In 2015-16, of the amount of Rs 70 crore spent on incentives -- Rs 40 crore, or 57 per cent -- was spent on diesel mild hybrids.
Said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, CSE: “These mild hybrids are a marginal improvement over conventional diesel models, and are much cheaper than electric vehicles. The main purpose of scaling up strong hybrid and electric vehicles for the big transition towards clean and zero emissions has not taken off.”
“Worse, this programme has not worked for public transport at all. No incentives have been given to either electric buses or three-wheelers,” she added.
This directly contradicts the policy vision of the Union power minister Piyush Goyal -- to have 100 per cent electric vehicle sales by 2030; or the target set by the National Electric Mobility Mission to have six-seven million electric vehicles by 2020. Even though this segment of electric and hybrid vehicles is still a low volume one – with only 1.3 per cent market penetration -- it is an important step needed in the longer run to clean up the air, reduce climate impacts and secure energy. Globally, even though penetration is still about 3 per cent, strategies are being defined for much quicker transition.
“This demands immediate course correction as tax payers’ money used for incentives for electric mobility, is only bringing mild hybrids that are only 7-15 per cent more fuel-efficient than comparable conventional diesel models. This forgoes the benefits of improving fuel efficiency that can be as high as 32 per cent in the case of plug-in-hybrid cars and 68 per cent for fully electric models,” said Roychowdhury.
As much as 60 per cent of the incentives have gone to support minimal improvements, point out CSE researchers. Instead of tying this up as incentive to promote mild diesel hybrids, the same amount could have been spent on infrastructure for electric vehicles and strong hybrids to improve the effectiveness of the overall programme. The skew in sales of mild diesel hybrids is more pronounced in Delhi where Supreme Court directives to first ban and then impose 1 per cent pollution cess on big diesel cars has slumped the sales of conventional diesel vehicles.
It may be noted that the notification from the Ministry of Heavy Industry defines mild hybrids as ‘those that have minimal application of electric energy and use regenerative braking power only to assist the motor to start from the stationary position’. These vehicles cannot run on electric power. A strong hybrid vehicle has a provision for off-vehicle charging and a rechargeable energy storage system. A strong hybrid with an electric drive train allows more significant fuel and emissions saving.
Fully battery-operated electric vehicles are powered exclusively by an electric motor whose traction energy is supplied exclusively by a battery in the vehicle which has a ‘electric regenerative braking system’. These have zero tailpipe emissions. Pollution-challenged cities in a climate-constrained world can benefit from quicker transition to electro-mobility. But the roadmap is currently very fuzzy, say CSE researchers.