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Dear Indian goverment, Hybrids, not EVs, are the answer

Somnath Chatterjee
Lexus hybrid India
Lexus hybrid India

The recent news of Dyson (maker of vacuum cleaners and hair dryers) pulling out of its ambitious plans to make EVs worldwide has raised questions and provided a reality check for the EV industry. Even Tesla has an uncertain future despite its success.

This begs the question: is the electric car the future of personal transportation? At the moment it does not look like it. Forget India, even in the UK, sales of EVs have fallen to a paltry 1 percent and the reason is the same: lack of infrastructure.

EVs are like buying a mobile phone but with no charging facility. There are a few issues that have been discussed before, such as cost, infrastructure and the fact that EVs may not positively alter the environment if they don’t sell in enough numbers.

At the moment, EVs are expensive and there are none on the horizon with a price tag of under Rs 10 lakh (the segment where majority of sales come from in India). Thus, can it be argued that a hybrid car is a far better solution?

A hybrid is the best of both worlds and a more immediate answer before a supposedly all-EV future that we may envision.

Lexus hybrid India
Lexus hybrid India

Let us take the example of the Lexus ES, which is amongst the few full blown hybrids you can buy in India today. It has a 2.5 litre, four-cylinder petrol engine along with an electric motor. Together they give you a good amount of power at 220 bhp.

However, it’s the real world application of the hybrid that impresses the most. The ES, with enough charge, will get around in traffic at low speeds in electric silence and that means, in most low speed traffic, the work is done on EV power.

It is only when you go past a certain speeds that the petrol motor kicks in. Thus, in the city you get electric power and on the highway or outstation trips you can use the petrol engine.

That means you are burning less fuel and getting more fuel economy in the real world. A big luxury car like the ES gives near 23 kmpl — more than even a petrol hatchback.

Lexus hybrid India
Lexus hybrid India

Also, the ES like other hybrids is a self charging vehicle through regenerative braking. You do not need to charge it and this eliminates the one of the major cons of an electric car.

Hybrids must be encouraged and while the ambitious plans regarding EVs are welcome, the hybrid is the real answer as more people would buy and result in a greater positive impact on the environment. Thus, a cut in taxes/ slash in import rates etc on hybrids would end up encouraging more car-makers to bring them to India.

Toyota, Honda, Suzuki and others like Lexus have hybrids and can easily launch them here — but only if encouraged by a more relaxed tax structure. In fact, many car makers have said that they would happily get a hybrid to the Indian market as, clearly, having an EV as your only car is just not feasible at the moment.

We need to crawl before we can walk and hybrids are the immediate answer.