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The CEO of Mercedes Benz India, Roland Folger, has said that electric cars may pollute more than diesels in India. This surprising statement from the CEO comes at a time when the Indian government is planning to run all cars in India on electric power by 2030. By the same year, the government wants petrol and diesel cars to be phased out.

Roland Folger CEO of Mercedes Benz India

Here is Mr. Folger’s statement to the Economic Times,

We looked at government statistics and they say now 65% of your electrical energy is still produced by fossil fuels. These are produced in factories that don’t have any cleansing mechanisms or something like that. If I compare it to a BS-IV diesel engine, at the moment, I would have to say BS-IV diesel is less polluting than an electric vehicle. It gets even worse because by 2020 we are going to be at BS-VI, and the (vehicle) pollution will further come down. The question is, can the electricity producing industry keep up with the improvements in the automotive business.

So what the CEO is saying is, since most of the electricity produced in India is by coal or other fossil fuels, cars running on electricity will indirectly pollute the atmosphere more than diesel powered cars that meet stringent emission norms.

All car makers in India have to move to stricter emission norms (Bharat Stage 6 or BS6) by 2020. Currently, the norms are at BS4. But since India has a huge air pollution problem, the government has asked car makers to skip BS5 and directly go to the even more tough BS6 emission norms.

There are other challenges that electric vehicles face in India. They remain very costly. For example, the Mahindra E2O Plus – the only electric car in India – costs close to 10 lakhs. For this much money, one can easily buy two petrol powered Swift hatchbacks.

The other problem is battery range. Electric cars sold here are limited to 100 Kms range per charge. This is not sufficient for most buyers. The third issue is battery charging infrastructure. This is not yet established in India. Only when all these problems are addresses, electric cars will be adopted by mass market car buyers in India.

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