The hybrid de­bate

How hy­brids can bridge the gap to full electrics


THERE’S BEEN A RAG­ING DE­BATE AROUND HY­BRIDS vis-a-vis elec­tric ve­hi­cles with EV en­thu­si­asts ad­vo­cat­ing a straight jump to electrics, much in the same way that In­dia jumped from BS4 to BS6 emis­sion stan­dards. Whether that is at all fea­si­ble is an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent ar­gu­ment, what we are look­ing at here are the ben­e­fits of hybrid tech­nol­ogy to bridge the gap and bring about quick re­duc­tion in emis­sions.

Let’s start with the au­to­mo­tive value chain. 50 per cent of revenue and 60 per cent of em­ploy­ment goes into man­u­fac­tur­ing in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines and the trans­mis­sion. With elec­tric ve­hi­cles hav­ing 80 per cent fewer com­po­nents, and thus far less man­u­fac­tur­ing in­put, what hap­pens to all the man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, and the man­u­fac­tur­ing GDP, if we move to electrics?

There is the other ques­tion of the charging in­fra­struc­ture, which can of course be scaled up rapidly if there’s a strong enough push, but we do need to look at where In­dia stands in terms of raw ma­te­ri­als re­quired for EVs and the lo­cal­i­sa­tion of EV com­po­nents. In­dia right now only has ca­pa­bil­ity of as­sem­bling the bat­tery packs for EVs which, is less than 20 per cent of the value. As far as mak­ing the ac­tual bat­tery cells, the cath­ode, an­ode, elec­trolytes and every­thing that goes into it, In­dia has no ca­pa­bil­ity, and the ear­li­est this can be lo­calised is 5 years. As for raw ma­te­ri­als we will con­tinue to im­port that.

The most im­por­tant as­pect is of course emis­sions. Now when tank to wheel emis­sions are con­sid­ered, bat­tery elec­tric ve­hi­cles are ob­vi­ously much cleaner but when you take into ac­count the more rel­e­vant well to wheel emis­sions, hy­brids drop the CO2 out­put to 70gm/km (over IC en­gines) while elec­tric ve­hi­cles put out more CO2 emis­sions at 90gm/ km. Th­ese fig­ures are from the Camry Hybrid and the iQ elec­tric car on the stan­dard In­dian test cy­cle. In fact, the Camry Hybrid’s CO2 emis­sions are un­der 50 per cent of what will get en­forced when CAFE 2 is im­ple­mented in 2023 and its fuel ef­fi­ciency is al­ready 48 per cent bet­ter than the pure-IC Camry. On the same test runs, in Delhi, it was found that the Camry Hybrid runs on the hybrid pow­er­train 62 per cent of the time. That means for 62 per cent of the time, the Camry Hybrid is a zero emis­sion ve­hi­cle.

While on the emis­sion front it is worth not­ing that most of In­dia’s elec­tric­ity comes from coal and the (am­bi­tious) tar­get for 2031 is to have 40 per cent of elec­tric­ity from re­new­able sources.

Stud­ies by Toy­ota claim that if 70 per cent of IC en­gines were to con­vert to hy­brids and the re­main­der were electrics, by 2030, fuel sav­ings will go up by 25 per cent and CO2 emis­sions will re­duce three times.

Toy­ota’s sug­ges­tion for tax­a­tion is also rather log­i­cal and in line with what gov­ern­ments the world over are im­ple­ment­ing — a tax based on CO2 emis­sions. Their pro­posal is to con­tinue with EVs at 5 per cent GST and move hy­brids to the next slab rather than have hy­brids taxed the same as IC en­gined ve­hi­cles. That will prompt lo­cal­i­sa­tion and the big play here is Toy­ota’s global part­ner­ship with Suzuki where shar­ing of hybrid tech­nol­ogy is one of the key pil­lars. With Maruti Suzuki’s 50 per cent In­dian mar­ket share, get­ting MSIL to adopt hy­brids will ac­cel­er­ate the lo­cal­i­sa­tion and thus re­duce cost which, to­gether with the lower tax struc­ture, will make hy­brids more af­ford­able and re­sult in mass adop­tion. Toy­ota quotes a min­i­mum vol­ume of 50,000 a month to make lo­cal­i­sa­tion of the bat­tery, power con­trol unit and mo­tor com­po­nents vi­able, though even 10,000 units a month will make as­sem­bly of the power con­trol unit and transaxle vi­able.

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