Picture this. It’s 2035; you have just made it to Mars after a long journey. You’re visiting your scientist friend who shifted to the red planet in 2030 when the first spacecraft left from Earth. Frozen water available under the surface of Mars has been transformed into regular refrigerated water by now and is being served to you in an oddly shaped glass (come on, it’s Mars, things must look more techie than Earth). Your friend also greets you with potato fritters, or potato mash if you please. Both of you take a walk, there are no vehicles yet and instead of encountering the famed Mars dust storms, you enjoy the warm breeze of another planet.
Now, open your eyes. Wake up and smell the coffee. It’s actually 2018 and you are not going anywhere yet!
With inter-planetary futuristic travel being taken away from you within a second, or rather, within a paragraph – let us compensate by providing you with another option, one that could make you feel like you are in the future even in 2018 – well, the option of electric public mobility.
A possibility that not just addresses climate change issues but is also a breakthrough in transportation technology. Let’s dive right in!
But first, what is electric mobility?
Electric mobilityincludes all street vehicles that are powered by an electric motor and mainly get their energy from the power grid – preferably renewable energy. Simply put, these electric buses or electric scooters can be recharged externally, pretty much like your phones or a child’s battery operated toy. With these floating around, there may be soon a possibility of a conversation such as this: ‘I have battery in my phone but I need to charge my two-wheeler – is there a booth close-by?’ Anyway.
Why exactly do we need this electric mobility thing?
On a larger level, we simply need it to ‘save the planet.’ But if that sounds too much of an advertising slogan to you and leaves you curious for more, then here are some of the logical reasons why electric mobility is the need of the hour.
(a) The challenges beyond CNG:Even 100% penetration of clean fuel CNG does not ensure a safe and healthy environment. Pricing of petroleum products, tail-pipe emissions and unburnt carbon act as big hurdles and are hazardous to the atmosphere. Health impact of the tall pipe emissions are well documented and chest medicine fraternity swears by the ill-effects of the fumes floating around in the streets – more commonly known as PM 2.5 emissions.
(b) The challenges arising from climate change:Global warming and the rapidly changing state of the overall climate are a constant threat as well. These have made humankind more vulnerable than ever. Instances of flooding, recurrence of other natural calamities and health epidemics are on an incline and a solution is being eagerly awaited.
(c) The challenges of excessive energy consumption: Human ambition is soaring higher than ever and while that may be a good thing for the economy, it might not be the same for the environment. Point being, India is buying more passenger vehicles than ever and contributing to the already existing dangerous environmental condition. In fact, the transport sector consumes almost 40% energy in India. If that’s not a staggering number, what is?
How can things change?
Evolution is the only answer. Just the way diesel had to make way for CNG, it’s now CNG’s turn to move away and let the road belong to Electric vehicles. Not just public, but electrifying private transportation is the way forward. One of course needs to place more emphasis on electrifying public transportation – that way you reduce the emissions as well as reduce the congestion on the streets. Doing so will address all aspects of air pollution, be it ambient or curbside – be it in larger metros or up and coming smaller towns.
Having said that, while electric buses are already available in cities like Mumbai, there’s a long way to go when it comes to the rest of the country. The process includes the understanding of technology, leapfrogging, costs and so forth. Not just that, there’s also the additional leg of charging infrastructure which comes with matters like planning and citing. In addition to the evolution of the mode of transportation, there will also be a strong need for the commuters to embrace this change. To ditch their comfort zones and their engrained everyday habits. The population of every city will need to see merit in the idea and not just make an individual choice but raise awareness about the option as well.
In the end, it will all boil down to a citizen’s sense of social responsibility and environmental consciousness. If the average person leaving home every single day can include these two factors before hopping on to a vehicle – then earth would slowly not be a planet you’d want to escape from.
Food for thought?