Electric vehicles are doing a limited job of reducing emission levels, as most are powered by coal-fired power plants, said RC Bhargava, Head of India’s top carmaker, Maruti Suzuki.

“Electric cars are doing — at this point in time, and in the next few years — a very limited job of reducing CO2. That is not as clean as some impressions, given it is a clean vehicle that uses electricity, of which 75 per cent is produced by thermal stations,” Bhargava said.

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India’s private sector has lined up significant investments for producing renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydro, but the projects will take several years to come on stream. Until then, fossil fuel will largely continue to meet India’s energy needs.  

“If you are burning coal to produce electricity and then that same electricity drives cars, you can’t call the cars clean because there is emission happening from the power station. If we are burning more coal, then what are we cleaning up?,” asked Bhargava.

Late entrant

Maruti Suzuki has been criticised by market watchers for its late entry into the electric vehicle market. The Delhi-based car market leader is planning to launch its first EV only by 2025, by which time Tata Motors, the current leader in the EV segment, would have a portfolio of around 10 EVs. 

Lack of public charging stations, high EV acquisition costs and an underdeveloped EV manufacturing ecosystem were some of the primary reasons Maruti Suzuki stayed away from the EV segment. But despite these challenges, the notable demand for EVs surprised doubters.

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For Tata Motors, 8 per cent of its sales comes from EVs. Its Nexon EV — which is India’s largest selling passenger electric vehicle — has a waiting period of three to six months, despite a price tag of ₹15 lakh.  

Maruti Suzuki wants to focus on other vehicle technologies for the time being. The company is among the few to bank on hybrid vehicle technology — a mix of battery electric and petrol engine — even though such vehicles do not enjoy any special GST slab like EVs. Hybrids are taxed in the same bracket as petrol/diesel-powered vehicles.

“We should look at other technologies to reduce carbon-dioxide emission from automobiles and transportation. This includes hybrids, CNG, ethanol and biogas. We would like all this to be incentivised and produced so they lead to an overall reduction of the CO2 in the atmosphere,” Bhargava added.