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EVs may be only marginally cleaner than Petrol Engines, in India!

Considering India's reliance on coal, electric vehicles could at best be 10% more efficient than petrol in terms of CO2 savings.

There has been a lot of interest generated and discussions being held, across various states of India, on their EV policy, as India moves forward to reduce its Carbon footprint.

The Delhi Government, for example, had announced its plans to install 500 electric charging points at 100 locations by the year-end, as a part of its phase 1 plan for EVs in Delhi. There would also be heavy incentives and other concessions for those buying EVs. The Delhi Government had declared its mission to have EVs contributing to a fourth of all vehicle registrations by 2024.

The Central Government too had announced tax rebates up to Rs.1.5 Lakh interest on EVs, under Section 80EEB of the IT act.

All these steps, motivate buyers to make the transition to EVs; and hence reduce the Carbon Di-Oxide pollution levels.

But all this may, while increasing the share of EVs in the Vehicle Mix, not achieve the stated objective of reducing Carbon Di Oxide pollutions to the desired goals set.

This is due to the energy mix of power generation across the country.

India’s energy grid is heavily dependant on thermal energy, for meeting its power requirements.

If the source from which energy is generated is dependant on non-renewable sources like coal, and these are then used to charge the EVs, the objective of reducing Carbon Di Oxide pollution is only partially met.

In many countries, which rely on non-renewable sources, the EVs have been measured, on a net basis, to be only a little less polluting than the ICE vehicles.

This is explained in the Energy Product mix across the US and then a particular example of West Virginia state.

In the US, 40 percent of energy is generated from natural gas and 20 percent from coal. The Annual emissions from an EV car have been measured to be equivalent to 3,774 pounds of carbon dioxide, while an ICE vehicle emits 11,435 pounds of carbon dioxide-equivalent.

In West Virginia, the energy mix is heavily dependent on coal, 88 percent. It has been measured that, in West Virginia, the annual emissions from electric vehicles are 2.5 times higher at 8,945 pounds.

Also, the Carbon Emission for manufacturing an Electric Vehicle is much higher than that for manufacturing an ICE vehicle. And in the end, the difference in Carbon Emissions between EV and ICE vehicles has been found to be around 16% only.

However, the findings by the European Federation for Transport and Environment have been found to be more in favor of transitioning to EVs.

It was measured that there is a 63% saving of CO2 for EVs.

The findings were based on an EV car, with a battery efficiency of 17.5kWh for every 100 km, with a Chinese battery versus a mid-sized ICE car driven with an average of 13.3/liter for 15000 km annually.

Over its lifetime of 15 years, the EV would emit 22.4 T of CO2 while an ICE vehicle would have emitted 57 T of CO2.

However, like in the US, the findings varied widely across European nations, based on their Energy Source mix. Poland, with 72% energy contribution thru Coal, saved just 29% of CO2 while Sweden, which relies almost entirely on renewable sources, saved 79% of CO2.

In India, coal or thermal energy contributes over 75% to the energy mix and natural gas 4%.

By extrapolating the data, as per the European study, the saving of CO2 in India has been measured to be only 7%.

And if the fuel efficiency of the ICE vehicle, in India, is improved from 13.3 km/l to 19 km/l, the petrol car would be 23% more efficient than the EV.

However, it must be said that there has been an increase in the efficiency of EVs too.

The Tata Nexon EV, in India, has a range of 312 km for a 30.2 kWh battery ie 10.4kwh for a 100 km range.

However, there has been a drastic improvement in the efficiency of electric cars as well.

Consider the other reality too. In India, the transmission and distribution losses are calculated as 18.5%, now if we add a 20% reduction in range (considering EV runs 250 km on a single charge), the CO2 emissions come to 163 g, only 10% more efficient than the ICE vehicle. And this would come down further if the lower operating efficiency of Indian plants is also factored in.

Like in Europe and the US, in India too the Energy Mix across the states is very diverse.

Delhi could save 13% on CO2 emissions while the neighboring Haryana could see only 4% saving. In UP, the ICE vehicle and EV would generate the same amount of CO2.

And in states like Chattisgarh/Jharkhand/West Bengal, where the dependence on Coal-Based thermal plants is more than 85%, the ICE vehicle could be 6% more efficient than the EV.

A contrasting figure could be seen in the North-East and the South while the North/East n West regions could have the ICE vehicles being much more efficient than the EVs.

The whole scenario could change totally, in favor of 67% savings by the EVs, if the Electric Charging Points are powered by Solar Energy.

So, if the EV transition has to happen; and rapidly, the energy mix across the country would need to move towards solar and other renewable sources of energy.


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