Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways, has said that although India is upping production and use of alternative fuels for transportation, the fossil fuels import bill is way too high. He made this observation during the course of a fireside chat at the recently held ACMA convention in New Delhi.
“With the middle class getting more affluent, leisure travelling has increased in the passenger vehicle segment. This has been made possible by better road infrastructure built by the National Highways Authority of India,” he said. However, the downside to this was growing pollution and costlier oil imports.
Gadkari said flex-fuel engines would help keep emissions in check and cited the Toyota Innova HyCross flex-fuel hybrid MPV as a case in point. It is a prototype hybrid with a flex-fuel engine that can run on E100 graded fuel and on fully EV mode as well.
“Consumers are ready to pay higher costs on flex-fuel vehicles,” said the Minister. Other OEMs are also investing in alternative fuel technologies in their attempts to promote the cause of clean air.
The other key aspect of safety has also got a boost with Bharat NCAP crash regulations now in place. “Most manufacturers already have vehicles available with six airbags while a few are adamant this will lead to price increase for lower cost models” said Gadkari. However, as more customers begin appreciating the importance of safety, manufacturers will ensure that the best features are incorporated in vehicles. “The Government does not need to make this mandatory for all automakers,” he added.
Gadkari was, however, more concerned on the subject of emergency response and safety education, which needed considerable improvement to increase road safety. Even while emergency services were being deployed rapidly on highways, human behaviour was still a concern especially with two-wheeler riders.
With manufacturers now coming up with scrapping centres, he said people needed to be better educated on their benefits. As for electric vehicle corridors, Gadkari welcomed suggestions on this initiative where NHAI will give the right of way to eligible parties which will hold the majority 51% stake. Electric cable construction will be handled by private players and charged as toll systems.