Monday, November 30, 2015

Electric Vehicles - Facts and Myths


I was out of blogging and social media for a long time (for good, so I thought). So many things have happened in last few years. Few years ago, I have written about Toyota Prius which got some discussion going on about the hybrid vehicles. Well, as they say a lot of water has flown under the bridge!

Just thought of coming back and write this since I have heard so many untruths recently about electric cars that it was almost hard not to have a say in some sort. So many have commented on these already, but I will just for the record add my 2 cents here as well.

1) Sri Lankan electricity grid can not take so many electric vehicles.
People who say this belongs to two categories, those who don't know enough and those who knows but knowingly and willingly trying to mislead others due to vested interests.

Some of electric car owners have already opted for net metering with solar panels, and many others are also planning to do so. Market analysis show that utilisation of solar power (via net metering) is so high among EV owners. So it is not correct to say that EV owners are a burden on the grid. Besides, Sri Lanka has a surplus of electricity at off peak hours (nights after 10PM) that anybody charging on those times are not a problem to the national grid at all. Not to mention the fact that new coal power plants are producing enough electricity for the country.

2) Electricity is produced using hydrocarbons so charging cars from electricity has no benefit in terms of environment or carbon emissions.

We can excuse people who say this out of lack of subject knowledge, however I suspect there are quite a few who propagate this knowing very well that it is not true at all. Compared to the combustion engines of motor vehicles, power plants are efficient by an order of magnitude! Even if we use electricity produced by a power plant using diesel or coal, it is still much more clean and will be using much less hydrocarbons than we pumping from the shed and burning in vehicle engines which are no way near the efficiency levels of industrial power plants. This can be so easily verified by a quick google search or from wikipedia that a further discussion on this is utterly unnecessary.

One last thing.. should we really need to mention that there is a seizable component of electricity produced without hydrocarbons ?

3) Importing more vehicles is not good for the national economy as we loose foreign currency.
True, but why then target EVs specifically! 2.5 million tax is not really a tax, impact of that is so huge that it cant be described any other way than as a measure to kill an emerging sector at its birth!

Surely, petrol/diesel vehicles could have been taxed more and some concessions could have given to environment friendly EVs and Hybrids. As a nation, we would have save money from petroleum imports. This is such a no brainer and something almost all other countries in the world are following.

4) EV owners who use solar power at home for charging will not be contributing towards the economy.
It is sad and disappointing to hear that some of learned businessmen and politicians have even entertained this thought! the argument goes like, EV owners if moved into using net metering with solar panels, will not be using petrol sheds and will not be paying electricity bills. So they can no be taxed and hence they are not contributing to the economy.

Do we really have to provide an answer to this argument ? When learned people comes up with this type of arguments we can just get an idea about how high the amount of vested interests could be.

Any sane person will not fail to see the huge positive impact a single person can make by becoming petroleum independent. Such a person will be an asset for an country and will be saving a huge amount of money annually which would otherwise be burned in a car or in a power plant to provide his energy needs.

Now, basic economics tell us that such a person will then spend that money (he has saved) in investments, savings or consume goods/services (which the others in the society has produced). That is certainly not a bad thing for the economy. Taxing should be a tool to improve a society, not to destroy one. If we still need to tax such a practice (instead of encouraging more people to follow that path, like other countries are doing), at least we should be finding some other ways to tax without killing off both Solar power and EV usage in one stroke. Almost any measure would have been much better than the one which has actually taken in this case!

Two good trends we have seen in Sri Lanka recently are the use of EVs and use of solar power (PV). Many people have opted for net metering which is a great save for petroleum importing developing country like ours. EVs seemed to encourage that trend further, at last it started to seem like some good things may happen to our economy and environment. It is very rarely one see something which is good for the economy and environment both at the same time. Sadly, this is the hope which is now made to go down in smoke, in favour of the petroleum importers, petrol/diesel car importers and few mega businessmen.

We may be engaging in many industries and businesses in many fields, some policy decisions may hit us on our profit margins here and there. As intellectually honest people we need acknowledge bad decisions and harmful decisions to the country/society even if they benefit us personally in the short term, vice versa.

If certain acts which are harmful for a country seem to benefit us, then that may be an indication that we may be in a wrong business, or engaging in some unethical, unpatriotic or anti-society business practices. This is what we need to say to those who trying to justify/promote the EV tax hike.