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Industry at a Crossroads

The automobile industry now stands at a crossroads where no one really knows what the method of propulsion is going to be: whether it is going to be electricity or green hydrogen or the non-polluting synthetic fuel used in internal combustion engines (ICE). The European Union has given a go-ahead to Germany for the manufacture of ICE engines beyond 2035.

Considerable difference of opinion prevails in the world as to what constitutes “clean” and what does not. For instance, mining for lithium causes a lot of damage to the environment. Indeed, it is said to cause worse damage than that caused by petrol and diesel cars. If such be the case, then the electric cars are out as well.

With most manufacturers keeping all the options open, Porsche, a well-known Volkswagen Group company, has put up a synthetic fuel plant in Chile. Toyota are using hydrogen in their ICE and BMW have already made a fleet of 7 Series cars running on hydrogen fuel in ICE. We were driven around Munich in these cars during one of our visits to Germany more than a decade ago.

Apart from Porsche, quite a few manufacturers are working on synthetic fuel to be used in ICE. From 2026, Formula 1 will use carbon-neutral fuel. Furthermore, the energy density storage in batteries is not good as compared to petrol or diesel and that is why electric cars tend to be so heavy.

The best option for the immediate future is plug-in hybrid. It does not require a big stack of batteries and, at the same time, such a vehicle can alternate between an EV for daily commuting and a fuel-efficient car for long-distance touring. Therefore, the authorities should consider promoting plug-in hybrids by offering tax benefits.  


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