India Approves Hybrid Vehicle Promotion Plan

electricCARlogo
electricCARlogo

The Indian government approved a plan to promote environmentally friendly electric and hybrid vehicles. The packaged cost would amount to Rs 23,000 or or U.S. $4 billion and would run for a period of eight (8) years.

The plan was announced by Mr. Vikram Gulati, a current director at the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Sector Enterprises. He said, “The first meeting of the National Council for Electric Mobility (NCEM) has adopted the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 or the NEMMP 2020. The NEMMP is a vision document that envisages promotion of electric and hybrid vehicles in the country in the next eight years. NEMMP 2020 objectives are meant to be achieved by state help that includes provisions for setting up of manufacturing units, acquisition of technologies, setting up of infrastructure and demand creation.”

The budget of between Rs 20,000 to 23,000 crore has been earmarked for the operationalization of NEMMP 2020 and a major component of this budget would come from private investors and groups.

The document projects the entry of about 70 lakh electric and/or hybrid vehicles such as passenger cars, two and three wheeled vehicles, as well as trucks and other heavy duty transport platforms. The current automobile market in India stands at seventeen million units annually, with electric and hybrid vehicles comprising less than one percent of the total vehicle population. It is projected that the cost savings in lowering fossil fuel demand would be triple the amount invested in the eight year long plan.

Other aspects of the plan include close governmental and industrial collaboration in rolling out projects and the inclusion of the project under the Automotive Mission Plan 2016, which is the national scheme for the expansion of electric mobility throughout India. Plan specifics include the production of six million green vehicles by 2020, with nearly eighty five percent are expected to be two wheeled vehicles.

Gulati related that the ministry would soon be finalizing specific projects under the general NEMMP 2020 plan that would then be forwarded to the government for final approval. He added, “The vision document will now be converted into schemes and will be sent for final government approvals. We expect the process to take a minimum of three to six months.”

Major passenger car manufacturers such as Maruti Suzuki, Tata, Hyundai, General Motors, Toyota Kirloskar and Mahindra are already in deep work to create electric and hybrid technology based transport platforms. Also participating are two wheel vehicle manufacturers such as Hero Moto Corp and TVS Motor, the latter having showcased their hybrid scooter models in the last Delhi Auto Expo held earlier this 2012.

China’s Electric Vehicle Goals Revisited

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chinaFLAG200

In an ambitious green energy policy of business, the Chinese government set the target that its industries would have produced nearly half a million hybrid or all electric vehicles by the end of 2011 and every year thereafter.

2011 is just about to end and this target would not be achieved, according to Chinese government insiders. Despite the launching of several electric vehicle projects throughout China, the current annual production capacity count pegs the numbers at only several thousand green energy vehicles, a far cry from the initial targets.

According to Lin Huaibin, the manager for China vehicle sales forecasts at HIS Automotive says, “It’s pretty trivial at this stage as they hardly sell any.”

There are many current obstacles that need to be hurdled, such as technological issues, technology transfer conflicts with multinational automakers and the Chinese wariness on alternative-technology vehicles.

Despite missing targets, China still has laudable electric car efforts in place. Even Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has been active in this field, calling on the creation of a “road map” for these electric and hybrid technology vehicles. Compared to other countries where private business is spurring the electric vehicle market, China’s efforts are being bankrolled by the state-run electric companies that operate the country’s power grids. These government companies make it their responsibility to provide an alternative to the importation of oil the production of electricity to power the projected electric vehicle market.

One electric car development project is being run by China Southern Power Grid Company and its facility has opened a sales and service center for electric cars in the new industrial city of the area. The center uses the Better Place business model where clients recharge their electric cars and then offer services to swap depleted batteries for newly charged battery arrays. This partnership with Better Place is for the long haul as electric cars are projected to service Guangzhou municipal government fleets as well as taxi services for this sprawling industrial city.

This project has also been a model for the changing of gasoline-fueled power trains with electric motors and swappable batteries of imported Renault Lagunas and Nissan Dualis utility vehicles. There are still ongoing discussions regarding Chinese automakers producing battery-powered vehicles. There are also plans to build recharging stations in big industrial cities such as Shenzhen for its electric bus and car fleets.

Unlike private businesses where electric vehicle owners are given charging equipment for their homes, China wants to hold the monopoly on plug ins and charging facilities and services. These include charging equipment as well as setting of technical standards for the Chinese market.

Despite such developments, the technological issues still remain. These include the car’s range of being less than 200 miles depending furthermore on the used energy in the vehicle. Even with these drawbacks, the Chinese march towards energy efficiency and green quality would continue with the state leading the way.

China Flexes Muscle on EV Imports

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china200

One of the major flagship programs of the Obama administration is the introduction of further electric vehicles in roads to alleviate the pressure on the environment regarding greenhouse gas production. Among its major models is the fully electric General Motors Electric Volt. This vehicle stands as the future of high technological innovation through government and private sector partnership.

Now, General Motors is on the verge of exporting the Volt to the Chinese mainland, but before it can run on the roads of the Middle Kingdom, it is facing a crossroads. The Chinese government is requiring that the company shares with China the car’s technological blueprints.

The Chinese are refusing to allow the Volt to be part of the program to receive governmental subsidies unless the carmaker agrees to transfer engineering technology in return. This would be done through a joint venture with a Chinese automaker.

Many pundits have pointed out that such a requirement would run afoul of current rules of the World Trade Organization. This is the latest in many actions that China has undertaken to leverage its vast markets to gain concessions on technologies from foreign companies. This policy has helped the nation to build industries in high technology areas such as turbine technology, high speed train and water purification. In response, Western companies say that this policy creates an uneven playing field for businesses seeking to be competitive with the domestic industries of China.

These subsidies are important to assist the electric car technology to become popular in China. In 2009, the country became the acclaimed largest car market in the world. With the current policy of reducing greenhouse gases throughout the country, these subsidies would help electric vehicles become more affordable in the region. Currently, domestic electric carmakers, such as the e6 of the carmaker BYD have given the carmaker a boost in the market. If plans push through, the Volt would be the first commercially available electric carmaker to be imported to China by a foreign carmaker.

With current pricing, the Chinese government subsidies can account for about half the Volt’s sticker price of $41,000 - aside from the $7,500 American federal subsidy.

Many European and Japanese carmakers are reticent to enter the Chinese car market despite its allure. Last year alone, 17 million cars were sold in the country and all of them are gasoline powered. The fear is the loss of trade secrets once the joint venture policy is instituted upon their business plans. With billions of dollars in research and technology investment to develop their car technologies, it is not easy to just give them up to be a player in the Chinese market.

Currently, American, as well as European Union officials, have signified their protest to the enforcement for the subsidy for technology issue. Because of the sensitivity of the issue to avoid an all out trading war, many have taken informal channels to keep the policy from being formalized. Time though is of the essence as the Chinese government is about to disseminate a formal policy to Chinese automakers by the end of the month. Overall, this is one aspect of the electric vehicle revolution that is still being fought; the dollars and cents of the business of selling cars.

Portland Takes Step Towards Green Revolution

USAmap
USAmap

An unremarkable structure located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard seems regular to common folk but to those individuals that have been eco-enlightened, it is the future arriving now.

The structure is being engineered by EV4 Oregon. The roof of the twelve-foot tall canopy is covered with solar cells that supply electrical power to two ECOtality Blink Level 2 electric vehicle chargers. The building is still connected to the electrical grid, thus any excess electricity from solar cells can be sold to the local electricity utility.

The installation includes a bunker with batteries to store electricity for distribution when the sun goes down. As more electric cars are bought by the community residents, more structures of similar design can be added to create a covered parking lot for electric vehicles.

“This is the future my friends and it will make a difference,” declared Jeff Cogen, the chairman of the Multnomah County Commission. He added, “Hopefully in twenty years, we can look back and say, ‘I remember when these were introduced.’”

Since the major automakers such as General Motors and Nissan have plug-in vehicles in their showrooms, the need for charging stations such as the one being built in Portland makes the allure of electric cars all the more enticing. The absence of a convenient, as well as safe place, to charge batteries away from their own home makes electric cars a difficult proposition to sell for many.

Now, in the city that proclaims itself as a hub for all things electric, the construction of the charging station may be the key to break the bonds that keep electric cars from dominating the nation’s highways. Now, a consortium of government officials, carmakers, academicians and local utilities are coming together to integrate all forms of electric transportation in the city.

Electric vehicle transportation is a good fit for the city of Portland. The city is compact enough that most of the locations in the city are at twenty miles away, thus within the range of a single battery charge. Three fourths of the residents of the state live along the Interstate 5 between Portland and Eugene. The whole state is also heavily reliant on hydroelectric power, a renewable power source without direct carbon emissions.

The city of Portland also has the highest per-capita ownership of Toyota Prius hybrids in the country. There is also a busy streetcar and light rail network that operates within the city. This is the city where Toyota tested its new plug-in hybrid. Local manufacturers such as Green Lite are creating a plug-in hybrid claiming to run up to 100 miles on a gallon. Another local company, Eaton, an automotive supplier and infrastructure company is planning to build fast chargers in its Wilsonville plant nearby. These are just some of the companies from within and outside of Portland seeking to find a solution to the EV conundrum.