In-depth analysis: Hybrid car tech can save Pakistan from energy crisis
The country these days is facing a serious energy crisis. The imported and local oil is mostly consumed in firing fossil fueled IPPs (Independent Power Producer) and transport sector. A solution was found in shape of conversion of vehicles to CNG, but this option has almost been exhausted due to shortage of natural gas in the country and mushroom growth of CNG stations. The only option left is to switch over to HYBRID CARS. But due to inherent inertia in our thinking and non availability of proper technical advice (except from road side uneducated mistri ustaad), we are reluctant to switch over to new inventions.
The government has recently taken a positive step to encourage import of hybrid cars by reducing duty. However the decision of free import of 1200cc cars created some confusion which warrants a detailed study and clear understanding of hybrid concept.
Hybrid Concept: Hybrid cars work on principle of momentum. Cars have a rechargeable battery and a gasoline engine. Initially car moves on battery from static position, and on attaining a certain speed, the engine kicks off and moves the car, simultaneously charging the battery.
Hybrid cars are equipped with most sophisticated, deep cycle gel-type rechargeable batteries. These batteries have optimal efficiency to work for 800,000 charging cycles which is theoretically equivalent to 400,000 kms of drive.
Actual finesse is that at a certain speed, or on sloping roads, when the vehicle is in coasting mode, it no more requires engine power. Therefore the engine automatically shuts off and the battery starts getting recharged from additional charging dynamos installed in CVT gear box, thus preserving energy in battery and saving fuel(over and above low emissions). As a matter of fact, the batteries are charged in two modes, once by the engine when it runs on fuel and secondly when the vehicle is on coasting mode with shutoff engine.
Now to provide energy to the car to charge battery on coasting mode, the engine has to be made sufficiently powerful, otherwise engine’s entire power will be consumed to move the car and not charge the battery. Therefore manufacturers prefer to make high engine capacity cars and production of 1200cc car is beyond technical viability. The pioneer of this technology is Toyota, which launched its 1500cc Prius car 20 years ago (this is still the best selling Hybrid car in the world).
Hybrid vs Electric Cars; Various manufacturers are also producing Electric cars without a gasoline engine. These are driven by an electric motor, powered by batteries which are charged by electricity from specially made power outlets fitted in homes and popular locations in cities. These are noiseless cars with zero emissions. The major drawback is their limited driving range. The batteries require recharging after approximately 100 miles, hence are unsuitable for our country.
Popularity: Hybrid cars are getting very popular in the world day by day. Firstly due to low fuel consumption and secondly low carbon emissions for green environment. Hybrid cars are running successfully in America since 15 years. In UK and EU countries, number of Hybrid cars are increasing at a fast pace whereas in USA hybrid cars are privileged for priority lane use. Even there are no congestion charges of GPB 10, on Hybrid cars in central London. Population of Hybrid cars in the world has exceeded 2 million units. Success of cars has lead to manufacture and use of Hybrid 4WD Jeeps and MPVs. In UK, Toyota Yaris (Vitz) 1500cc is especially being manufactured in their Derby Plant. From 2011 onwards. Toyota is also producing an estate version of Prius called Prius A. It’s a 7 seater estate car for large families and is getting very popular world over.
Import Policy: Realizing potential of Hybrid cars, previous government reduced duties on all Hybrid Vehicles by 25%. The present government has further improved this policy in recent budget. Outline policy is;
– Cars; 3 year old cars from date of manufacture can be imported. Cars upto 1200cc can be imported duty free (there is no 1200cc car in world). Duty rebate from 1201cc to 1800cc is 50% and from 1801cc to 2500cc is 25%. Beyond 2500cc, there is no duty rebate and an additional 10% FED.
– Jeeps, SUVs and MPVs; 5 years old Jeeps, SUVs and MPVs from date of manufacture can be imported. Duty rebate from 1801cc to 2500cc is 25% and beyond 2500cc, there is no duty rebate on these vehicles. In addition there is 10% FED on all these vehicles.
Current Hybrid Models; though many manufactures are producing Hybrid vehicles around the world in Japan, Europe and USA. But here only popular and tested models will be discussed.
– Toyota; The most popular model is Prius which is in production since last 20 years. Its 3rd generation was introduced in end Dec 2009. Its 2010, 1500 cc model, can be imported till end December this year. But 2010, 1800cc new model can be imported any time. Newly launched 2013 model, 1500cc Vitz(UK version Yaris) is uneconomical to import. Similar to that Toyota is manufacturing 1500 cc Aqua (5 door hatchback) for local market in Japan. This car averages 35 km to a liter and is getting popular in Pakistan. A Lexus 2011 model hatchback can also be imported. In 2011, 2500cc Toyota Camry luxury car was introduced which can get 25% rebate. Toyota Crown Hybrid 3500cc, model 2008 is also available but will not get a rebate being over 2500cc. In MPVs, 2400cc Esima 7 seat Hybrid van model 2008 can be imported with 25% rebate, but 3500cc Alphard will get no rebate. In Jeeps, 3300cc Harrier Hybrid 4WD model 2008 and beyond and Lexus RX 3500cc hybrid, model 2009 can be imported but will not get rebate. In 2013 Toyota has introduced 1500cc Corolla Axio Hybrid in Japan.
– Honda; Honda is the second leading Japanese manufacturer of Hybrid cars. Its models under production are Honda Civic(a saloon already very popular in Pakistan),a hatchback Honda Insight and another five door hatchback Honda Fit. All these model use a 1339cc hybrid engine. The basic difference between Toyota and Honda technology that whereas Toyota uses larger capacity engines as compared to similar gasoline models, Honda manufactures smaller hybrid engines (Civic Gasoline is 1800cc and its Hybrid version is 1339cc). Secondly, in Toyota technology, the vehicle initially moves purely on battery power with shut off engine, which is fired when the vehicle attains a certain speed, thus preserving fuel. In Honda, the engine starts immediately on ignition once the vehicle is static, and the motors fitted in wheels assist engine when the car sets into motion, resulting into lesser economy and power. Whereas Toyota vehicles have a central motor which powers wheels, Honda has separate motors fitted in each of front wheel.
– Nissan; Nissan produces its popular 2500cc hybrid model Altima in USA. But being left hand drive is not suitable for Pakistan. In Japan, Nissan produces 3500cc hybrid model known as Fugo. But over 2500cc bracket, its import is not economical. Nissan’s electric car Leaf is getting very popular world over but will take time in suiting our environment.
– Mitsubishi; Mitsubishi is only producing an electric car called IMIEv.
– Non Japanese Hybrid Models; Various European and American car makers like Chevrolet and Ford are producing hybrid versions. Audi is producing 2000cc A8 Hybrid, Mercedes E class 2200cc diesel hybrid, BMW a 3000cc 3,5 and & series hybrids and Porsche 3000cc 4WD Cayenne’s Hybrid Jeep. But these models are not suitable for Pakistan being expensive, with high maintenance costs and higher duty brackets.
– Q: Can the hybrid car move even if batteries are completely discharged?
A: Yes. The engine automatically switches over to petrol engine and functions like a normal gasoline car.
– Q: Does the battery last for sufficiently longer duration.
A: Yes. It lasts more than 5 to 6 years or 300,000km to 350,000km. As a matter of fact Toyota Prius hybrid car has never been recalled for faulty battery.
– Q: Is the replacement of battery available in market.
A: Yes. Both new and second hand batteries are available in the market.
– Q: Is the technical repair facility available in market for hybrid cars.
– Q: Are body parts available in market for hybrid cars?
– Q: How hybrid cars switch between batteries and engine?
A: It is governed and executed by a synergy system installed in engine compartment and displayed on a monitor inside cars.
– Q: Is the mileage and condition of imported cars authentic?
A: In case of Japanese imported cars Yes! The auction sheet provided by auction houses is 100% factual. Tempering, if at all is done in Pakistan, after the import.
– Q: Are locally assembled cars better than imported second hand cars?
– A: No. Locally assembled are basically Thai model .These have low grade manufacturing methodology, poor body and engine parts, substandard safety measures and high fuel consumption.
Import Options; Since Pakistan ply right hand drive vehicles, therefore second hand cars from only UK and Japan are suitable for import. UK cars, due to high conversation rate of GPB are slightly expensive and secondly UK does not have a proper auction system to provide exact and authenticated condition report. One has to physically inspect the car, purchase it and then ship it to Pakistan. On the contrary, Japan has an elaborate and time-tested/regulatory governed auction system with approximately 150 auction houses, managed by two groups named IAUC and USS Auction. These auction houses display exact condition of vehicles in shape of auction sheet which shows exact mileage, body condition, mechanical parts condition and its pictures. These can be purchased on internet and are shipped to Pakistan smoothly. On arrival in Karachi, custom clearance is done by agents and cars are transported to the destination on carriers.
Suggestions for Government;
– Policy on 1200cc car should be clarified.
– Since 4WD vehicles consume more fuel and most of our terrain is hilly, therefore upper limit 2500cc on duty drawback of hybrid cars should be increased to 3500.
– Levy of 10% FED on hybrid cars beyond 1800cc should be withdrawn.
– Since most of the Commercial Vans are converted to CNG, therefore to provide relief to poor commuters, import of 3500cc hybrid vans should be encouraged.
– Government should create awareness about hybrid vehicles in public.
It is felt we must revisit our thinking and try to grasp modern ideas in world of auto mobiles and clear our thoughts and understanding. It is imperative to disseminate the factual knowledge on Hybrid technology and initiative taken by present government to widen use of hybrid vehicles.