Saturday, September 26, 2009

Electric cars, how soon?

I had a discussion with the other blogger here (largely dormant) on whether Electric cars will rule the roost very soon? And how soon can we expect it to happen. It was not intended to come up as a post at all, but coincidentally I saw a few articles about it. This, this and this...Now, bear in mind that none of us are really automobile experts as much as we are market watchers. Here is how we read the tea leaves...


If you have observed, over the past few months, recession or no recession, quite a few new models have found their way into India and this is across car companies. The wait between international launches and Indian launches, if any, is reducing. And clearly, companies want consumers to buy. And I guess the market has been quite obliging so far - helpfully the recession seems to have ended too (thats another story for another day).

But here is our premise, the next few years, will be the oil engines last stand - surely for smaller vehicles. For the bigger vehicles, oil might continue to be dominant for some time longer. Most people we speak to do not share this premise thinking that electric cars are some way off and the oil industry will last for atleast a generation. I hope that it is false, but beyond hope, I see definite signs that the epitaph of the oil driven automobile industry will be written within this generation (20 years for being wiped out and hopefully within the next 5 odd years a decent electric car market will be created.)

(While hybrid as a technology is an accepted and proven technology, it may not be enough. Indeed it will lengthen the demise of oil engines for a little longer than it should. So, while hybrid is a good idea, as oil prices rise, it may or may not make a significant difference down the line. I dont know so much about compressed air or hydrogen and I am a little iffy about the prospects of ethanol. CNG, well, finally is still close to petrol, but for India this might be a solution for the heavy vehicle industry.)

Electric vehicles are making significant strides in technology - US high profile launches of GM Volt and the Nissan Leaf are not too far. The Aptera, Fisker Karma and a few other small manufacturers have already put up their vehicles for sale. It is not "mass production" in terms of huge volumes, but it is pretty close to it. "Better place" - an initiative to create the ecosystem around electric vehicles (charging points, battery replacement stations) is gaining ground too. And similar green highway initiatives are gaining ground in other parts of the world too.

And often, with these sort of initiatives, a tipping point may not be too far away. And when change happens, it will happen swiftly, resistance not withstanding...And thats why we feel that the current launches are an attempt to get people to buy newer vehicles and lock themselves in for 5 years atleast. I hope that my next car is an electric...

Closer home, Reva has been moderately successful in breaking the mindset (and this is a very tough job). And it seems to be the beleaguered GM that is trying to break into the electric market here in India (see linked article). Tata and the Nano, I am sure will follow suit. What do you think?

2 comments:

L said...

I would like to know if anyone has really done an audit on EV..how much carbon comes from the grid supplied electricity which is notoriously inefficient. How much pollution do we get from battery manufacture, and from battery disposal after its life time(how many years? 10 maybe?)compared to existing car batteries.

NGiD said...

my 2 bits...
Sun is the source of all energy... this was captured by acres of trees millions of years ago and today we have it in liquid form. No other form (especially battery..) can pack such a large concentration of energy in such small volumes....
imagine trying to go to the moon in a battery operated rocket...
So, the point is, technically hydro-carbons are always going to be superior .. hence only economics will rule..