Driving into a Clean Future – A Challange

India is making a big push for electric vehicles. Industry veteran C.V. Govinda Raju delves deep into various aspects of e-mobility while taking a look at the comparison of the running cost of petrol and EVs.

Gasoline cars & Electrical Cars

There is an ongoing debate among car lovers over which cars have a brighter future – electric or gasoline cars? Petrol and gasoline are different names for the same fuel at different places which goes in combustion engines. Term ‘Petrol’ is used mostly in the UK and countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc whereas the term ‘Gasoline’ is used in United States and Canada. Gasoline cars use the combustion of this fuel combined with air to spin the drive wheels. An electric car is powered by an electric motor instead of a gasoline engine. The electric car (also known as electric vehicle or EV) uses energy stored in its rechargeable batteries, which are recharged by common household electricity. Gasoline cars are well known for its emissions of CO2 with alarming raise in air pollution levels. The use of Electric Vehicles (EVs) will contribute for better air quality, reduced noise pollution, enhanced energy security as well as low carbon power generation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Hybrid cars

A hybrid vehicle is a vehicle that uses two or more distinct power sources to run. Ordinarily, the vehicle which we use daily derives the power from only one source i.e. an IC engine which runs on petrol or diesel.

But, in case of a hybrid vehicle, in addition to the IC engine, there is an electric generator coupled to the IC engine which can charge a battery and is also capable of supplying power to run the vehicle. Hence, such vehicles are called ‘Hybrid vehicles’ (See the Schematic diagram). An internal combustion engine used in a hybrid vehicle may either run on petrol or diesel fuel.

The main advantage of a hybrid vehicle is that it consumes less fuel and emit less CO2 when compared to a conventional petrol or diesel-engine vehicle.

Electric Vehicles (EVs)

Unlike a hybrid car—which is fuelled by gasoline and uses a battery and motor to improve efficiency—an electric car (EV) is powered exclusively by electricity. They consume no petroleum-based fuel and hence produce no tailpipe emissions. Unlike a hybrid car, a pure electric vehicle (EV) will always need to be plugged into the mains supply to recharge the battery pack.

The illustration above, shows the relative features of electric cars and gas-powered cars

Costs and benefits of electric cars vs conventional gasoline vehicles

Regardless of the type of vehicle you are looking to purchase, there are several costs associated with car ownership. Choosing an EV over a conventional, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle can result in significant long-term savings. If you are considering purchasing a new car and are also looking at an electric vehicle as a serious option, it is important to understand where your costs will come from, and how an electric vehicle can lead to different sources of spending and saving when compared to conventional ICEs.

Let us now look at a comparison of the running cost of petrol and electric vehicles to see which mode of transport is more efficient in this era of rising petrol prices.

Pros of electric cars (EV)

Electric vehicles (EV) offer many benefits, including high energy efficiency, reduced emissions, and strong performance. Energy efficiency refers to the amount of energy from the fuel source that is converted into actual energy for powering the wheels of a vehicle. EVs are far more efficient than conventional gasoline vehicles:

When we talk of efficiency, in the case of EVs, almost 60 per cent of charged battery energy is converted into vehicle movement whereas in the case of a gasoline engine it is around 18 to 20 per cent

Electric cars produce no tailpipe emissions which are a major source of pollution, reduce dependency on oil, and are cheaper to operate. Of course, the process of producing the electricity moves the emissions further upstream to the utility company’s smokestack—but the electricity used in electric cars reduces collective carbon footprint. Electric motors develop their highest torque from zero rpm—meaning fast and silent.

Running cost of an EV per kilometre is around 78 paisa whereas that of gasoline is around Rs 5.20. i.e the running cost of a petrol car is almost six times costlier than an EV. This results in reducing the import of oil, whose cost is escalating day by day.

Electric cars are high performance and low maintenance than internal combustion engines.

Cons of Electric Cars (EV)

Initial cost of an Electric Car (EV) is almost two times the cost of the gasoline car. However, this cost comparison may vary from model to model. Electric cars on an average have a shorter range per charge of battery when compared to gasoline cars with fully filled tank.

Electric cars take longer time to refuel. Fully recharging the battery pack with a level 1 or level 2 charger can take up to 8 hours. Even fast charging stations take about 30 minutes to charge 80 per cent capacity of the battery. Against this gasoline cars take about 2 to 3 minutes to fill the tank.

The battery packs within an electric car are expensive and may need to be replaced more than once over the lifetime of the car. Electric vehicles are also more expensive than gas-powered cars. However, the fuel cost savings, tax credits, and state or government incentives can help to offset this cost overall.

Lack of enough battery charging stations en route could be a hurdle for long distance driving.

Consider all the pros and cons of electric cars while making a purchase.

Electric cars are great for drivers who want to reduce emissions, reduce fuel costs, and drive nice vehicles. However, battery charging can take a long time which may not fit driving needs. The upfront costs of EVs are high. It is ultimately up to the driver to decide if this kind of vehicle is the right fit. By integrating solar panel systems into the vehicle charging, reduces further emissions.

Carbon emissions. from transport are a big contributor to global warming. The Governments should consider tax breaks as a key way to promote EVs in order to tackle climate change and air pollution.

Solar Powered Battery Charging Station

Battery Technology

The most critical and expensive component of an electric vehicle is its battery. Currently, all EVs use Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). It is the limitation of LIBs that will hold up the wide spread usage of EVs. Raw materials required to produce LIBs are in short supply. The battery used in a typical EV is a massive block of 500 kgs, consisting of hundreds of Lithium-Ion cells which use metals like Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel and Manganese. Lithium contributes to the flow of electrons thus helping charging, while Cobalt prevents battery overheating. The biggest problem is that the world does not have enough reserves of Lithium and Cobalt to promote EVs in a bigger way. 65 per cent of Lithium reserves are in Bolivia and Chile while 60 per cent of reserves are in Congo. Short supply of these materials has boosted up their price, since the battery itself accounts for about 50 per cent cost of the EVs and 70 per cent cost of 2-wheelers.

It is learnt that China has already ensured supply of Cobalt and Lithium by purchasing mines in Congo, Bolivia, Chile and Australia and with this they will global markets for battery as well as EV cars.

India is seriously looking for EVs as the future of mobility. But this will happen when an inexpensive battery is available in the market or government provides high subsidies for them. With the introduction of EVs, it will eliminate the need for auto parts like multiple speed transmission system, gear box, clutch etc. When compared to petrol / Diesel vehicles, EVs have negligible moving parts thus, hitting the existing auto industry. New skill for maintenance of EVs and its electronic controls need to be developed.  The country needs to put in place a framework for a mega battery manufacturing and charging infrastructure. This will include developing existing petrol pumps for providing ample electrical charging points. The government should encourage installing solar-powered EV charging stations and provide the necessary incentives for creation of this infrastructure. This will help in the long run.

It will be wise to begin introduction of EVs in thickly populated cities having a heavy population of petrol or diesel vehicles to implement the required emission standards.

National Clean Air Mission

The Government of India has launched the National Clean Air Mission, a five-year action plan, to curb air pollution and heighten citizen awareness. Under this mission, many states, notably, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, AP, Kerala have launched programmes for EVs targeting two and three wheelers as well as electrically powered buses as public transport. The government think tank, NITI Aayog needs to look into these challenges in depth in order to facilitate faster introduction of EVs in the country.