Longevity bane or boon?

Wish to live as long as possible is natural but achieving the same to enjoy life in Golden Period needs efforts!

Vilas, my friend, wrote an e mail on our college group about human longevity and role of pharmaceutical companies in the same. This brings us to the good old discussion, longevity, is it bane or boon? In recent past, we all have seen products, treatments and methods to delay aging. Hoping to be around for longer time is a natural instinct! Both men and women, are using different products, trying to look young, dying their hair black and so on. There is plethora of creams, lotions, treatments, massages, health routines, health drinks available to us. The commercial organizations make such things available to us but to buy or not to buy is our choice! Such products were not available even 50 years back.

Vilas had made a comment that these pharmaceuticals companies keep people alive to make money. I replied to his mail saying that I don’t agree; in that e mail exchange, Sudhakar and another friend Pramod prodded me that this is a subject on which I should write a blog! Something kicked in from within and thoughts started flowing in my mind. What is longevity, what is old age? These definitions change as the years pass by, and/or we go to different countries. In Japan one of my colleagues’ father is 92 years old, 2 or 3 times a week he travels by Metro to get stuff for home! Old age? What is that? Last year we had taken Alaska cruise and there was one grand old American lady, all of 99 years of age, traveling alone on the cruise! You may say that these are exceptions but I don’t think they are! In a country like Japan population of 80 plus people is quite large and average age at death is between 85 & 90.

 Just a generation before ours, in India, our parents generation, old age started with crossing the age of fifty and at the time of retirement at 58 or 60 the Vanprasthashrama started. The currently available medicines, diagnostics tools and treatments were simply not available then. So if you had a heart attack, you simply died in most cases. Before the responsibilities of people ended, their health and wealth both were on the wane. Today’s Golden period never really dawned on that generation. There were two reasons, deterioration of health and wealth. Post British Raj, we were a poor country hence there never were savings to write home about. Even if ones health remained good, there was no money around to enjoy. But most important plus, for that generation, was there was always something to look forward to! Children, grandchildren were mostly around. Families always had something going. But for our generation with nuclear families, children migrating, we have to create our own things to look forward to! 

 In our generation, in general health has improved both bodily and financially. Slowly, in front of our eyes, we have seen that in today’s age 50 is like 40 of olden days and so on. Today’s 70 is like 60 of last generation. The overall improvement in situation is changing the definition of old age. Discussion on death was taboo in older generation. Now people at least in my group talk openly about health and death. With this change in thinking people are trying to take things in hand and are discussing about “medical will”! For example people are discussing openly, that in case of defined major health issues, they would not like to be put on ventilator or would not like to undergo major surgery. By taking such parameters under control people really want to enjoy their golden period and say quits when it is not worth it!

 There are ways to keep reasonably healthy. The most important is discipline. Whatever we do, only discipline is going to help. Some might feel that your behavior is regimental but to achieve your goal you need to be very rigid about discipline. I will tell you my story; I was detected with severe diabetes, HB1C value of 11.5, five years back! I love sweets and this change had occurred between two yearly tests. What I did and still follow is discipline, discipline and discipline! I stopped eating sweets from the next day, I exercise regularly anyway. Started medication and switched to low carb stuff. In the third year my HB1C was found to be 6.0! In between I went through cancer treatment for about three months! My doctor was very confident that I will bring things under control because he was aware of my discipline. Why I shared my story with you is because we are probably the first generation in India, that may be able to enjoy the golden period of life! Add to discipline, positive thinking; that is one more thing that will keep you healthy.

 Is longevity bane? No I don’t think so! There are many different ways of keeping healthier and fitter at my age (I am 68). Healthiness is equally important for both body and mind. For body, exercise and yoga are the key but for mind there are many different things. You can learn something new, things that you always wanted to learn but never got time. A friend of mine today told me that post retirement he has joined a music school to learn to play Piano! Great going. Maybe you wanted to try your hand at photography, travel, painting or reading. Do it! Doing things you love to do, is my definition of Golden Period! Golden Period definition changes with person to person. Somebody may want to join bhajan singing group, some may like discussion group on modern technology. Thirty years back my mother was in such a group but it was very rare in those days. That group had retired general managers, high court judges, house wives, teachers and what have you. They would invite people to give 15 to 30 minute talks on subject ranging from puarans, health care, or to get to know about latest aero planes. Their only requirement was that the speaker should explain in such a way that they could understand the subject. Groups formed 30 years back were the beginning of many such groups mushrooming now in the form of Alumni groups, Office colleagues groups and so on.  

 Staying connected with family and friends is another great way of remaining healthy. After taking care to remain healthy, things can go wrong but this should not happen for want of trying. Another secret of remaining healthy is to keep updated with new things like gadgets, technologies and happenings all around! So much information is available easily on the net these days, it is crime to not know things. My grandmother died at the age of 85; was she keen on what is happening in the world! Whenever I went to her house she would ask me information on different things in the world. She died in 1985 but she used to read the newspapers really in details. My brother in law is 81 years old (he was professor of commerce) and is having many health issues. A couple of weeks back when we traveled only to meet him, we found that though the flesh was not willing, his intellect was as sharp as ever. Currently he is mentoring one of his students on a project for making solar drier which can be used by plethora of people! He wanted my advice and thoughts on marketing the product! Last week I had a discussion on WhatsApp technicalities with my Grand-nephew! Another way of keeping young!  

 Vilas mentioned in his mail a figure of 75 years of age, beyond which he felt it may not be very pleasant to be around. Yes possible, on current data available. But I am sure this data will change a lot in next 25 years and maybe 80/85 would be that age! Jury is still out on definitions of Golden Period, threshold age. But I am quite sure that this will be a moving target all the time! And finally, YES! The old age is a boon!

Electric cars, are they round the corner?

Definition of inflection point: a point on a curve that separates an arc concave upward from one concave downward and vice versa. The term inflection point was first used by Andy Grove in his book “Only the Paranoids Survive”. Inflection point can be there in anybody’s life on in business cycle of industry. It indicates the total change in scenario or make and break situation. The diagram showing point of inflexion.

 Inflexion point

I visualize a major point of inflexion in automobile industry in near future. There are different views floating regarding when the Electric Cars will be mass produced. The year mentioned fairly regularly is 2030! That’s not really far! Why this is going to happen and whether it will happen at all will be based on many factors. Currently volume of Electric cars manufactured world over is not significant. But Nissan, BMW, Ford, GM, Mahindra in a small way and of course Tesla are already making electric cars. I have heard that Toyota plans to come up with a full electric car by 2019.

 2016electric cars predictiongraph

This is the forecast sale of electric cars as percentage of total car sales, for the year 2016 but I could not get the real figures. Japan at 9.7% is highest in the number of total cars produced and China at 0.9% is the lowest %. France, Great Britain, Germany, USA, South Korea, Spain are there in between.

 What will give the boost? What factors are going to push this production? When will the momentum gather for switch to mass production? When will the point of inflexion be reached? Main factors considered in usage of automobiles are its price, fuel cost, car driving  range, parts cost and main is the cost of ownership. Besides this battery charging infrastructure is going to be the most important aspect that will make or break this change.

 Price factor for electric cars appears to be in reasonable control even without mass production. In the cost of electric cars “Engine & drive train” needs be brought down; all other things remain same. When Tesla started producing cars, people looked at it as Elon Musk’s fancy! Tesla is working like a start-up but it is somehow managing to survive financially. Now they are also coming up with an affordable sedan. Slowly big giants like BMW, GM and others have woken up. Initial experiment started with Toyota’s Prius hybrid. Thinking was to just increase the fuel efficiency of existing car system and Prius hybrid was the first successful attempt. But it was definitely a minor change in thinking and not the game changer like fully Electric car. As per current thinking even  in India, Government has increased the Tax on hybrids. When asked, the minister said, “When Electric cars is the future why bother about hybrids!” Electric cars will of course need Government support by way of lower taxes to make them attractive for buyers. Government support will also be needed for battery charging infrastructure.

 Second factor is the cost of fuel. With many shocks offered by Petroleum politics, world has been looking to go away from fossil fuels. Plus the world has woken up to climate change and is aggressively looking to control pollution. Cars are known to be major pollutants. Stringent control is being sought on exhausts from cars. But this will happen only in newer cars, old polluting cars cannot be wished away. Volvo has made a statement that the cost of manufacturing car systems to match pollution norms in 2022/23 will be so high that they will stop making diesel engines. To overcome pollution issue, Germany has declared that by 2030 only electric cars will be manufactured in Germany. To achieve this target they will really have to work hard but German car makers have the technology, financial clout, will and wherewithal  to achieve this target; they are working very aggressively. Best non-polluting fuel obviously is electricity. But cost of producing electricity was a major factor hindering its usage in cars using battery banks and of course the cost of batteries. Solar and wind energy seem to be galloping ahead of other sources to make electricity cheap. Classic example is Germany. On a day in 2016, 85% of electricity produced in Germany, was from non-conventional methods.

https://energytransition.org/2016/05/germany-nearly-reached-100-percent-renewable-power-on-sunday/

With abundance of cheap electricity, on that day the rates of electricity went in negative in tendering process! Recently, California produced 67% of electricity, on a particular day,  by non-conventional methods causing serious disruption in electricity pricing mechanism! World over including India, Solar and other non-conventional methods are very aggressively pursued. By 2030 it looks like world will easily achieve the goal of cheap fuel in the form of electricity!

Currently when we travel by car, we do not think how much distance we are going to travel. This is because fuel infrastructure is fully established world over. Whenever needed, we just refuel and move ahead. This is not going to be so easy, at least today, in electric cars. There are two major points. First is charging stations and second is charging time. Both need to be vastly improved. Charging time is evolution of technology, in cell phones rapid charging technology is already available so maybe it’s a matter of time when we get this in car battery charging. Charging infra of course has to come up but when number of electric cars increase, the infra will come up. The range per charge is also the matter of technology so hopefully it will rapidly increase. Similar to what we do today, while driving long distance, we should be able to stop for coffee and wash room break and get batteries recharged. Lo we are on the way! 2030 very much possible. But my take is that this will happen faster in Europe, Japan & Korea because such things are national policies and are easier to implement  in these areas because of the smaller size of the nations plus most of European nations are developed nations.  In geographically large countries like US, Canada and China plus India, this change may happen region wise or state wise starting with highways. City limits will adopt faster as people can charge their cars in their own homes. 

 Replacement parts and cost of ownership are combination factors. In the electric cars, drive train, exhaust systems as we know them today, will simply be not there being replaced by battery packs, motors & drives. Less number of mechanical parts is going to definitely reduce the repairs and servicing cost. This factor has nothing to do with 2030. As the cost of ownership comes down, more people will be interested in driving electric cars.

 Another major change is going to be the nature automotive components industry. When major systems like drive trains & exhaust system are not needed, current manufacturers will find in a drastic reduction in parts needed by industry; over a period these will be only needed in old cars. With a mandate to supply parts for ten years, 2040 will be the last straw on the back of the Camel for this industry assuming by 2030 electric cars will be used in large numbers. How will current component manufacturers of these components handle change? Will they start making parts needed for electric cars? Do they have the technology? Only time can tell? How will Bosch’s, Conti’s, Denso’s and Valeo’s of this world handle the situation only time can tell. I am sharing one important information about change that has already happened. Nvidia Graphics, www.nvidia.com  producing chips and cards with their GPU technology are already vendors for Toyota, Mercedes, Audi, Honda, BMW, Volvo. This is because of rapid increase in usage of onboard computers to perform various functions including self-driving cars. Five years back, I am not sure if Nvidia name was much known in automotive world! Point of inflection? Yes my friends this is the point of inflection and in this business jungle, snipers in the form of technology are hiding! You never know when you will get your bullet! Yes, my conclusion,” ELECTRIC CARS ARE COMING IN A BIG WAY BY 2030”!

 

 

 

BS IV! What’s the hurry!

I think Supreme Court is making me think a lot currently and also giving me fodder for blogs! Thank you Sir! Today, 29/3/2017, they have thrown out a petition by both Govt and Vehicle Manufacturers, to allow Vehicle Manufacturers & their dealers to sell BS III vehicles beyond 31/3/2017, stating commercial reasons. Supreme Court said that this date was known to everybody for a long time and people’s health is more important than the commercial aspects of business. Period!

This blog of mine is not the usual comment on social aspects or musings. This is about an event in field of automobiles. I joined the industry in 1973 after passing my Master’s Degree in Engineering. I continue to work in the automotive field in auto components and software area. The subject is dear to my heart and I feel sad to see the way events have rolled out.

How do we compare with European manufacturers?

The table shows dates of introduction of various stages of emission norms and in most cases it  is the beginning of the year i.e. 1st January.

Bharat Introduction  Date Euro Introduction  Date
1 2000 1 1995
2 2005 2 1998
3 2010 3 2001
4 2017 4 2005
5 Skipped 5 Mid 2009
6 2020 6 Mid 2014

In early part of last decade, the technology for emission control was probably not available in India, at least initially.  I remember having seen diesel vehicles bellowing smoke more than a chullah (a low cost brazier being used in India to cook daily food in villages.) So much for the technology of those days. To my knowledge there are three factors which governed emission control project. First is technology itself, quality of fuel sold by Govt owned companies and Will to introduce these changes.

We will compare with Europe and their Euro standards, from where we got our technology or Japan who are equally ahead in technology. For each stage, Europeans allowed three years for the manufacturers to switch to next stage. In Europe too, the implementation was done phase wise and not in one stroke. For reasons best known to all concerned, we in India allowed five years each for first two phases and seven years for the current phase switch over.

If we look at the technology, we simply got it from elsewhere, all that we had to do is to try it, test it and productionize it. It was collusion between the powers that be and vehicle manufacturers or simply lethargy, they simply decided that five years are needed and later seven years for BS III. Also there have been multinationals in India, from Europe and Japan. These companies already had the experience of stages, ahead of Bharat stages. For BS IV, Toyota has been selling BS IV vehicles since last one year.

Fuel in India is refined by oil companies owned by the Govt. Business size wise these companies are run on global scales. They are owned by Govt so what good excuse did they have not to refine the fuel as needed to achieve emission norms? Honestly I don’t see any reason, simply lethargy!

Next is the Will to handle emission control as a project! When Europeans could develop technology and productionize it every three years for next phase, why we needed five and seven years? It showed the simple lack of will and lethargy on part of all parties.

With the new Govt there appears to be a zeal to get things going. If you see the data above, Govt has now simply skipped Bharat V stage and decided to go for Bharat VI stage after Bharat IV. All these days, everybody thought that respite/relief will be given by all authorities including courts, when large number of vehicles of BS III variety remain in stock on the last day. But with Supreme Court result, the effect is same as demonetization action on 8th November. So, there appears to be similarities between these two events which can also be compared with surgical strike!

Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) has submitted that the companies have a stock of 8, 24,275 BS III compliant vehicles which include 96,724 commercial vehicles, 6,71,308 two wheelers, 40,048 three wheelers and 16,198 cars.

Why have we reached this situation? From figures it appears that car manufacturers have done a tremendous job of managing their inventories of old vehicles. Next are two wheeler companies. The physical number will look high but if we compare it with the production per year, it is just 0.025 %!  It is the commercial vehicles guys who have shown poor project management. Who is to blame? Why this has happened? Somebody in project management did not run a tight ship!

Has the industry learnt its lesson? We will come to know in 2020 when Bharat VI has to be introduced. The only option maybe to export these remaining BS III vehicles! Till then to overcome current situation of vehicle stocks, Indian ingenuity and jugad will come in play!