India Predicted as BEV Growth Hub Threatens Global Warming

BEV lobbyists singing the praises of India as the next big growth in electric transportation could be ignoring the bigger risk to climate change.

Analysts from IDTechX predict the nation will turn its attention to BEV solutions in the wake of a dangerous increase in air pollution in man of its biggest cities and especially the seven with the unenviable reputation as having PM2.5 levels rated locking out the world’s ten most polluted cities, including Bhiwandi, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Lucknow, Noida and Patna. Greenpeace claims these levels contribute to 1.2 million deaths yearly.

The analysts point to the fact that “consumer wealth in India has risen sharply with the growth of industry and urbanization over the past two decades, transforming the way the South Asian country moves about. So, the government is turning to electrification to address these issues. It introduced a subsidy for electric rickshaws, scooters and cars in 2015 called FAME II. There are also plans for an EV mandate, which would send a clear message to OEMs to invest in producing electric models”.

These are undoubtedly excellent reasons for a possible boom in the uptake of BEVs to help alleviate urban air quality issues. However, as we have pointed out before, BEVs are not the ‘greenest’ solution in most countries in the world.

Where BEVs are taking electricity generated by heavy CO2 emitting industries, the whole climate credentials of the technology begins to crumble. BP’s own study of global fossil fuel use indicates that some countries, including Poland as the thorn-in-the-flesh of Europe’s ecological ambitions, are increasing reliance on coal to generate electricity – and India is topping that list.

One lesson to draw from the latest shut-down of schools and massive restrictions on traffic during the life threatening smogs affecting New Delhi, is that much of the pollution doesn’t come from the city itself but from farmers who can’t afford mechanization and have to clear their fields for new crops by burning off the old stubble.

So, cities near the expanding coal burning furnaces that India is investing in to meet the burgeoning demand for electricity, only to be increased with the greater uptake of BEV technology, are just as likely to suffer killer smog even when everyone is running around in vehicles that will still emit nearly 60% of a traditional vehicle’s pollution despite having no emissions from the tailpipe.

Transportation has a role to play in cleaning up its act but it can’t do this in isolation. We’ve seen this in the UK where a rush away from “polluting” diesels has witnessed a spike in the country’s CO2 emissions as consumers turn to gasoline motors producing more than twice the climate warming gas as a diesel. Tackling global warming, assuming we can do anything to slow it down, will take cooperation across all industries and tough choices that may have to embrace less growth and smaller profits – not a happy thought for the business community.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_



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