Offering alternatives for petrol and diesel vehicles matters

Chennai: Fuel prices are much to be debated as the prices of today in Chennai at least stand at nigh on Rs 73. This comes at a time when Brent crude price stands at $62 a barrel.

I have always believed that fuel prices will go up because getting fuel out of under-sea and deep-pocketed reservoirs are always going to be tricky. Further, we are going to dig deep every now and then to take oil out and that task calls for more money to be pumped in for the task. That money, subsequently is got back from the general public who use private transport.

It is all well and good but what was expected as the prices went up was that technology will catch up and we will be able to choose between different modes of transport, thereby forcing the government to cut taxes on fuel, making it a win-win situation for all parties.

I say this because the government taxes more than Rs 50 in taxes alone for every litre of petrol sold in this country. Anyhow, the government does not want to cut taxes, for it depends on money that it gets from fuel being bought to cover up its frankly useless method of expenditure.

When I was in school, my father was worried that petrol had crossed Rs 40 and he told me that by the time I got to his age, I will be spending Rs 100 per litre of petrol.

I, being a petulant child, told him electric vehicles would have caught up and that I would not spend that much. But look at the position now. Yes, electric vehicles have come but I will not be one among the millenials who think progress made in America is progress made in India.

You see, for me what I see with my eyes is important and do you know what? I see a tea-seller shelling out thousands of rupees for petrol every month so that he can get to work and earn some cash. Electric vehicles are nowhere to be seen in India.

More worryingly, electric grids are nowhere to be seen either. Let me give you an example. It takes a person around 20 Km to get to work and back home on a two-wheeler. With Chennai’s traffic conditions, that is one litre petrol spent every day.

Give that person an electric bike or scooter that can do at least 100 km per charge and has the same robustness as a normal vehicle, s/he will buy it. It saves money and people, at least those in the middle and lower classes (earnings wise), will always go for the more affordable option.

But technology has not caught up yet. Even in the developed nations, the technology has not caught up because those countries are now breaking their heads as to how they are going to deal with generating more electricity to cater to the cars. There are other problems too such as the high vehicle weights will damage roads more faster and there is safety.

Electric cars once caught fire, will have to completely burn and it takes hours for it to cut out.

But most importantly, there is the price. Indians can today buy a small electric car, but they will not own the battery pack. What is the point in selling a person a car and telling them they will have to pay a fee every now-and-then for the battery pack, which lets face it, is the heart of an EV. Even in developed countries, electric cars are far from the reach of normal people.

So, what the government is actually doing is telling people that they must reduce using petrol and diesel powered vehicles, but is not giving them a way to buy an alternative. And yes, not all people are well-off to buy a Rs 35 lakh Camry and get approximately around Rs 1 lakh as cashback.

So what are we to do? People who use public transport know the state of it. If a person does not learn to ‘adjust’, they will not survive. And adjusting after paying for the ride? That is rich from the government is that not? Soon enough, people will be banned from using old vehicles.

Soon enough people will be charged for using IC-engined vehicles which actually paid for the roads. It is not fair to keep pressurising people and then pointing towards them for all the mistakes done. I think the government needs to give an answer rather than tell people to write their vehicles off to some imaginary crushing/scrap yard that it hasn’t built yet.

Praveen Kumar S