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While countries like Germany are already well on the path to tap renewable energy sources to fuel their autos, they continue to push diesel-powered guzzlers in India. However, a few Indian manufacturers are honing their electric vehicles for the domestic and global markets
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh's comment on large diesel-powered SUVs, mostly of German make, is not new. He has said the same thing in the past too, including at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) held in Delhi, much earlier this year in August 2010-but it was not picked up by most of the media as well as not reported because it was right at the beginning of the event-early in the day, so to say, well before lunch, which also explains why it slipped through without much reportage. It was certainly not part of SIAM's report on the seminar, either.
That huge SUVs consume a disproportionate amount of energy, in manufacture as well as while being operated, is not debated or denied. After all, to take something weighing around 2-3 tonnes, or even more, to move one or two people weighing at best a couple of hundred kilos, is not the best thing for our planet. Pollution, emission, wastage-at every point in its lifecycle, from manufacture to utilisation to scrapping. The sooner this segment of people, who must drive around in such huge trucks, start paying their share-the better. An annual cess on the presumptive usage of one of these juggernauts is one good idea that the environment minister can consider implementing right away.
Why the German ambassador chose to back the huge diesel SUVs and take deep umbrage on behalf of German automobile manufacturers is also not clear-after all, one presumes he represents the German nation and its people, and not just the automobile manufacturers for whom he has been throwing gala launch parties lately, including reportedly gracing dealership inaugurations, something like a used-car salesman would do in view of falling sales for huge diesel SUVs worldwide.
Germany as a nation and a society itself is certainly committed to rapidly moving out of the petroleum trap and towards renewable energy. In addition, almost a quarter of Germans are backing the various Green parties in Germany, and it would be certainly fair of the German ambassador to try and commiserate with them, also.
(More here: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,717929,00.html).
But then, that's the German ambassador's business, pun intended. Not ours.
Ours is about India, and issues therein, like the heart-warming announcement by Mahindra yesterday in Delhi. That, along with its full range of diesel cars, small trucks, large trucks, SUVs et al, they would also sell the electric battery car now re-christened 'Mahindra Reva' from the same dealers' showrooms. Probably unmatched elsewhere in the world, a simple step like this takes a lot of strength, and also sends out a very clear message to everybody. For example-put your money where your mouth is, and we give you the choice-electric or diesel.
But first-more on the Reva. This small little two-seater electric vehicle has now been around for over a decade, and in addition, has constantly been improving too. From a simple ABS body stuck on to a ladder chassis running on lead acid batteries, it has now evolved, while retaining the same body shape, an internal space frame as well as for export models, a wide range of battery options. (In India, largely for reasons of import duties and taxes on batteries, they continue to use lead acid batteries.) A range of 80km on one charge is par for the course, with the air-conditioner operational, it drops to about 60km.
But more importantly, over the past few years, the control systems have evolved to provide full regeneration of power-not just while braking, but also while decelerating. This is important, because a lot of energy otherwise lost while slowing down is now sent right back into the batteries. The new control systems, in fact, give the Reva an option of using fewer batteries, thus reducing weight as well as improving range.
Do check out a Reva. Currently available with varying levels of subsidies, including as good as 33% on base price in Delhi, and with some very interesting lease-in/rental schemes too. It's also coming out soon with a bigger four-door, proper four-seater version. But if it is a two-seater runabout you are looking for, within city or town, then this should do it for you. And reasonably ideal as well as easy to maintain and run for the family back home -plug and play, with just a couple of fuses here and there to worry about. There's a 220v 15amp socket needed about 20-30 metres from wherever you park.
There is also a buy-back scheme, where you put in a lakh, then you pay a monthly "rental", and after 3 years, return the car and get your lakh back. They estimate that with normal usage, the battery life would also be around 3 years, subject to local weather conditions as well as usage. Some sort of guarantee on battery life would be indeed welcome here.
Maybe the German ambassador could take a look at one of them, too?