The Energy Enigma-2

This is in continuation to my previous post on energy conservation. In this post I will be concentrating on conservation of fossil fuels and their alternatives that the automobile industry can work on..

Let me start off with the point I made earlier. The present day supplies from the existing oil sources shall last only for 40 more years. At this rate, and the present dependence by us on the vehicles that use them, there is a dire need to get to the alternate sources. The current petrol and diesel engines operate at a maximum of 35% efficiency. This technology has attained a saturation and very little can be done about the Internal combustion engines. In this scenario, the best we can do, at the ground reality to conserve fuel are—

1. Car pooling – many a time, I have seen single people travelling in huge cars like Innova, Civic etc. What a colossal waste of precious fuel..! People going to the same workplace from nearby localities can take turns and drive their vehicles to work. Or companies themselves can run cab-like systems even for people at the higher managerial cadre.

Today there are many technological parks which house many IT and Finance companies. Instead of having separate Cabs for every company in the same complex, the total transportation can be outsourced to an agency. Now, consider a hypothetical situation for example, say at ITPL: Infy, Wipro, Siemens, Oracle and GE have set up offices. All the transportation concerning the employees of all these companies can be given to a single agency. That way, you’re not having separate vehicles, and saving a lot on fuel. I see some buses with “Global Village Technology Park” on them, good if they are actually doing this..!

2. Public transport – this topic was largely discussed in my previous posts’ comments. Any city can keep its commuters happy only it has an efficient and affordable transport system. From my experience, I can say that an ideal scenario would be buses with high frequency like in Chennai, the quality of the buses being like those in Bangalore, and the autos with fares like in Bangalore. This is obviously an ideal scenario, but transport organizations can work towards this. The BMTC in Bangalore is doing fairly a good job with its services, and is THE largest profit making transport org in India. The much hyped metro rail can ease the load off the buses to a great extent. But I sincerely feel it can be much more successful if intra-city train networks are built underground. So much of space is saved above the ground, that can be used for widening or for construction of flyovers. And talking of flyovers, many of the flyovers today are broad enough to barely give the space they take on ground..! So what’s the point.??! We need better planning. The transport and civil organizations must work in tandem to achieve this. The constructions are outsourced to private companies, which is a good move, as pvt orgs will be result and deadline oriented.

3. Control of vehicle inflow: there was a mention of this on my previous post’s comments. I endorse this view partially. Let me try to put this ‘partial’ part more clearly.

On one side, there is Nano [Tata], which is a path-breaking innovation, on the other there are big luxury cars which many people lust after. Let me take the former first. True, the technology and its pricing are revolutionary. No one actually thought that a car can be sold at 1 lakh Rupees, and Tata has made it possible. The common man’s car is almost here. Tata and the likes can make fantastic business. Everyone has a car. Everyone is happy. Great..! But think of the consequences. There can be two- three Nanos in a single house. This means each person in the family can have a car at his disposal. The car per family ratio will go up from 1 to 2 or even 3..! this is not a good sign considering the current choking scenario on the roads. For people in Bangalore, do you think it is possible to go shopping/roaming peacefully, on a bike to Avenue road or SP road?? [leave alone a Nano or a Maruthi 800..!] so think of the time spent travelling if the vehicle inflow becomes thrice..

Instead, Tata and the likes can take contracts from individual city transport corporations, and can manufacture large capacity cars/vans that can seat atleast 5-6 people, and price it at a competitive price [say 3-4 lakhs per vehicle] That way, there is an alternate means for transport other than the usual buses, autos or even the metro. This can be a comfortable means to some extent and with higher frequency than the buses. The maintenance of these vehicles can be outsourced. And the smooth running can be made possible by having a centralized control unit for the city. A GPS system can be integrated with the mobile service providers that can intimate the passengers when the next vehicle will be coming to their stop. This last measure may increase the overall cost of this operation, but that can be looked into. Monthly/annual passes can be issued to regular commuters [derived from the bus model]

Now, regarding the latter case, the luxury cars [petrol/diesel], people can still buy them, but they cant be driven in cities..for practical reasons which both you and me know. They can be kept purely for the driving comfort and experience of long drives. This is for the driving enthusiasts.

4. In the future, there can be “super-colonies” [I am coining this term, please let me know if this has some other meaning]. That is, a huge land area can be taken by the builders to develop industry on one side, and residential and commercial facilities separately on the other side. The feasibility of the industry should be looked into obviously. I remember seeing in one of the episodes of “extreme engineering” where a 100 floor residential cum commercial locality was proposed for the future. The programme showed all the practicalities and the means to combat accidents/natural disasters and terror attacks. Such a complex is THE thing of the future.

Now for the alternates part

1. Hybrid cars – cars are nowadays made with engines that switch between battery supply and petrol. This way, the mileage attained is atleast 3-4 times higher. The batteries that these run on are environment friendly [non-lead acid batteries].

Recently the Honda Civic Hybrid with Integrated Motor Assist was introduced in India. Its price? A whopping 22 lakh..! but the base price is about 12-13 lakh. This near 100% import duty must be waived off for hybrid cars. Or even better, a concession must be given to such cars. Hybrids have a tremendous potential in the future market, say ten years hence. These can be used for the pleasurable long drive an enthusiast may need.

2. Biofuels – these are derived from decayed organic matter, currently used for powering homes or cooking. Engineering stalwarts like BMW, Honda can do some R&D in this field to tap this for automobiles.

3. Other technologies like solar cars, hydrogen fuel, or the water fuel cell cars have a long way to go before they can be tapped for daily consumption.

To sum up, the faster we find alternates, the better for us. We need to keep in mind that on one fine morning, there is not going to be a drop of petrol left..! the best we can do is to delay that day as far as possible… and all of us have to put in concerted efforts in that direction..

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5 comments

  1. I found car pooling and super colonies really interesting 🙂 ….lets see how effectively some of the alternatives you mentioned can be implemented 🙂

  2. This one’s an interesting blog with some real interesting ideas.. wud b nice if these ideas were implemented.. lets hope for it in the near future..

  3. Car pooling is a very practical solution. ppl r following it already. havent heard abt t “tech park” transport though.hope companies realise that they can play a major role in conserving fuels if they implement it.

  4. @sri-ya, good that ppl are already following car pooling..and some of the tech parks like global village are following a single bus transport system…

  5. Yes, just read this post today. Good thoughts, I should say.

    And to add on to the point of controlling the number of privately owned cars on the road – In Singapore, we have a system called COE (Certificate of Entitlement), which needs to be bought from the government in order to buy a car. Only a fixed number of COEs are released everyweek, and the price is quoted on a bidding basis, greater demand for COEs, greater price to pay. In effect, it is usually added to the price of the car you buy from the dealer, but overall, the number of cars that enter the road is limited. And some amount needs to be payed towards the COE every year and is valid for 10 years. I find this a novel way at ceiling the number of cars that enter the road. Plus, ERPs – Electronic road pricing, is quite high here. So, both combined actually lead many of the college goers, youth, general public to use the common transport.

    Of course, before such stringent regulations are brought in, we need to ensure an efficient public transport system. I’m really hoping and waiting for the Metro to do some change to the scenario in Bangalore.

    Oops ok huge comment that one.

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