal with it!


Lithium Ion battery
Lithium Ion Battery


At present automotive sector is in beginning of the transition mode. This is the time when things best suited for the nation in long term can be formulated and implemented. Any unmindful and un practical road map can lead to lot of pain and inconvenience in future. 

One thing is for sure that reliance on an essential technology which totally depends on continuous import of its raw materials is not something advisable and therefore every endeavour should be made to avoid that kind of situation as far as possible. 

We should appreciate that automotive industry is capital intensive one and sudden change in it causes severe disruption. So it's always better that before we start to adopt a particular technology a proper road map is prepared taking into consideration all vital points including the continuous availability of raw materials, viability, sustainability and suitability in long run.

SOME MEASURES TO TACKLE THE ISSUE

  • Good part of the Lithium Ion batteries is that many of the raw materials used in it are recyclable to a great extent. Thus robust recycling units need to be established throughout the country. This should be in place well in advance. This will greatly help in controlling the import bill of raw materials and of new batteries. It would also help in tackling the issue of disposal of old and unused batteries. I would emphasise here that this issue is very critical and if not worked out properly in advance can cause serious environmental and health problems for the nation.
  • Policy of buyback of old batteries be made compulsorily for older ev vehicles. Even the mobile phone manufacturers should offer buyback in case of purchase of new smart phones.
  • Old unused batteries have harmful chemicals and can cause fire and explosion also in worst case scenario as such proper disposal and recycling of of old batteries is a must for our safety also. Public should also be made aware about this issue.
  • Long term contracts for procurement of raw materials be executed with countries producing raw materials for batteries. All efforts should be made to lessen dependency on China.
  • Focus should always be there in developing other cleaner sources of fuel which could indigenously be developed and manufactured.
  • If India wants to be a economic superpower then it cannot solely rely on import for its energy needs. This must be kept in mind while making future course of action. Government should invest and promote research work in the field wholeheartedly.
  • Road conditions in the city should be improved. It is a fact that most of the fuel gets wasted in traffic jams in the city. If it is worked out properly then there will be big saving on imported fuel bill as well as in containing pollution.
  • IC (internal combustion) engines should not be given a complete go bye. Development of flexed engines, Hydrogen fuel engines and even Hybrid engines should simultaneously go on. 
I hope you find this article informative and interesting. Do share your views as to how India should proceed in future on the automobile sector.

Thanks 😊👍










[Disclaimer: The aforesaid views and experience are personal to the author and should not be taken as any professional advice. Further the author shall not be liable for any errors or omissions in the information and viewers are advised to check the same from concerned official sites or offices. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, nation, company or individual. We always respect the dignity and feelings of any religion, ethnic, individual, groups, nation, company etc.]          


 


Comments

  1. I was just thinking that EV will resolve all the problems. However it is not so as clear from this article. Do share more content like this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The complete replacement of EVs seems far fetched. Until the power generation for the recharging is made from renewable source of energy the main aim of replacing the combustible engine vehicles will not be achieved
    As far as the common man is concerned having an EV is not a bad optionion if one already owns a IC dependent vehicle.
    Very informative and thought provoking article Abhishek. A lot of research has been made writing this. Looking forward to more of such articles. Wonderful work👍.

    ReplyDelete

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