Electric mobility has been touted as the next big revolution to curb the rising pollution levels in the country, however, a few experts believe that it might not be the most viable solution for the problem in India. One of those few experts who share this thought is R C Bhargava, the chairman of India’s largest automotive manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India Limited.
The former C.E.O and current chairman of MSIL believes that despite the ongoing efforts of increasing EV adoption in the country, electric mobility might not be the best solution to achieve carbon neutrality in the next 10-15 years. Bhargava during an interview with a media outlet divulged that the EV model which has been working for the western world will not fit the needs of India.
According to Bhargava, the Indian geographic and economic conditions differ vastly from those of the western nations, which is why replicating their plans will not be the correct way to go about the transition. He stated, “India is very different from Europe and other Western countries, including the USA. If we just adopt whatever strategies they are following, I don’t think we will be doing justice to what we need to do in India. Let me highlight some of the big differences which exist between the western countries and India. Per capita incomes in India are about 5% of those in Europe and 3% of those in the United States. This has direct relevance of affordability of personal transport vehicles and customer choices, when it comes to personal transportation.” He further added, “We have options in the short term and at low cost. We have to use our own resources and our own technologies, which will be different from what is prevailing in the Western countries.”
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The MSIL chairman also addressed the point that a large chunk of Indian automotive customers use two-wheelers as their primary mode of transportation, despite the mode of transport being uncomfortable and unsafe. He laid out the fact that the current number of scooters and two-wheelers in the country stands at 200 million and said that this is due to the fact that people are compelled to choose them because of the affordability factor.
He further discussed that the car penetration in India is less than 3% of the population while over 70% of the cars used here are small cars. In the EU, the penetration is over 50% and in the USA is about 87%. Bhargava added that small cars like those used here are not used in the USA at all and the percentage in the EU is also very small. This has an impact on GHG (greenhouse gas) and the solutions which we adopt are solving the problem of global warming.
During the interview, Bhargava was questioned on why does he believe that EVs won’t deliver on intended results of reducing emissions to which the octagenarian replied, India uses coal-fired thermal stations to produce 75 percent of the energy used. “Therefore, the reduction in the greenhouse gases using electric cars becomes much less than what is generally thought and electric cars in these circumstances are not clean cars at all,” the CEO added.
He then added that the country should divert its focus towards alternative-fueled vehicles like CNGs, bio-CNGs, ethanol, and hybrid vehicles as well to reduce carbon emissions. He said that, although CNG vehicles have always been an acceptable alternative to other fossil-fueled vehicles, there is no incentive from the government for CNG vehicles. “The CNG cars are taxed exactly like the high pollutant petrol and diesel vehicles,” Bhargava added.
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