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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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U.S. Proposes Price Tag For CO2 Emissions From Cars

Some states can put programs in place with agency regulations. Others will have to go through their state legislatures.

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Exhaust comes from the tailpipe of a vehicle, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 3, 2019. VOA

Drivers on the U.S. East Coast may soon start paying for their climate pollution.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have announced plans to introduce a system that puts a price on the carbon dioxide produced from burning gasoline and diesel fuel.

As the federal government pulls back from taking action on climate change, the proposal is an example of how states and cities are aiming to move forward.

Details are slim at this point, but the Transportation and Climate Initiative would likely require fuel suppliers to pay for each ton of carbon dioxide that burning their products would produce. Costs would presumably be passed on to consumers.

The announcement says revenues would go toward improving transportation infrastructure and low-emissions alternatives to cars, trucks and buses.

The program could raise $1.5 billion to $6 billion per year, by one estimate.

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Car emission, Wikimedia

“You can imagine, that could do a lot to modernize transportation infrastructure, improve mass transit, build out electric transportation options,” said Fatima Ahmad at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, based in Washington, D.C.

Reducing traffic congestion, “which is legendary in this area,” is a priority for the region’s lawmakers, she added. Those investments could create an estimated 91,000 to 125,000 new jobs.

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While electric utilities have cut production of carbon dioxide by switching from coal to natural gas and renewables, emissions from the transportation sector have been growing since 2012.

Following California

California is the only state so far that has put a price on carbon emissions from transportation fuels. The state included gas and diesel in its cap-and-trade program beginning in 2015. That program also regulates greenhouse gases from power plants and industries.

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Morning rush hour traffic makes its way along US 101 near downtown Los Angeles, California, Nov. 15, 2016. VOA

For transportation fuels, wholesalers buy the permits and pass on the cost. At the current price of about $15 per ton, the program adds about 13 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas.

The additional cost is less than the differences in pump price among gas stations in the same city, noted communications director Stanley Young at the California Air Resources Board, which administers the program.

“When you consider the few cents that the cap and trade program adds on to [the cost at the pump], it kind-of pales,” he said.

The state has raised more than $9 billion from permit sales since the program began in 2012.

Funds have paid for renewable energy and efficiency upgrades, mass transit, low-emissions vehicles, land preservation and other investments.

To help ease the burden on low-income consumers, a third of the funds are targeted to disadvantaged communities.

However, California’s program has not stopped vehicle CO2 emissions from rising. After a period of decline from 2007 to 2013, greenhouse gases from vehicles have increased every year since then.

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Car emissions contribute to global climate change. Pixabay

The state is studying the impact of car sharing and autonomous vehicles on reducing emissions. Young said officials are also looking into land use planning, so people live closer to work or transit.

“We invented sprawl,” he said, “and now we’re trying to deal with it.”

Hard to change

Transportation is one of the hardest sources of greenhouse gases to tackle, experts say.

Unlike the next biggest source of carbon pollution, power plants, transportation emissions come from millions of individual vehicles, and the choices their owners and drivers make have a big impact on how much carbon dioxide they produce.

There are essentially three ways to reduce their emissions, according to David Bookbinder at the Niskanen Center, a centrist research institution: make vehicles more efficient, reduce the amount of CO2 produced per unit of energy, or raise the price of fuel.

“It’s never popular to raise the price [of fuel],” Bookbinder said. Even so, “you have to really, really, really raise the price of gasoline before it has an impact on people’s use.”

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Car exhaust billows around commuter traffic in winter weather in Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 1, 2013. VOA

France’s “yellow vest” protests are one extreme reaction to raising fuel prices. They sparked the biggest outrage where driving is least avoidable: outside city centers and in areas lacking good public transit. And they demonstrate another risk: policies that make gas more expensive can have the biggest impact on the people who can least afford it.

One way to reduce the impact is by returning to consumers the money raised by pricing carbon. That’s the preferred approach in a proposal by a group of Republican elder statesmen. Investing in affordable public transit is another, Bookbinder says.

 

The members of the Transportation and Climate Initiative — Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. — will spend a year designing their individual programs.

Some states can put programs in place with agency regulations. Others will have to go through their state legislatures. That will test voters’ appetites to pay for their climate pollution. (VOA)