One of my good friends is an east European citizen, I worked with him closely almost a decade and half back for a technology transfer and cost reduction project for a commercial vehicle. Having spent substantial part of career with Ricardo, he is making his own electric engine now for a micro transport. I had a long conversation with him a few days back, I thought its worth sharing a few key points I found really interesting. 

India is on very beginning of EV revolution and long way to catch up with China. However, best part is that India can really springback against China. While, frustrated with Europe losing market share to China each day, he sarcastically expressed EU half-gods (politicians) are busy discussing how many toilets must be in public buildings with respect to all possible permutation & combinations, also the EU standard for cucumbers has been more important topic these days. Only focus in EU is on the eco restrictions, no one at high level cares that EU industry is debilitated against Chinese, he says.

The companies in EU and US had been suffering with herd mentality, they only knew that for cheap production they must go to China because everyone does so, the management does not think it is possible somewhere else too. It had become a habit. The effect is that all the industrial know-how is slowly transferred to China making it stronger financially as well as politically. Looking in rear view mirror, now nobody likes it! This is haunting the world.

The big question to answer is how India has been and will promote its industrial potential and skills? He thought not many in EU even know about Indian space program which is exemplary. India must make quick moves more so to gain know-how compared to China.

The big reach and awareness are created by Alibaba too, where one can find everything made in China, even industrial products. There is need for same scale e-shop with products from India and promoting it! Offcourse it is a chicken & egg story; this will help the producers in India to sell and spread the knowledge about Indian industrial products and others too. For small entrepreneurs like him who do not have wherewithal to source on their own, this platform is key, if this is eased, he would like to source his electric vehicles parts from India than China.

However, there was a contra view on the EV hysteria that it will hurt the planet more than combustion engines if looked full cycle. The industry is not ready for transfer from gasoline to watts, the cars are sold still with huge subsidies which comes from the taxes paid by the poor people who cannot afford new car so they use old car with huge CO2 pollution in comparison with modern combustion engines. And the subsidies land to the rich who buy Tesla and likes.

We are scared of the pollution caused by traffic and transport. Yes, it is the biggest contributor to pollution. But Why? It is because, away from legitimate needs we buy banana from the opposite side of the planet than an apple that grows in nearby village? Right or wrong, this entails unnecessary boost in transport.

It is because, how things are marketed and packaged for the world than what the true potential of product is? Marketing professionals have got in our psyche to make us believe that B is better if I have A and C is better if I have B and by chance if I have C, I tend accept A is the best thing to aspire. For analogy the eastern world is made to believe memory foam mattresses are great and west tends to believe Latex is the way to go, the truth is immaterial. And no different is Quinoa Vs Millet story of India, 10% incremental value at 500% incremental price.

He feels that what engineers can contribute with car, bus or truck can effect only 10% of the pollution from transport. The major chunk must be thought based on those who creates the need for the needless transports by twisted marketing gimmicks and not focus on local resources. Off-course the upstream pollution on electricity generation for EVs and the social/ecological impacts to Lithium mining along with battery recycling are not less contributor to Pollution. We are just shifting the problem which is a typical Capitalist method of thinking. China has done well with EVs because its local resource made sense for it, does it make sense for the whole world?

No, we engineers will not save the world when we switch from combustion engine to electric. When we do so, we only follow political will backed by capitalistic mind set.

Disclaimer – This article is written in full personal capacity and free of charge. This has no conflict of interest with the organisation I work or the current role I perform in the organisation or the information I have access in the organisation. This write-up expresses personal views purely based on information easily and widely available in public domain. Rights to reproduce is protected with self.

Pravesh Soni

Guest Writer, Thought Leader and Non-Profit ‘Student Start-Up’ Mentor.

Autonebula is a connected transportation vehicle accelerator and investment fund that nurtures startups in this realm by mentoring them across business, technology & marketing – Check out Softlanding with Autonebula

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Harsha Sanil : hsanil@autonebula.com