I have been reading about the Rs 1 Lakh (about US$2,500) car that Tata Motors is planning on selling soon.
It scares me witless. These days, oil is selling for around US$85 a barrel. India imports most of its fossil fuel requirements. It is a poor country and cannot afford high priced oil — and oil is going to become increasingly costly because demand will continue to rise and supply will continue to fall. That is Econ101. India is also a very small country relative to its population. With 17 percent of the world’s population and 2 percent of the world’s land area, land is at a premium in India unlike say in the US (where the population density is a tenth of what it is in India.) You cannot just have cars: you need fuel and you need space to use the cars in. It is insane to not do basic arithmetic (“Those who refuse to do arithmetic are doomed to speak nonsense”) and realize that cars are not the solution to India’s predicament regarding transportation within its cities.
What India needs is foresighted leadership. It needs people to figure out that in the densely populated cities of India, efficient public transportation systems must be built now. For the existing cities, these public transportation systems should have been built decades ago. And that is not all. About 70 percent of India’s population lives in rural areas. This rural population will have to sooner or later have to be urbanized if they have to have any hope of rising out of their economic poverty. They cannot be accommodated in the existing cities which are bursting at the seams. New cities will have to built and right from the beginning public transportation must be built-in for them.
I think at the end it does not matter how cheaply the cars get built. The bottom line is gas will get to be expensive enough that few will be able to afford using those cars. And even if you could afford the gas, the question will be where will they actually drive? In Mumbai, most of the day you cannot cover more than 3 or 4 miles per hour by road.
Yes, those cars scare the hell out of me.
Follow up post: What and How.