Why electric vehicles alone won't (and can't) solve Delhi's toxic air woes

A number of natural and man-made factors contribute to Delhi's polluted air. No one solution, say many, are likely to rescue residents and help them breathe better.
By : HT Auto Desk
| Updated on: 24 Oct 2020, 11:08 AM
Vehicles drive past India Gate amid hazy weather conditions in New Delhi. (PTI)
Vehicles drive past India Gate amid hazy weather conditions in New Delhi. (PTI)
Vehicles drive past India Gate amid hazy weather conditions in New Delhi. (PTI)
Vehicles drive past India Gate amid hazy weather conditions in New Delhi.

It is that time of the year again when Delhi's air quality nosedives to levels which are outright hazardous for local residents even as masks and air purifiers begin to fly off shopping shelves. The Delhi government this year has dug in to come out with emergency plans and enforced several programs and restrictions at the ground level, all while focusing on making the city state into the hub of an electric vehicle revolution here in India. The focus on EVs, while the need of the hour and the growing trend across the world, is all fine, it alone would hardly make a dent in the fight against polluted air and Armageddon-like grey skies.

And here is why.

Delhi is home to the most number of private vehicles compared to any other Indian city - metropolitan or otherwise. Traffic is as much a nightmare here as in other major cities and despite a wide Metro rail network, the number of private vehicles on Delhi roads at any given time is significant. The Delhi government is now looking at promoting EVs and is rolling out incentives like doing away with road tax and registration fees on such vehicles on one hand, while rolling out plans like 'Red Light On, Gaadi Off' to check on emissions at signals.

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These are measures that may address the problem but will they solve it? Unlikely, say many experts.

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(Also read: Minister says Odd-Even traffic management is last weapon)

This is because of several factors - apart from vehicular emissions - that pose a massive challenge to Delhi's battle against toxic air. In the following HT video, it is explained how factors that cannot be controlled are as omnipresent as those that can be. The former includes Delhi's location itself - situated at the foothills and at the eastern patch of a desert with winds carrying the dust blowing in. The ravaged Aravallis courtesy illegal mining means that a natural barrier has been steadily eroding over decades. Then there is the factor of dropping temperature, coupled with a drop in wind speeds, which adds to the build-up of pollutants. Then there are man-made factors like illegally-operating factories within city limits, burning of garbage, rampant construction and burning of stubble in adjoining states of Punjab and Haryana.

And so, while it is confidently propounded by many that EVs will help residents breathe easy once such vehicles become a common sight here, it is also expected to only help to an extent and hardly take Delhi off the list of cities with notorious air quality. EVs do mean that there is zero emission from such a battery-powered vehicle and the options are indeed increasing with more and more OEMs exploring this opportunity. From Tata Motors and Hyundai to now even Mercedes, EVs are crossing segments and are available at varying price brackets. But these vehicles also need to come under the 10 lakh price bracket - incentives or otherwise - to actually ensure more and more people sit up and take notice of battery power. Range and infrastructure support are other key factors but having the perfect EV ecosystem alone, however, is unlikely to do much to help Delhi breathe better, breathe easier.

First Published Date: 24 Oct 2020, 11:01 AM IST
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