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Indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources has strained the ecology so much that it has become imperative to make efforts to conserve fuel and energy in all walks of life. A movement has begun to promote alternative fuels. Car manufacturers are adapting by producing hybrid cars fitted with engines that use alternate fuels. While such vehicles reduce pressure on the ecology, another way to ease the load is to promote efficient public transport. Having recognized this, the Central Government of India has taken the initiative to explore the possibility of including hybrid vehicles in its fleet of buses and three wheelers.
To begin, minibuses, three wheelers and buses will be tested in Delhi. These trials are a part of the government’s National Electric Mobility Mission. As part of this mission, the government plans to provide subsidies which will promote the manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles in India. The government believes that India has the potential to excel in the three strategic industries, one among which is the electric and hybrid vehicles segment. Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh said, “On electric and hybrid transport, civilian aircraft production and advanced materials, I agree that we should start working for the future, even if it takes time and even though there are uncertainties on the horizon.” He emphasizes that while the country is doing well in some segments, “we have not been able to leverage our strengths both in traditional industries and in emerging sectors to the extent we could have.” The move to introduce hybrid vehicles will provide a fillip to this initiative and is expected to be buoyed by several government subsidies.
Industry leaders, as well as environmentalist, have welcomed the government’s move. While Mahindra and Mahindra, along with Reva, are currently the only manufacturers in India of cars that use alternate fuels, other companies have also shown an interest in the segment. Toyota and Honda are among those who have taken the initiative to produce alternate fuelled cars for personal use, and we may see them venturing into the commercial vehicle segment too. Toyota plans to launch the Camry hybrid. At the same time, the Veroti EV will be launched by Mahindra and Mahindra. The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), is lobbying to obtain subsidies for the technology for alternate fuels. A statement released by the PMO in the press states that, “India has the potential to emerge as a global manufacturing hub for electric and hybrid vehicles”. The government plans to take the efforts a step further by collaborating with other countries to create a plane engine that will be able to run on alternate fuel.
The trial of public transport vehicles run on alternate fuel in Delhi, is thus a step forward towards revolutionizing the alternate-fuel segment. After Delhi, the initiative will be widened to include other cities in India. Should the venture be successful, the use of affordable alternate fuel in public transport will go a long way in addressing the problems of over- crowding and pollution. It is no longer enough for any country to grow indiscriminately. In order to be viable in the long term, it is important that the initiated projects are eco-friendly and affordable, so that they may provide an effective solution to India’s burgeoning population. The use of hybrid vehicles for public transport is just the beginning and successful implementation will pave the way for other similar initiatives.