Have you noticed recently that there has been a significant increase in the number of vehicles playing on the roads today? Add the ever-increasing purchasing power of the common people, leading to a significant contribution to the number of vehicles all over the country. The ever-rising demand for mobility and commute have also brought up the demands of fuel and its usage. While petrol and diesel are almost similarly priced, automakers are having a hard time keeping up with the up-gradation costs for their vehicles and engines to meet the emission and safety norms. While all this sounds like great sales and an increase in the overall economy, it is posing some serious harm to the Earth and Mother Nature in form of pollution, ozone layer depletion, greenhouse effect and global warming, changing weather and climate patterns and much more.
What is causing all these problems? The environment has been a major topic for quite some time now. Not because human beings are concerned about the earth and its dwellers, it is because we realise we do not have any other place to go. It’s here or nowhere else, not before us humans find some way to live on Mars or the Moon for that instance.
Vehicles are an important part of human life because we are dependent on mobility. The human invention of wheels has been moving our world since and with the invention of steam and internal combustion engines, the face of mobility in the world changed forever. The once pulled by a horse carriage could now be driven by a human, in full control with the help of an engine which guzzled gas and made power. But the hungry human wanted more and there were engines made, one after another and eventually, there were cars rolling out of assembly lines which quenched the thirst of the mobility market.
Fast forward all this to the present day, everything is talked about in numbers. High horsepower and high torque. You cannot be in the game if you do not have enough numbers on your engines. Cars have been bifurcated in several segments now and you can choose to buy one in a specific segment, with specific features and specific range of power produced. Most cars in the world consume petrol or diesel, burns it internally to convert it into mechanical energy. With the energy produced, there is also the production of waste and the waste out of an engine is smoke. Some countries also use natural gas as fuel and the vehicles are converted or sold with conversions. This is done to keep the pollution and costs in check, especially for public transport like 3-wheeler tempos, cabs and to an extent private vehicles too.
The exhaust smoke from a petrol/diesel engine of several gases like Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrous Oxides (NOx), Hydrocarbons (HC), Benzene (C6H6) and Particulate Matter (PM or Soot). These gases other than the Carbon Dioxide, are harmful to the environment and cause a lot of pollution. As the laws got stricter, manufacturers used different solutions (like a catalytic converter0 to control the number of emissions from a vehicle. In the present day, you won’t see big vehicles releasing a huge amount of smoke, rather run cleaner and emit less harmful substances. Most of the harmful gases and emissions are taken care of by the vehicle’s sophisticated exhaust systems and electronics which monitor the combustion process inside in the modern IC engines.
The biggest challenge for the auto industry right now is the transition to even higher standards of emission norms. These norms require vehicles to be not only fuel-efficient but also requires them to be very clean in terms of emission. India is currently following the Bharat Stage IV emission norms and will switch to Bharat Stage VI (skipping Stage V) in 2020. The jump is a major concern for most auto manufacturers as they have to upgrade their machines, especially the engines which will have to be developed to meet the upcoming standards. Many manufacturers have already been working on upgrading their offerings with others joining the bandwagon. Not only this, the one vehicles which cannot be upgraded are being phased out, especially those which cannot be upgraded for safety as well as emissions.
The most interesting developments, however, are coming from the government. The Indian government is pushing for the future in electric-based mobility solutions and have devised several working plans around it. The FAME II Policy which has been given a nod sanctions a huge amount of finance for the auto sector to develop for electric mobility, especially for the masses in the form of public transport. Automakers have been developing and even launching electric vehicles which are purely electric, but those vehicles are currently aimed for public mobility in the form of cabs and fleet services. The government is also taking new registrations for fully electric vehicles along with rebate in taxes of up to Rs. 1.5 lakhs for electric vehicle purchase. Moreover, there has to be enough focus on manufacturing in India, especially the components for an electric vehicle which otherwise cost a substantial amount when imported from other countries. Local manufacturing and assembly will drastically bring down the overall costs of production of electric vehicles in the country.
The main challenge for an entire electric ecosystem is the of electricity itself and charging stations. The current state of the country would not allow to set up charging stations at many places. Charging stations would need to be placed at different places like airports, railway stations, public areas as well as fuel stations. There would be the requirement of a charging station anywhere a vehicle can reach. The availability of electricity is also a big deal and a constant and powerful supply would be needed to fulfil the changing needs of all the EVs. Lastly, the affordability of the charging resources would also be a driving factor for more frequent charging stations.
The most difficult process is the process of transition. The gradual acceptance of things which are new in favour of the things od the past. The government is already planning to ban I.C. engines below 150cc post-2025, which indicates that there would be major changes in smaller displacement scooters and motorcycles which would be converted to fully electric. The attempts made by the government and the automakers alike is also notable as their push will allow for a greener future. It would be an interesting transition for the auto industry in the coming years, not to mention the huge challenges which will follow up. But, for a green future and sustainability and for the promise of a better life to the future generations, these gradual changes have to be made.