Potholes promote inefficient vehicles

8th Oct 2017 6:00 am

Sergius talks about how India's potholed roads affect a vehicle's fuel efficiency.

Potholes kill efficiency! That may not be a well-known fact, but it is the truth. Potholes make us drive less fuel-efficient vehicles, and yes, I’m talking about SUVs. Many derive a sense of status from the lofty perch these vehicles offer, but more and more people look to SUVs mainly to tackle our crazy road conditions. A friend of mine has an E-class that he uses in the day to be chauffeured around in, but at night he takes out his XUV500. “Why?” I ask. He says, “It’s too nerve-wracking to worry about damaging a car like this; I pay the driver to worry. When I drive, I prefer the XUV and just go over everything without a care in the world. Even my wife who, like me, loves the driving pleasure of a sedan has recently been thinking about switching to an SUV.” Besides forcing many into SUVs, potholes are also the reason why cars boast an increased ride height. This only lowers the aerodynamic efficiency and results in higher fuel consumption than on a car with a lower ride height.

The government has been dissuading the purchase of SUVs, and have taxed it at the highest rate under GST.

Potholes also consume crazy amounts of fuel in other ways too. Yes, they slow traffic down, which makes people shift gears more and that leads to higher consumption of fuel. I couldn’t find any data to figure out just how much fuel we waste this way, but it would be significant as potholes here are dime a dozen. Then these craters also pile up traffic. Consider this, even with no AC or other accessory load, a 2.0-litre petrol/diesel engine consumes roughly half a litre for every hour it idles. The thousands of vehicles, idling away thousands of hours, at thousands of jams conjured up by these craters, would make for a mind-boggling figure; one that I will not even attempt to calculate, but you can just image how much it would be. Or perhaps, write to me if you have some figures.

And sadly, potholes kill. That’s a well-known fact. According to data compiled by the ministry of road transport and highways, the numbers are high. In 2015, 10,876 people were killed, and those are just the reported ones. It is a slight dip from the 11,106 people killed in 2014, and no doubt, some thick-skinned politician will claim that as an achievement. But it’s just plain crazy; the number is way too high for something that can be fixed.

And there’s more; thanks to the time and lives lost, our economy is losing crores of rupees. So will anything be done about this? Nope, nothing. There’s just too much money to be made siphoning away funds from building roads and then spending more on fixing them. And no matter which way we vote, elections only throw up different sides of the same coin. But that’s another topic for another day. So as things stand, people will be killed, excess fuel will be burned and we’ll keep driving even taller vehicles; it’s a real sinking feeling.

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Sergius Barretto

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Sergius has been a part of the automotive industry for 18 years, fixing, selling, training and consulting on all things automotive. Auto enthusiast by birth. Auto engineer by education. Now auto journalist by profession.


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