With energy consumption being the buzzword in developing economies around the world, fears of an energy crisis looming ahead are not totally unfounded. The non-renewable nature of fossil fuels makes complete dependence on these for future energy needs a very dicey affair. Renewable energy sources are the best bet in the scenario. And what can be a better renewable resource than the sun?
In a country like India, if the abundant amount of sunlight available is harnessed properly it could mean an end to the energy crisis. It is the most abundant source of energy. The average global solar radiation is around 5 kilowatt hours (KWH) per square meter per day with the sunshine hours ranging between 2300-4300 per year. India is in the sunny belt of the world. The country receives solar energy equivalent to more than 5000 trillion KWH per year, which is far more than its total annual energy consumption.
Besides, it is a renewable and clean energy source. Taking both environmental and economic cost, solar energy works cheaper than fossil fuel resources. Once we master techniques to harness solar energy, it can be a vital source of power on all planets. Solar energy could be a viable source of power generation for the next 1000 crore years. There are many technologies available for conversion of solar energy into solar power. For instance, solar photovoltaic (SPV) technology, photo galvanic cells, solar steam generators (solar concentrating power), solar tower or solar chimney, radio micrometers and thermopile are some of them.
Imagining a future where clean air is no longer a dream and our cities are not smog filled concrete jungles, could well become a reality in the coming years if the world begins to increasingly adopt the use of cleaner options like alternate-fuel vehicles . The rise in economic activity and the burgeoning population have led to a tremendous demand in the transport sector, especially in urban India. By 2025, India’s urban population is expected to grow five fold to a staggering 200 million while pollution is expected to grow seven times. With this tremendous growth has emerged a very critical issue of keeping air and noise pollution in urban areas under control.
If we can have three lakh electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads by 220 including three wheelers, cars and scooters, we would have reduced pollution by 16 lakh metric tones, saved ? 3700 crores in foreign exchange earnings and substantially reduced healthcare costs. Small electric buses, three wheelers and electric scooters are ideal for city mobility in India but it could take between 5-10 years before they become viable for commercial use.
The electric vehicle uses electric energy which is stored in batteries that feed the electric motor. Driving an electric vehicle is easier and more relaxing than a traditional one because it has no speed-gear and functioning noise. It is enough to turn the key and press the acceleration pedal; you need only two driving pedals- accelerator and brake.
The need to reduce air pollution along with the availability of new advanced clean alternative to internal batteries have allowed EVs to reappear as a combustion vehicles. Electric drive systems are virtually non-polluting and extremely energy efficient. While internal combustion vehicles can convert about 20% of the chemical energy in gasoline into useful work, 75% or more of the energy from a battery has productive power in an electric vehicle.
Electric motors can also provide power at almost any engine speed. While internal combustion engines must be revved up to high rpm to achieve maximum power electric motors provide nearly peak power even at low speeds. this gives electric vehicles strong acceleration performance from a stop.
The emergence of newer batteries has driven the cost and performance EVs. There are several major types of automotive batteries available and under development, from advanced lead acid batteries like those that start our internal combustion engines to lithium polymer bateries. Although recharging could be a consideration, home recharging systems are available giving EVs an added advantage.
Apart from being environment-and -user friendly, there are several other reasons for alternate fuel cars to flourish in India. Firstly, electricity for EVs can be produced from various sources for which India has natural resources and does not need to depend on the import of oil. Although EVs will not replace LPG, CNG or petrol and diesel for intercity use, the infrastructure required for EVs in the form of electricity distribution infrastructure is already available in all our cities and minimum costs are required to install additional capacity.
EVs are zero polluting, easy to handle and have low maintenance costs. EVs will not degrade with time and they are always zero polluting unlike conventional vehicles where the pollution increases with engine degradation, poor maintenance and adulterated fuel.. India also has the maximum market potential for EVs owing to an established auto component infrastructure, low manufacturing and R&D cost, mechanical hardware availability, high urban congestion and the presence of domestic market. The industry could significantly gain from rising exports by 2010, and with appropriate government support, could transform the landscape of urban India by reducing pollution, improving public health, creating employment opportunities and impacting society.
In order to do that, a holistic approach involving the government, public and auto majors is needed to promote EVs in India. Appropriate government policies during the next five years and adequate support from business houses and institutions. for instance, purchasing a fixed percentage of vehicles for their fleets and offering subsidies and tax exemptions, will go a long in promoting the industry in India. Finally, people have to become more informed about these technologies. The media must play its role in educating the public about alternate fuel vehicles and their advantages.