Will electric vehicles wipe out traditional internal combustion cars sooner?

Sunilchandra Dal
Saturday, 5 May 2018

Another factor is pollution. Fourteen Indian cities are among the world's 20 most polluted, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data. Kanpur tops the list of world cities with the highest PM2.5 levels in 2016. This adds urgency to the need for more electric vehicles.

Across the world, there is growing clarity about the need to switch over to electric cars to combat pollution. For India, this is important as we face a huge crude oil import bill. India imported 213.93 million tonnes (MT) of crude oil in 2016-17 for $70.196 billion or Rs 4.7 lakh crore. For 2017-18, the imports are pegged at 219.15 MT for $87.725 billion (Rs5.65 lakh crore). Huge crude oil imports will hamper the growth of the economy.

Another factor is pollution. Fourteen Indian cities are among the world's 20 most polluted, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data. Kanpur tops the list of world cities with the highest PM2.5 levels in 2016. This adds urgency to the need for more electric vehicles.

However, according to a researcher, the switchover to electric cars is bound to happen and it will be sooner than expected. Tony Seba, a Stanford University economist has published research predicting electric cars will even more rapidly take over from conventional cars. Asked to comment on the plan by France to ban electric vehicles by 2040, Seba told The Guardian: “Banning sales of diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2040 is a bit like banning sales of horses for road transportation by 2040: there won’t be any to ban.”

Seba is one of the founders of RethinkX, an independent think tank. He predicts that by 2030, within 10 years of regulatory approval of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs), 95 per cent of US passenger miles travelled will be served by on-demand autonomous electric vehicles owned by fleets, not individuals, in a new business model he calls 'transport-as-a-service' (TaaS).  TaaS will offer lower-cost transport alternatives, four to ten times cheaper per mile than buying a new car and two to four times cheaper than operating an existing vehicle by 2021. Thus, the combination of electric vehicles and autonomous driving and companies offering travel as a service (or ride-hailing companies) will revolutionise the scene in the US, ending the use of internal combustion cars and also killing the oil industry, according to Seba. 

Markham Hislop writing for americanenergynews.com says that according to Seba’s theory, if 70 per cent fewer passenger cars and trucks are manufactured each year, global automaker supply chains will shrink to a fraction of their current size, throwing millions of out of work, with ripple effects throughout national economies. Seba believes that car dealers, maintenance, and insurance companies will suffer 'almost complete destruction'.

Meanwhile, the demand for switching over to electric cars is growing stronger today. According to the Guardian, the decision by France to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 is part of an ambitious plan by the French government to meet its targets under the Paris climate accord.

Many other countries in the European Union like Norway and The Netherlands are also considering switching over to electric cars. Bloomberg said such a widespread uptake of electric vehicles would globally reduce oil demand by 8m barrels a day and increase electricity consumption by 5% to charge all the new cars.

POLICY IN INDIA
- In India, the NITI Aayog has asked seven ministries to frame guidelines to encourage use of electric vehicles. These guidelines are to form an action plan for promoting the use of electric vehicles. 
- The Maharashtra Cabinet has approved an electric vehicle policy to manufacture 5 lakh electric vehicles over five years. There is a proposal to exempt e-vehicles from road tax and registration charges. A 15 per cent capped subsidy will be provided to owners of the first 1,00,000 EVs registered in the State. 
- The State government is also working to ensure the development of charging stations by proposing a subsidy to the first 250 stations set up in Maharashtra. Electricity rates for charging stations will be on par with the residential tariffs. Vehicle companies will be able to set up charging stations even at petrol pumps after all safety norms are followed.

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