December 6, 2023
Home » Revolutionizing India’s Transport: The Impact of Electric Vehicles on Pollution
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This article has been written by Jatin Rana (pursuing a B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) (IVth Year) from Law College Dehradun faculty of Uttaranchal University)

Jatin Rana

EMBRACING ELECTRIC VEHICLES IN INDIA: IS IT REALLY TERMINATING POLLUTION CAUSED BY FUEL VEHICLES?

 Abstract

India is following the track which directs towards the electrification of the automobile industry. It is a great step for the country in order to overcome the issue of degradation of the environment, but not wholly. This article deals with pollution caused by both fuel vehicles and electric vehicles and their extent. On the basis of present status, the single difference between fuel vehicles and electric vehicles is impliedly proved, which is that the former aims at increasing pollution while the latter aims at limiting pollution, none of them aims at terminating the pollution wholly. The main reason that electric vehicles are presently unable to terminate pollution is their heart, which is the battery. It has also covered the initiatives played by both the Indian legislature and Judiciary in the electrification of the automobile industry.

Keywords: – Electrification, electric vehicles, lithium-ion, fuel vehicles, rubber pollution.

 Introduction

Environment and life are the two faces of the single coin. Extirpating the former will inevitably fade away the latter. The environment should be conserved to make life possible on the globe. Technology is increasing its ambit noticeably which of course has positive impacts but also has negative impacts both on the environment and human life.

The automobile industry is also part of this mounting technology on the globe.

Particularly in India, 21 to 23 million units of automobiles (including commercial vehicles, cars, two-wheelers, and three-wheelers) are manufactured. A total of 22.9 million vehicles were produced between April 2021 and March 2022 which is more than the previous year’s record.[1] This increasing number of productions is lightning the mounting demand for automobiles in India.

The above-stated numbers of automobile production majorly deal with diesel and petrol vehicles (hereinafter known as fuel vehicles). These vehicles are one of the primary reasons for environmental pollution. These vehicles mainly involve carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide which leads to air pollution and global warming. Around 27% of air pollution is caused by automobiles.[2]

The combustion of fuels in the engines is not the only reason for pollution, there are also other parts of the vehicles, especially the tyres. Tyres are made up of synthetic rubber and are non-biodegradable but not non-recyclable. People are indulged in the business of recycling these tyres where they buy used tyres and extract the required substances like rubber, oil and metallic wires. But all tyres are not collected in India, the remaining tyres are mismanaged which may cause rubber pollution. Tyres consist of plastic polymer will lead to 30% of plastic waste released yearly in the ocean which causes water pollution.[3] Burning of these tyres release carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide which is injurious to human health and the environment.

To untie the knot between automobiles and air pollution, India is adopting electric vehicles which aim at the conservation of the environment. These electric vehicles are featured with batteries which are believed to be eco-friendly.

 Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME II)

This scheme was launched by the Indian government in 2015 as the first phase of FAME. The first phase lasted till 2019 and in the same year, the Indian government introduced the second phase of the scheme which is expected to last till 2022. The aim of this scheme is to increase the rate of production and demand for electric and hybrid vehicles. Considering the climatic change due to pollution, this scheme was launched introducing a budget of 10,000 Crore Rs. the upliftment of electric vehicles in India. The second phase of the scheme has increased the subsidy of two-wheeler electric vehicles and also kept aside 1000 Crore Rs. in order to install charging stations in the country.

Production of electric vehicles

Presently there are a total of 13.35 lakh electric vehicles in India which is around 0.5% of total vehicles (including fuel vehicles) running on Indian roads.[4] India is growing its ambit over electric vehicles and many Indian automobile companies like Mahindra, Tata, Ola and Hyundai are well forwarding the country by discovering new technologies and applying the same in electric vehicles.

Present Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari in his speech has clearly mentioned that by 2030, petrol and diesel will be banned in India and by that time, electric vehicles will cost the same as fuel vehicles.

The entire track directed towards electric vehicles is only made to protect the environment from air pollution and others caused by fuel vehicles. But at the present stage, are electric vehicles able to control the pollution caused by fuel cars? This can only be understood by studying the heart of every electric vehicle which is the battery being used presently by electric car manufacturers.

Production of batteries

In India, usually lead acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries are used for the production of electric vehicles. Between these two batteries, the lithium-ion battery is preferred over the former battery because of its durability and efficiency.

Lead acid battery

The lead acid battery is the most common battery widely used on the globe. Inverters, solar panels, cars, etc. are mostly equipped with lead-acid batteries. The storage of this battery is only for limited load.

Negative terminal – Lead (Pb)

Positive terminal – Lead peroxide (PbO2)

Electrolyte – Sulphuric acid (H2SO4), Acid: water = 1:3

Working

Discharging

PbO2+ 2H = PbO + H2O

PbO + H2SO4 = PbSO4 + H2O

—————————————

PbO2 + H2SO4 + 2H = PbSO4 + 2H2O

Charging

PbSO4 + 2H = H2SO4 + Pb

PbO2 + SO4 + 2H2 = PbO2 + 2 H2SO4

Pros and Cons of Lead Acid batteries

Pros

  1. These batteries are cheaper than the other batteries available in the market.
  2. These batteries are easily available in the market.
  3. Can be repaired and serviced to increase durability.

           Cons

  1. These batteries take up more space than any other battery.
  2. Takes more time to charge.
  3. These batteries are made only for low loads and their durability decreases with heavy loads.
  4. These batteries are comparatively of more weight thus making it difficult to use in every electric vehicle.

5.1.2 Lithium-ion battery

These batteries are not new to us. These batteries are used in various electronic appliances like Air Conditioner and Television remotes, trimmers, phones, etc. Thousands of small units of these batteries are connected to each other with parallel connections in order to be used for heavy loads like electric cars.

Negative electrode – Carbon (Graphite, C)

Positive electrode – Lithium Cobalt (III) Oxide (LiCoO2)

Electrolyte – Lithium Salt with Organic Solvent (Example- LiPF6 + organic solvent)

Separator – Polymeric separator

Working

At Positive electrode

CoO2 + Li+ + e   ↔   LiCoO2

At Negative electrode

LiC6      ↔   C6 + Li+ + e

Discharging

LiC6 + CoO2     ↔     C6 + LiCoO2

Charging

C6 + LiCoO    ↔     LiC6 + CoO2

Pros and Cons of Lithium-ion battery

Pros

  1. Comparatively less charging time.
  2. Can be used for heavy loads when a large number of batteries are connected parallelly.
  3. More efficient than other batteries.
  4. Lighter in weight.
  5. Smaller in size.

            Cons

  1. These batteries are sensitive to high temperatures.
  2. More expensive than other batteries.
  3. If the separator gets damaged, it can burst into flames.
  4. More durable than other batteries.
  5.  How are these batteries degrading the environment?

As discussed above, battery durability is affected negatively by the increase in their temperature. Lithium-ion batteries are very sensitive to high temperatures, and they may explode with flames and fire. The main reason behind the mounting temperature of the battery is the malfunctioning of the separator and as a consequence, both positive and negative terminals come in contact which causes a short circuit.

It is often heard that many mobiles, automobiles, etc. explode due to short circuits in their (Lithium-ion) batteries.

  • In Telangana’s Nizamabad District, a 40-year-old man was dead due to an explosion of his electric scooter.[5]
  • In Vasai Mumbai, one Tata Nexon electric car also exploded in flames.[6]
  • In Hyderabad, two bikes exploded with a loud explosion and fire flames.[7]
  • In Gujarat’s Palanpur, a 17-year-old girl died due to the explosion of the phone battery.[8]

There are many other incidents of explosion of batteries in India. When many complaints were raised against the Ola electric scooters, the CEO of Ola company said that the explosion of electric automobiles is rare, but he also lightened the probability of more explosions in the future. It is believed that the reason behind these explosions is the sensitivity of lithium-ion batteries towards the rise of temperature.

Now our focus is on the impacts of these explosions on the environment. When lithium-ion battery explodes, numerous gases like Carbon monoxide, Hydrogen Fluoride, Carbon dioxide, etc. evolve which are hazardous to living creatures and the environment. These gases lead to acid rain, and global warming and also cause breathing problems, skin problems and eye irritation to living creatures.

In a large part of India, electricity is produced by burning coal. When electric vehicles are running in large quantities in India, the demand for electricity will increase with the decreasing demand for petrol and diesel. But it is the unseen point that the demand for electricity will be fulfilled by the increased amount of burning coal for generating electricity. Due to this fact, environmental pollution will increase instead of decreasing.

 Judicial pronouncement

In the case of Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. UOI[9], the Supreme Court while considering the PIL seeking the steps of the central government in implementing the 2012 policy, directed the Central Government to implement the 2012 policy based on the Electric Vehicles. Various facts were presented before the court like the amount of fossil fuel used and the pollution caused by it.

Tripura High Court directed the state government to frame the policy regarding the adoption of electric vehicles in the state and also to implement the same.[10]

 Conclusion

The adoption of electric vehicles is only the single face of the coin. Indian Legislature and judiciary support the idea of adopting electric vehicles but without observing the second face of the coin, which is to make society ready to adopt electric vehicles. Indian society is not yet ready to adopt electric vehicles due to a lack of facilities like proper charging stations, surety and assurance that the vehicle’s battery will not explode. There needs to be further scientific development in the field of batteries for electric vehicles to overcome the issue of the explosion of batteries which is degrading the environment and human health to a noticeable extent. By examining the overall present status, it can be concluded that electrification of vehicles will not terminate pollution caused by automobiles, it will just limit it.

Suggestion

As discussed above, a large part of the total electricity in India is produced by burning coal and government of India is aiming at increasing the demand for electric cars. This increasing demand for cars will directly increase the demand for electricity in India and more coal will be burnt to fulfil this need. In order to overcome this issue, the government of India should promote solar cells equally with electric cars which will help customers to use renewable energy to the possible extent.

Car manufacturers should conduct good research for batteries to provide the best of its form to the customers. Awareness also should be made regarding the proper management of the car batteries, the procedure for the proper disposal of non-usable batteries and their recycling.

There is one thing common in both fuel vehicles and electric vehicles, which is the tyres. Mismanagement of these tyres like firing, dumping, throwing in any water sources, etc. causes air pollution, water pollution, rubber pollution, etc. Proper awareness should be made about the impacts of the mismanagement of tyres and also about their recycling.


[1] Performance of Auto Industry in 2021-2022, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

[2] Indian Express (Dec. 24, 2019).

[3] International Union for Conservation of Nature.

[4] Centralized Vahan4.

[5] Indian Express  (Apr. 23, 2022).

[6] The New Indian Express (Jun. 24, 2022).

[7] The New Minute (Aug. 16, 2022).

[8] Times of India, (Jul. 30, 2022).

[9] AIR 2020 SC.

[10] Live Law (Dec. 28, 2021).


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