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Electric vehicles in India more polluting than petrol/diesel ones: Study

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Electric vehicles in India more polluting than petrol/diesel ones: Study

A recently published study in Nature magazine found out that in some cases electric vehicles (EV) could be more polluting than vehicles powered by an internal combustion (IC) engine.

Researchers involved in the study analyzed 600 vehicles in India and discovered the higher emissions of EVs. It should be noted that the higher emission of EVs depends heavily on where and how the EVs are charged. The study shows that in the short to medium term India could benefit from hybrid vehicles to realize quick emissions reductions.

Considering how electric vehicles are considered to be cleaner this study does raise some interesting points to consider. This study is a cooperation between Aramco and IIT Kanpur and one needs to factor in the fact that Aramco is a Saudi Arabian oil company.

Among many questions arising about this study a prominent one is that could the study be inclined in favour of petrol/ diesel vehicles as they’re the end consumers of Aramco’s products? In order to find an answer to these questions and the fact about the emission difference between EVs and IC vehicles, we spoke to Ahmad Al Khowaiter, Chief Technology Officer, Aramco. Mentioned below are some excerpts from the interaction.

TOI Auto: The study provides very interesting data points but is it favouring internal combustion engines since they are important for your key product?We always insist on the highest standards of publication, so in this instance it is Nature Communications which is globally recognised as the highest standard in scientific publications. We believe that is the only way to ensure the integrity of the study. Also, it is not in our interest to have the wrong answer. For us this research is the basis of our investment and future strategy. Hence, we have to understand what is the truth and we need to understand what the future will hold and what the best options are. That’s why we always do our research in a transparent and open manner and are very clear about our objectives behind this kind of research. We have published studies in North America, Europe, China, Middle East and now India. We have a reputation and we want to maintain that reputation of transparency and objectivity.

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Is there a particular segment of passenger vehicles where the difference in emissions exists or is significantly more than others?It’s not just a segment but more about the geographical location. The carbon footprint or the full Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) of a vehicle depends on three major elements – its production carbon footprint (emissions associated with manufacturing), the second is the actual consumption of fuel from that vehicle during its duty life and third is the carbon density of its fuel source. The emissions associated with fuel production have to be accounted for as well. So it makes it difficult for a normal person to actually know their real carbon footprint and that’s what these kinds of studies shed light on.

In the study specific to India, it was identified that there are huge variances between regions where the carbon footprint for four-wheelers will be 15 percent higher in the East and 40 percent lower in the North East. That is because East and West India are dependent on coal for their power grids. This huge difference means that India needs to have region specific policies in order to incentivise the optimum means of reduction of emissions.’

What are the kind of vehicles that you considered for the study?If you look at average vehicles sold in India, 65 percent sales were from petrol vehicles and 35 percent from diesel vehicles in 2018-19 including 5 percent of CV sales. During that year we had lesser EVs sold so it is very difficult to do an average comparison. What we did instead was to pick vehicles where you know you have comparable petrol/diesel and electric models (Tata Nexon, Tigor, Mahindra Verito etc). We also assessed these models not only in terms of region but when you charge them, duration and more because electricity will also fluctuate through the day. If you have a tendency to do overnight charging, which is very common, then you rely more on non-renewables. In absence of sunshine at that time, one could be more dependent on fossil-based electricity. This is why we have high emissions during night time charging and in winters.

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