Varied interests in the energy and power sector viz., CDM, carbon rating, Monitoring & Evaluation, Energy Management, Rural Development; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy related matters; Demand Side Management (DSM), Energy Audits, Distributed Power Generation (Biomass, Wind,Solar and Small Hydro), Participatory Management.

Friday, July 04, 2008

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Hybrid Vehicles

The logic of hybrid vehicles

The best way to manage the transport sector’s fuel demand is to encourage hybrids and invest more in mass transport systems, so that own vehicles are used sparingly.


Vehicles that do not depend on conventional fuels — including the new version of India’s electric car Reva, recently launched in Delhi — have been around for a while, but they have now become more relevant than ever before. Petroleum prices are going through the roof and, while speculators may have played a part in this spike, one might as well accept that the days of cheap oil are over. Transport accounts for a little over a fourth of world energy deman d, but this share could swell with the automobile boom in such emerging economies as India and China, and the growing role of trade in the world economy. Road transport accounts for 80 per cent of the total energy demand of the transportation sector; and light duty vehicles account for 50 per cent of the sector’s needs. The remaining 20 per cent is shared by air, rail and marine transport.

Since the transport sector relies more on petrol and diesel than the residential and commercial sectors, it makes sense to seek out alternatives to petroleum, particularly in economies such as India, whose rapid growth is being threatened by rising oil prices. Fuel demand should be checked for environmental reasons as well: India accounts for 4.6 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions and is ranked fifth in this respect after the US, China, Russia and Japan. Electric and hybrid cars (those that run on petrol/diesel and electricity) should become a feature of India’s landscape sooner rather than later. Electric cars can either run on batteries or as hydrogen-propelled vehicles. The trouble with electricity is that it is difficult to store; a battery-operated car runs for just 80 km. Despite R&D efforts, there have been no breakthroughs in this regard.

As for hydrogen, it has a low energy density compared to petrol and therefore has to be stored in larger quantities. While carbon emissions from a hydrogen-powered vehicle are zero, the process as a whole can be considered clean only if the electricity required to produce hydrogen is, in turn, generated through renewable means. This is a tall order, as even the best efforts to shift to renewable technologies, including nuclear energy, will not yield substantial results for a decade or so. In view of the limitations of battery-driven and hydrogen-run vehicles, the best way to manage the transport sector’s fuel demand is to encourage hybrids — by using batteries, they end up 50 per cent more fuel-efficient than their conventional counterparts. Besides, the government should also encourage investment in mass transport systems, so that people use their own vehicles sparingly.

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