One of the world’s leading car makers, Hyundai, says it will mass-produce its hybrid car Avante—sold otherwise as the Elantra globally—for the Korean market in 2009. Peers such as Honda and Toyota—which is famous?for?its hybrid?car?Prius— are doing likewise. And the worldwide market for hybrid cars is expected to be almost double of its 2006 size. The annual Geneva international motor show held last week showcased a slew of environment-friendly cars from major manufacturers. Despite the continuing debates on which technology combine or model is the best alternative for a greener future, the trend is only here to stay and grow.
In?its? bid?to?encourage?it, the Union government slashed excise duties for hybrid cars last month.?A?few?firms?plan?to?laun-ch the green models that they are already ready with—Mahindra and Mahindra will launch Scorpio and Bolero versions soon, Honda Siel will import its hybrid verion of the Civic. But?Toyota?is reported to be not so?keen?to?bring?in?the?Prius,?unless import duties are reduced. Its concerns may be justified on the grounds of inadequate demand due to higher prices.
The economics of hybrid cars is based on the fact that these use less of the polluting—and costlier—fossil fuels, whether diesel or petrol. At the same time, the cars themselves are naturally more expensive. What also needs to be factored in at the time of purchase is the life cycle of the fuel cells or batteries needed to store electric energy that’s converted into kinetic to run the car. The consumer, therefore, needs to calculate net savings from fuel over the car’s lifetime after considering all this.
This is where public policy needs to play a role beyond notional measures such as excise tax cuts intended to encourage demand. Lower emissions and saving on fossil fuels are for the larger public good.
One way to do this could be to tax the use of fossil fuels higher, while giving the citizen incentives to opt for hybrid models and other green cars— hydrogen-powered, CNG et al. City-based measures would be a good idea—so there’s a role for state governments here. The other route is through tighter net emission norms— without?interfering?in?the?choice of technology—fuel. The European Union had recently done this. Hence, the major show of green cars at Geneva.
What can India do to encourage use of green cars? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org