Full throttle for the green drive

teslaStephen Neil Gershom
NSoJ Bureau

It will not be long before we start seeing Tesla’s electric vehicles on Indian roads too. Tesla had started accepting bookings for its latest car, the Model 3, from across the world, and reports say that there have been a few bookings from India too, their identities though were kept confidential. Bookings began in April this year and deliveries will start in 2017.

Electric Vehicles have had a rough past around the world, especially in India, and no solution was in sight to ease their plight, until recently. US-based car manufacturer Tesla has come to the rescue of the entire electric vehicles (EV) industry and it has completely changed the image of an EV. Tesla’s cars are built beautifully, have a very realistic range on a single charge, they have all the creature comforts you’d want, and good lord! are they powerful or what! Electric cars were very often criticised of being slow and boring to drive, but that changed too. Three of Tesla’s cars are among the top 20 accelerating cars in the world, going against Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and the lot of high performance, gasoline-drinking, fire-spitting supercars.

The Tesla Model S P100D with Ludicrous Upgrade is now officially the world’s fastest accelerating sedan and third fastest accelerating car after the Porsche 918 Spyder and the Ferrari LaFerrari. Before Tesla came along, nobody had ever imagined electric cars to be that fast, but times are changing, and Tesla is now leading the charge that electric vehicles have mounted. Tesla took the electric vehicles cause a step forward earlier this year when it made its patents available to other manufacturers, free of cost! Tesla also provided support to its customers by installing fast-charging points called, ‘Superchargers’ at locations all across America.

The Indian Automobile Industry is one of the largest in the world and almost every major automobile manufacturer wants to set up shop in the sub-continent. Today, Mahindra Electric dominates the electric car segment in India with mass production of the e2o and the e-Verito along with an ongoing development of an electric van named e-Supro. Mahindra has also taken it upon itself to provide its customers with charging points across the country, which at this point in time is limited only to metropolitan cities.

Tesla uses special Lithium-Ion Battery packs in its cars combined with the most efficient electric propulsion systems in existence. Tesla is betting big time on its battery technology, so much so, that they have invested billions on a huge factory in Nevada, USA, named ‘Gigafactory’. Once fully operational, Tesla claims it will be able to make enough batteries to build 500,000 cars a year by the end of the decade. The battery technology used by Tesla allows it to have the highest range and power compared to any other electric vehicle in the world, but also the most expensive. By using the Gigafactory, Tesla would use economies of scale to bring the cost of manufacturing down which would reduce the selling price of its cars.

Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk recently said, “We have quite a good understanding of all the battery technologies in the world. Right now, we track about 60 different efforts around the world to develop improved batteries and some of them hold some long-term promise. We rate all of them from one to five, where five is we should be doing business with them and one is complete BS.” He went on to say there were no four or fives yet, but there were some threes, based on that rating system.

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Elon Musk at the Gigafactory and in July, 2016, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari visited the facility and met top officials of the company.

Mr. Gadkari invited Tesla to set up a manufacturing plant in India and promised to provide land for the plant near any of the major ports of the country which would help Tesla with exports. He also hinted at the possibility of a Joint venture with an Indian manufacturer.

Tesla officials welcomed the invite and said it would be considered at the right time in the future, as they are indeed looking forward to set up a manufacturing hub in Asia to widen their market.

Dr. Ashish Verma, Asst. Professor of Transport Engineering at IISc and President of Transportation Research Group of India(TRG) said, “The Major Challenge for Tesla would be to keep prices low, which are pretty high right now and do not appeal to Indian buyers’ mindset. It is feasible if they can set up a manufacturing plant here and export the cars. It will be a major plus point for them as they can manufacture at a cheaper cost in India”

Dr. Verma further said, “Tesla should sell complete mobility systems, not just cars. If they include charging points and adequate customer support, they can be really successful in India.” It is not Tesla alone which has to deal with setting up infrastructure. Mr. Verma went on to say, “There Government has strong intentions to provide charging stations across the country.”

Assuming that all electric cars are green, just because there are zero tailpipe emissions, is a common mistake made by most people. There is a bigger picture to this story, it is simple really – If the source of the electricity used, is a coal-powered plant, EV’s will still be polluting the environment indirectly, but if the electricity is derived from solar panels or windmills, you have saved the earth!

“The general public needs to be educated that the EVs are only as green as the source of electricity. As long as our electricity is derived through coal-powered plants, the green quotient is questionable. but as soon as the source is changed, it will be the biggest boon to the environment.” Dr. Ashish Verma was quick to point out.

The launch of Tesla in India will result in cost savings for the company and is good for the economy of the country, since exports will grow, but it is only beneficial to the environment when most of India switches to sustainable electricity sources in the longer run.

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