U.S. Grid May Handle Electric Cars, But India's Can't

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It goes without saying, but the Indian market for bikes and automobiles is very different to that in the U.S.

Rather than energy concerns, global warming and owning the latest technology, India's priority is reducing the air pollution responsible for millions of deaths a year.

Electric vehicles should be a way of mitigating that, but there's an immediate issue: India's power grids are too unreliable.

While some have raised concerns in the U.S. that electricity grids may fail if too many drivers plug in at once, The New York Times highlights India's more pressing issue, with power grids that fail on a daily basis.

One such issue, last July, cut power to 600 million people--almost twice the population size of the U.S, all without power for two days.

Some areas of India ration power, with the country's coal power stations lacking the raw materials to provide consistent power to millions upon millions of customers.

With many barely able to power their homes, few have confidence that they'd be able to power an electric vehicle as well, even if it's only a bicycle.

Two electric bicycle companies in the Tamil Nadu state, Ampere and Hero Electric, saw sales drop 90 percent and 85 percent respectively when the state rationed electricity from 14 hours a day to 8. The chance of cars selling in such market conditions is even more slim.

That makes Mahindra REVA's plans for a 30,000-car-capacity electric car plant in Bangalore highly optimistic, if admirable.

The company, most well-known for the unloved G-Wiz electric quadricycle, has sold only 2,500 cars in India since opening its doors in 1994.

Electric carmakers in India will benefit from the government's promised $4.13 billion stimulus program. It's aimed at getting six million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2020, four million of which will be two-wheelers.

The air quality improvements could be tangible, but without the power to charge them, it may ultimately be fruitless.

And in a country that gets most of its power--when it works--from coal, India's clean electric vehicles are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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