Electrifying Indian Road Transport: Equivalent Solar Need

Came across an interesting statistics on number of  vehicle sales in 2015 in India and started crunching numbers as to how this is going to increase oil consumption in India and how much more electricity would be needed if all the vehicles were electrified. India imports most of the oil and economy hurts when oil prices are high. Solar energy however is domestically produced and based on recent bids, solar electricity prices are getting down to Rs 3.5 (0.05 cents)/KWhr in short timevehiclessales_petrol

The interesting result is that we would need just 15 GW of solar panels with 5 hrs/day average sunlight to electrify all the new vehicle sales of 2015. India already has plans to install 100GW of solar power by 2022. The other interesting thing is that the Rupees you spend per km is less in case of electrified transport. If oil prices rise further (only India and China with their demand can jack up prices), and renewable electricity prices continue to drop, the difference will only get bigger.  The oil consumption increase per day represents an oil expense increase of 9 MM$/day (@60$/bbl) or 3.3 Billion$ per year. Assuming 20000 km/yr for cars and motorcycles and 100000 km/yr for trucks, electrified transport will save 14 billion $/yr transportation costs + foreign currency for importing oil. Why can’t these future savings be monetized to set up electric mobility infrastructure?

The reduced operating costs should be used to pay for the current higher cost of electrified transport (batteries, charging stations etc). However, with time these costs will fall if India decides to produce batteries locally. Electrifying transport is the only sustainable way, or one has to rely on vagaries of the oil prices. Imagine electricity infrastructure with all electric vehicles plugged in the grid 24/7 like mobiles or data servers and  stabilizing the grid by charging when it suited grid balancing. While electrifying motorcycles and cars is proven technology, electrification of commercial vehicles stand for the major share of oil consumption and have the largest cost decrease per kilometer. If solar electricity prices continue to fall, hydrogen fuel cell range extenders to electrify commercial vehicles is a way to go.

The motorcyle and car electrification has another incentive through reduced pollution in the densely populated Indian cities. A solution is needed before people in these cities start going around with masks like in Star Wars for air pollution, not to mention the noise pollution.

The table below shows the size of battery capacity to electrify all new sales of vehicles in India.


Roughly twice the Gigafactory size by Tesla (full size in 2020), which is not an outrageous figure. 2 Gigafactories in India to electrify all transport. India has many public sector undertakings from oil to coal to steel. Why not one in modern needs: lithium battery production, solar panel production (not just assembly). Government gives cheap loans to start a public undertaking with clear goal of using best technology to drive battery prices down and deliver a profit based public company.


CO2 fact

If India and China alone begin to emit as much CO2 per capita as USA, CO2 emissions will increase by 24kt (more than 50% increase). Fossil fuels stand for 91% of manmade CO2 emission. Oil consumption through transportation stands for some 30% of CO2 emission. Imagine the oil price if demand in India and China increases to same per capita levels as in US. Is there enough oil? And what are the consequences to pollution in cities and environment in general? India and China are late to the mobility game and with densely populated cities as a starting point, have to find own way to address mobility challenges. China is already near top of electric vehicle sales list.



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