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Electric and hybrid vehicles & their possibility in India (Relevant for GS prelims, GS mains paper III)

Though the government seems to have dropped its plan to implement a comprehensive electric vehicle (EV) policy, it is still keen on shifting India’s petrol-diesel-based auto industry to electric. Government think tank NITI Aayog has tasked seven Ministries, including Heavy Industries and Power, to come up with guidelines to encourage the use of EVs.

What are the differences between electric and hybrid vehicles?
The key difference between hybrid and all-EVs is in the sources of fuel and locomotion available to them. Hybrid vehicles have two sources available to them— a battery that powers an electric motor and a fuel tank that powers a normal petrol engine.

Typically, the battery can power the electric motor for only about 60-70 km, but there are constant improvements being made in the efficiency and capacity of lithium-ion batteries and so, this is expected to improve as more carmakers choose to roll out hybrid or electric variants. Once the battery is depleted, the hybrid car switches over to the petrol engine, which then functions like any other normal car engine.

An all-EV does not have this advantage. Once its battery is depleted, it has no backup source of fuel. However, electric cars have the benefit of larger batteries since they do not have to share space with a petrol engine or fuel tank. So, typically, an EV can travel a much longer distance than a hybrid car running on its battery.

How do you refuel them?
A normal plug-in hybrid vehicle can be refuelled by plugging the car into a wall socket or a charging point, and refilling the petrol tank. However, there are some hybrid variants that can recharge the electric battery through a technology called regenerative braking, where the vehicle converts the force of the car when it brakes into electrical energy. In these models, only the fuel tank needs to be filled. All EVs need to be charged from a charging point.

Charging time depends on the size of the battery and the source of electricity. A DC charging point can fully charge a car battery in a fraction of the time taken using an AC charging point, which is 6-8 hours.

How does the Center differentiate between the two?
The main difference is in their tax treatment under the Goods and Services Tax. While EVs are taxed at 12%, hybrid vehicles are taxed on par with the luxury vehicles at 28% plus 15% cess.

(Adapted from The Hindu)

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