Tuesday, September 11, 2012

7 Million Electric Cars by 2020

India is jumping on the electric vehicle bandwagon.
Yesterday, India's National Council for Electric Mobility (yes, that's a real thing), announced that it has adopted a new plan that calls for between six million and seven million electric vehicles. This is an incredibly aggressive target, and one that will not easily be reached.
Although I applaud India for taking the appropriate steps to electrify personal transportation, the country definitely has an uphill battle ahead.
First of all, President Obama was hoping to get just one million electric cars on US roads and highways by 2015. That's not going to happen. Pike research has suggested the US won't hit that mark until around 2017. It's nothing to shrug off, but certainly a reminder that electric vehicles are still in the earliest stages of development, and it will take some time before price reductions enable a more rapid acceleration in sales.
Also worth noting is India's grid – which I suspect is not prepared for even half of India's electric vehicle goal. That's not to say India's grid won't be able to handle as many as seven million electric cars one day. But in less than eight years? I'm suspicious of that.
There are some upsides though. For one, as India's middle class grows, so will the demand for the cars that we take for granted here in the US. To shift to newer, cleaner technologies early on will make it easier to transition along the way. If the end-game is to reduce petroleum use in personal transportation, electric cars are the way to go.
It also looks like the government is ponying up a few billion to facilitate R&D while putting a charging infrastructure in place. Since India's is really starting from the ground up here, it is likely the government will coordinate charging stations with grid upgrades. This could definitely cushion some of the pain that's going to come from rebuilding the nation's grid.
To be honest, I can't say I expect India to get six million or seven million electric cars on the roads in eight years. And I highly doubt these vehicles will meet the same safety standards as we have here in the US and in Europe.
Still, if India can pull off just one third of its target, it will be a pretty amazing accomplishment that will only further validate the role electric vehicles are going to play in the future.

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There is no one single solution to today's energy crisis. However, the combination of all viable renewable energy resources, coupled with energy efficiency, conservation and smart grid development will not only lead us to energy independence and a cleaner, more sustainable energy infrastructure — but also to what will soon prove to be the greatest investment opportunity of the 21st Century.

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