A pair of articles in the Economic Times this morning got me thinking. One discussed how carmakers will react to the launch of Ratan Tata's much-feted "one lakh car" in 2008 (i.e. a car that retails for one lakh, or 100,000 rupees--about $2500). Another was an incorrect blurb about hybrid cars. The mistake the writers made was in implying that hybrid cars must be plugged in to charge their batteries. The real genius of the hybrid car design is that engineers use the waste heat (which is energy) generated by the car's gasoline, or I suppose diesel, engine to charge the battery. See more about the design here. What it all means is that if you burn a biodiesel or ethanol mixture, you can reduce fossil fuel consumption to almost nothing and at the same time reduce harmful emissions by 80 to 90 percent. The reason ET's mistake made me think was that it's patently obvious that a car you'd have to plug in would be a nonstarter (in more ways than one) in India, where there is already a shortage of electric power.
But what if you did the opposite? What if you used the regenerative braking and other electricity-generating concepts of the hybrid car to charge batteries that you could then bring home and use to power your lights and household appliances? In other words, what if instead of plugging in your car, you could plug in your house?
This was an under-publicized potential benefit of inventor Dean Kamen's highly publicized Segway PT. If the same concept could be applied in a vehicle for the masses like Tata's one-lakh car, perhaps India's power woes could be over.