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Are electric vehicles solution to pollution problem?

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By Moushumi Mohanty

The time for electric vehicles, or EVs, may not yet be ripe for India, but the idea of non-polluting passenger cars are surely and certainly maturing – and must be welcomed.

World Health Organization figures show that India has 13 of the planet’s 20 most polluted cities, with New Delhi ranked as the most polluted of all. And with pollution levels scaling new heights in December, the local government was forced to announce a slew of measures to combat the menace.

Attention, however, most focused on the measure that restricted vehicle movement, with odd and even numbered cars allowed on the city’s roads on alternate days. The pilot scheme, which ended on January 15, saw nearly 2.7 million vehicles going off the roads every day, according to Mint business daily citing vehicle registration data available with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

Last year, the National Green Tribunal, which has the powers of a civil court, ordered the Delhi government to ban the entry of diesel vehicles older than 10 years in New Delhi. The odd/even scheme was proposed by the state government after the court sought an action plan to control pollution. The state government also has plans to scrap commercial vehicles that are over 15 years old.

In addition, the Supreme Court banned registrations of new diesel cars in the capital till April 1, 2016, effectively preventing the sale of a car and sports utility vehicle (SUV) inventory worth Rs. 10 billion. The ban has been a major blow to companies such as Mahindra & Mahindra, Toyota, Tata Motors, Ford, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.

With the diesel’s popularity on the wane, automakers such as Toyota are mulling re-introducing petrol variants of the popular Innova. Petrol, however, is now being seen as the lesser evil among fuels, and that may well push popular imagination towards electric vehicles.

As the idea of alternative propulsion takes shape, the government is fast working on developing a sustainable eco-system for EVs as well as hybrids (together known as HEVs).

On the one hand, it is clamping down on traditional-fuel propelled vehicles, while on the other, it is promoting adoption of such vehicles with tools such as the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) India program.

Launched on April 1, last year, FAME hopes to have six million electric vehicles on the road by 2020 and offers a subsidy of Rs. 29,000 for two-wheeler and Rs. 138,000 for cars.

The incentives drove sales of EVs, including two-wheeler, up by three times to 21,000 units in the April-December 2015 period compared to between 7,000 and 8,000 units during the same period in 2014.

Incentives have always played a crucial role in enhancing the Indian EV market. In 2010-2012, when the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had implemented an Alternate Fuels for Surface Transportation Program, EV sales in India had reached a range of 85,000-100,000 units.

The percentage of electric cars in these figures are however very small. Mahindra & Mahindra produces the only electric car available in the country, the e2o. IHS Automotive expects e2o sales of only 243 units in 2016 and 1,056 in 2020 in India.

Apart from incentivizing the demand side of electric vehicles, the government is also pushing for the development of indigenous batteries to make the EV program viable. For this purpose, the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) has tied up with the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) to develop battery technology for use in HEVs, leveraging technology used in batteries for space vehicles.

On laboratory testing of the batteries used in space, the research team discovered that the same batteries are suitable for automotive use as well.

The ARAI now plans to test the batteries in an automotive environment and release a prototype in a year’s time. Not only the battery, ARAI will also develop the battery management system (BMS) and thermal management for the battery to make it safe for use in HEVs.

With these moves, ARAI expects to kick-start a ‘Made in India’ battery program that could lower costs when the batteries are mass-produced. Batteries used in powering hybrids and EVs are still expensive, thus prohibiting larger adoption of such vehicles. India, being a price sensitive market, has been slow in adopting such vehicles, mainly due to range issues and lack of infrastructure.

It’s not only the central government and related agencies that are making definite moves towards EVs. Following pollution concerns hitting headlines every day, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are considering waiving taxes on electric vehicles.

Multiple pockets of promotional moves favoring EVs around the country may just add up to achieve what was believed to be unachievable even a few months ago in India – dramatically enhancing adoption of EVs on Indian roads in the mid-to long-term, if not the short-term. Especially so after Delhi’s citizens gave the odd/even scheme the thumbs up and showed that concern over vehicular pollution is real and widespread. (IANS)

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Question Mark over Airtel Delhi Half Marathon amidst Rising Pollution Levels; Will the Event Shift to a New Window?

The Indian Medical Association had called for cancellation of the event a few days ago

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Airtel Delhi Half Marathon
Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) is an annual half marathon foot-race held in New Delhi, India (representative image) Pixabay

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : The alarming levels of pollution in the national capital has forced the organisers of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon to consider shifting the event to a new window.

“There is a possibility to shift this event to a new window… we may organize the event earlier or later. We have the option of the alternative window. We will discuss with our stakeholders and see which will the best window for the event,” said Vivek Singh, Joint Managing Director of the Procam International, the organizers of the event, here on Thursday.

A few days ago, Airtel, who have been one of the prime sponsors of the event for the last nine years, also threatened to pull out of the annual event citing pollution levels in the city but however, came out in support of the organizers on Thursday.

“As always, we will continue to support the event. It is great to see the fantastic response to the call for registration for Airtel Delhi Half Marathon,” said Ravi Negi, CEO of Bharti Airtel, Delhi NCR.

Singh also asserted the foreign athletes have gone back satisfied with the conditions in previous editions of the event.

“All foreign participants are aware of the situation and will participate. Last year, Rio Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge won the event in almost similar conditions and returned without complains,” he said.

“You cannot cancel an international event so easily. Athletes are preparing since last many months and there is no question of cancelling the event.”

The Indian Medical Association had called for cancellation of the event a few days ago but Singh said the event will go on as planned.

“They have issued a warning and they are right. It is a concern but we still have 10 days to go and air quality might improve,” he said.

“To reduce the pollutants, roads will be sprayed and treated with salt water and all vehicles will be off roads 12 hours prior to the event, and hopefully improved air conditions will bring better running experience for the participants.” (IANS)

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Delhi Smog: Odd-Even Car Rule May Return; Consider Cloud Seeding to curb Pollution : HC

The court said that though stubble-burning was the "visible villain", authorities should address the "other elephants in the room" such as dust generated by road and construction activity as well as vehicular and industrial pollution.

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Issuing a slew of direction as immediate measures to control pollution in Delhi-NCR, the court banned felling of trees, ordered sprinkling of water on roads to control dust. Pixabay

New Delhi, November 9, 2017 : The Delhi High Court on Thursday said there was an “emergency situation” vis-a-vis pollution in Delhi-NCR region and asked the Delhi government to consider vehicular odd-even scheme and cloud seeding to induce artificial rain.

The court also asked the Centre to hold meetings with Delhi and National Capital Region authorities to bring in short-term measures to control pollution immediately and to submit a report to it on November 16, the next date of hearing.

Issuing a slew of direction as immediate measures to control pollution in Delhi-NCR, the court banned felling of trees, ordered sprinkling of water on roads to control dust and strict enforcement of construction code to ensure that the air was not polluted.

A Division Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva also directed the Chief Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Control to call an emergency meeting with his counterparts in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and pollution control agencies within three days to discuss ways to curb pollution.

The bench said the Chief Secretaries will also consider the feasibility of cloud seeding to bring down air pollution. This, the bench said, was not a very expensive process and Bengaluru had adopted it.

The court asked the Delhi government to consider bringing back the odd-even scheme — under which vehicles of odd and even registration numbers, with exceptions, ply on roads on designated days — to control traffic congestion and unclog the capital.

But the court questioned the government move to increase parking rates by four times.

“If somebody has to go to a hospital or buy important items, he ends up paying four times more for the parking,” the bench said.

The court said that though stubble-burning was the “visible villain”, authorities should address the “other elephants in the room” such as dust generated by road and construction activity as well as vehicular and industrial pollution.

“London has faced this kind of air pollution. They term it as pea soup fog, which is a killer fog. This is a deadly mixture of construction and vehicular dust and other factors,” the bench said.

The court also directed the Delhi government to conduct a survey of all hospitals in the national capital on availability of oxygen to deal with emergency situations with regard to vulnerability of children and senior citizens.

It told the Delhi government to strictly regulate the entry of trucks into the city.

The court was hearing a suo motu case it initiated in 2015 to control air pollution in the national capital. (IANS)

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Was the Ban on Sale of Firecrackers in Delhi Successful? Data on Pollution Levels in Delhi Say Otherwise

Despite the much talked about cracker-ban, pollution monitoring stations placed the capital in the ‘red zone’, indicating ‘very poor’ air quality.

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While the ban on crackers imposed by the Supreme Court aimed to reduce pollution levels in Delhi, figures from pollution monitoring system paint an unhealthy picture with amplified levels of air pollution. (Representative image) Pixabay

New Delhi, October 20, 2017: The Supreme Court had on October 9 banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi during Diwali in order to counter the pollution, deteriorating air quality and smog-like conditions that have come to be associated with the festival in recent times.

While a radical change was not expected following the ban on firecrackers, a humble and promising beginning could be witnessed on Diwali with majority areas in Delhi reporting much lesser noise and smoke till 6 PM, compared to previous years.

However, as the festive spirit picked up from 7 PM onwards, the hopes for a pollution-free Diwali got lost behind the growing echo of the crackers.

Pollution Levels on Diwali

Despite the much talked about the ban on firecrackers, pollution monitoring stations placed the capital in the ‘red zone’, indicating ‘very poor’ air quality. According to the stats available, on Diwali day around 7 pm, online indicators showed a rising trend in the volume of cancer-causing ultra-fine particulates PM2.5 and PM10 that are capable of entering the respiratory system and reach the bloodstream.

PM2.5 and PM10 are the extremely fine particulate matter with the digits representing their diameter in micrometers. They are a major component of air pollutants that threaten both, our health and the environment at large.

ALSO READ 10 Quick Facts About Delhi Pollution Problem

However, data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) suggested that the air quality in Delhi on Diwali was better than last year.

On Thursday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) value was 319 which placed the city in the ‘very poor’ category. However, the AQI value on Diwali last year was 431 and the city was placed in the ‘severe’ category.

According to data from SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research), the 24-hour rolling average at around 11 PM was revealed as 154 and 256 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5 and PM10 respectively.

According to SAFAR data, pollution levels were expected to soar between 11 PM and 3 AM.

Pollution Levels in the Morning after Diwali

As the night progressed, PM2.5 levels recorded a sharp rise in multiple areas in and around Delhi, with 15 times increase in areas like India Gate

As per data from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM2.5 levels at 6 AM in,

India Gate – 911 microns (Normal level – 60 microns)

RK Puram – 776 microns (13 times more than usual)

Ashoka Vihar – 820 microns (14 times more than normal)

Anand Vihar – 617 microns (10 times more than normal)

A sharp rise was observed in the PM10 levels in the early hours of the morning after Diwali which suggest hazardous pollution levels in Delhi.

As per data from Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM10 levels at 6 AM in,

India Gate – 985 microns

RK Puram – 1083 (11 times more than usual)

Anand Vihar – 2402 microns (24 times more than normal. Normal level is considered around 100 microns)

While the ban on firecrackers imposed by the Supreme Court aimed to reduce pollution levels in Delhi, figures from pollution monitoring system paint an unhealthy picture with amplified levels of air pollution.

Official figures from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) are yet to be announced today. However, judging from the data available, it won’t be wrong to say that pollution levels in Delhi have increased post-Diwali.