Vroom with a view: On diesel SUVs, Reva, and more

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?

ashok datar
1 decade ago
we should immediately correct the gross disparity in taxation of buses and cars
cars pay 7% of the price as one time road tax whereas buses pay as high as Rs. 5600/seat per year amounting to 5% pa during entire life. there should be level playing field in fact, buses should attract very little tax and diesel guzzlers double that of petrol driven cars. In china one time is 50% and singapore it is 120%
Shadi Katyal
1 decade ago
Why would anyone dictate that SUV should be banned. did we not learn anything yet from our Permit Raj and Nehruvian economy??
Any company when unable to sell enough unit discontinue her production of that product so the Rule of Demand and supply comes into action and not dictating by Ministers .
We must let trade flourish and no road blocks should be allowed.
Is the REVA safe on the road??
1 decade ago
It is not enough to make the SUVs costlier, but to ban them. Just because you have lots of money does not give you the right to consume non-renewable resources unlimitedly.
One more point I would like to make is that the REVA is too costly for the common man. I wonder why an engine and not so swanky body, would cost Rs.2.5 lakhs!! And that too after 33% subsidy from the Govt?
Shadi Katyal
1 decade ago
It is nice to read about Reva but one asks simple question that if it is so superior than other manufacturers why has it not on the roads of the rest of the World. Why has Japanese,German and USA big car manufacturers not yet made a deal or invested in the company?
What is the cost of running this as compared to say diesel/petrol car.How many KM one can go without charging?
Why is Minster worried about what other nations utilize or make. Has India not suffered enough with this kind of negative attitude toward industry and west.People wish to live with better cars and bigger one so why such loose speeches?
V Malik
Replied to Shadi Katyal comment 1 decade ago
Dear Shadi Ktyal ji,

Thank you for writingin.

a) The RVA is available in UK and European countries, especially Scandinavia, variously as the G-Wiz and in other names. It des quite well there. Production is currently limited.

b) While having been taken over by Mahindras, Reva also has a collaboration/technology deal with General Motors forIndia as well as abroad.

c) For csts and other technical details, may I suggest you visit a dealer? It varies from State to State, depending on the subsidies. Range is about 80kms. Why is it not a success? I guess we as people are internally resistant to change?
1 decade ago
Veeresh ji -

What I don't understand is how these electric vehicles are superior to the vehicle using petrol and diesel.
Electric vehicle suck power from some wall socket but somewhere the electricity is generated by burning coal which inferior thaN petrol/diesel.
But the case of Toyota Prius Hybrid is different which actually charges battery during its run and it alternates between the powers intelligently.

But Reva and all, i don't understand. How they are good for environment?
V Malik
Replied to Kannan comment 1 decade ago
Dear Kannan ji,

Thank you, valid questions . . .

a) Not all electricity is generated from coal. In addition, there is a solar charging option for the Reva and other EVs.

b) The average small car weighs close to a tonne's worth of raw material, while the Reva, even after allowing for the weight of the battery, is a shade over 500kgs.

c) And finally, you have to live through another winter in smoggy Delhi (or Pune, or any other city) to realise what diesel/petrol fumes are about lately.

Hope that helps.

Shadi Katyal
1 decade ago
When one reads remarks of Minister Ramesh one wonders if he is pro India or anti? Look at his record and how many
projects had been stopped because the Minister doesn't like. He talks of environment but look around in the capital of environment with cows roaming anhd flies and dung all over.
As for Diesel guzzling, the problem is not with car but our own. Why is diesel subsidized for the sale in cities while it is for farm machinery only.
Let us charge more for bigger SUV and cars etc on basis of weight of the vehicle. A writer is correct in pointing out the power required etc. but he forgets that person who can afford like an Alfa doesn't worry about cost.Yes charge them more road tax but one wonders that why a responsible Minister would criticise the other nation like Germany.It is this kind of remarks off the cuff that give a bad image .One often wonders if Minister like Ramesh would like people to either walk or use bullock carts but than we have carbon problem of oxes.
As a mature nation we must keep our lips sealed or think before making such remarks
1 decade ago
Americans who are the pioneers in coming out with gas guzzlers are realising their blunder post Lehman trouble. The SUVs with more than 4 seats could be taxed additionally for utilizing the scarce and subsidized diesel. Cars like Reva or Priyus could be encouraged to sell at affordable prices for the middle-class consumers.
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