Tesla Model 3: Clean car, dirty car

Almost a month back, the entire internet went crazy about a new car that Tesla showcased. I have huge respect for the brand and Elon Musk. Electric cars used to be dull, boring, slow and devoid of any character and they seem to have done a pretty good job of changing that. However, I fail to see why half the world has already stepped up and declared it to be the car of future.

Electric cars, as they are now, are not the future of mobility.

Electric cars are amazing for people who are gonna cover limited distance in one go and with batteries and motors constantly evolving, the range is certainly going to improve. However tagging them as clean doesn’t make sense.

tesla model 3

The Tesla Model 3 looks promising. 0-100 kph in less than 6 seconds and a range of over 330 kms sounds impressive (the closer electric rivals offer 140-200 kms). However it would still be plagued by the same problems as any other electric car. Batteries. Batteries are ugly heavy things that are neither clean to manufacture nor clean to dispose off once they have been through their life. On top of that, they would have to be recharged and while the Tesla ‘Superchargers’ can speed up the process, neither would you have them at your home, nor is it going to be as fast as brimming up the tank. Under ideal conditions, it would take 30 minutes to reach 80 percent capacity. Plugging into your household supply would lead to a full charge in 5-6 hours.

The batteries that exist today can’t drive the automobile industry forward. Maybe we need batteries that work like capacitors and can be charged in a matter of minutes. Even my motorcycle won’t give me a range of more than 400 kilometres but I can simply stop at a petrol station and be ready to do another 400 in less than a minute.

Fuel cell hybrids can be a solution. Honda has got the FCX Clarity which, according to me, could be a potential contender for the vehicle of future. It is an electric car with motor in it but it uses hydrogen fuel cells to power the electric motor. Hydrogen fuelling stations are becoming available in some parts of the world and the process takes just as long as filling CNG would. And because it will need smaller batteries, the miners will be happier as well.

Tesla Model 3 or any other electric car is often tagged with phrases like ‘Zero emission’ or ‘Zero pollution’. Well technically there is no emission coming out the tailpipe (there isn’t a tailpipe either) but has just been shifted to some other place. India relies on coal for more than 60 percent of the electricity so it is likely that your electric car is powered by coal and you have a share in the ash mountain seen near thermal power plants. Recently someone in Singapore was fined USD 15,000 for importing a Tesla as emissions surcharge. The government claimed that the Model S he imported had an equivalent emission of 222 grams per kilometre. To put that in perspective, a new Ford Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost produces similar emissions. So not that clean afterall, eh?

I will go back to where I started. The Tesla Model 3 looks really promising but a lot has to be done before electric cars start to make sense. Mahindra made bold claims about providing the infrastructure for E2Os but there weren’t many headlines following that. Maybe things will change if many manufacturers try to push for the shift together but it seems highly unlikely in India. Our country is on the list of markets for Model 3 but the chances of selling enough units to justify investing in a network of Superchargers are low. That said, I really hope one of my friends end up buying one so that I can have a go when it arrives at our shores in 2019 maybe.


Akshay Sharma