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High on energy

Using alternative fuel for cars is the need of the hour. But are we ready?

autos Updated: Sep 09, 2010 02:43 IST
Debjeet Kundu

An electric what?” was the general reaction of people even half a decade ago if you spoke about a car that ran on a battery, and nothing else. But in circa 2010, with depleting sources and rising prices of petrol, it’s no more a science fiction. Add to that the fact that diesel and petrol vehicles are one of the prime factors behind global warming, going in for a car that runs on electricity, natural gas or even sun light is not only a reality, but the need of the hour.

Think tank
With over 40 alternative fuel cars and concept cars being shown at the recently held Frankfurt Motor Show, the future looks greener. But what is India thinking? “As a country we will be one of the strongest in the next 10 years. And one of the biggest factor driving that will be our energy security,” says Chetan Maini, maker of India’s first electric car, Reva, pointing out that by the present rate our country will end up importing “80 per cent of oil” by 2020. “As a nation, or an individual, alternative fuel is the need,” adds Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director, Marketing, Toyota.

And it’s not only the auto giants who are pondering over the fact, young individuals too are concerned. “When I opted for an electric car more than a year ago, my dad thought I wanted to make a style statement,” says 29-year-old entrepreneur Bharat Garg, one of the few owners of a Reva in the city. “But now, seeing the benefits, he’s waiting for bigger versions.”

Roadblocks
While cars like Toyota Prius Hybrid, Honda Civic Hybrid and Reva — among others — have generated considerable interest, and awareness, among people, lack of infrastructure is what everyone’s ruing about. “I can buy a hybrid or electric version, but where will I tank it up?” questions Namita Sengupta, a HR manager. “Moreover, the price is too steep at the moment,” adds bank executive Shubho Dasgupta. Car makers, too, echo a similar sentiment. “LPG-CNG is coming up, but even then it is not sufficient,” says Singh. “Only when the government backs the movement with proper infrastructure, people will be more inclined to go for alternative fuel,” points Debasis Ray, head, Corporate Communications, Tata Motors.

While the infrastructure is an issue, the mindset is a question too. “People are yet to be conscious about environment,” says Maini. But Delhiites understand money. And that their monthly fuel expense can come down by half, may just make them ‘environment friendly’ too.

Cool on the road
Toyota:
The Toyota Prius Hybrid (above) was showcased at the Auto Expo this year and is ready to take on the roads.
Hyundai: The popular i10 will reportedly have an electric version.
Chevrolet: The Chevrolet Spark will also have an e-version.
Tata: Under development in Norway, Tata is planning to launch its Electronic Vista in India.
Maruti: With Maruti coming with a CNG version, the infrastructure in expected to develop.
Reva: Reva is coming up with their NXR and NXG soon. They will be four-seater cars.

What do they mean?
Hybrid: A hybrid vehicle uses multiple propulsion systems. The most common type of hybrid vehicle is the gasoline-electric, which use gasoline (petrol) and electric batteries for the energy used.

Compressed Natural Gas: CNG is a high pressure compressed natural gas, mainly composed of methane, that is used to fuel normal combustion engines instead of gasoline.

Battery Electric: Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), also known as All Electric Vehicles (AEVs), are electric vehicles whose
main energy storage is in the chemical energy of batteries.

Liquified Petroleum Gas: LPG is a low pressure liquified gas mixture composed mainly of propane and butane which burns in conventional gasoline combustion engines with less CO2 than gasoline.

Solar Power: These are cars running on electricity being produced from sun light, that is stored in the panels
fitted above the car. These aid the running of electric cars.