Maruti's plans to launch electric car faces 2 issues: cost, charging infra

Maruti Suzuki India, which plans to launch is first electric vehicle (EV) in the country next year, is finding cost of EVs to be prohibitive for mass adoption besides charging infrastructure proving to be a big issue, according to a senior company official.

Having commenced a nation-wide fleet testing in September last year, the company is also facing a challenge over customer acceptance of EVs and adopt a business model.

"It is going to be difficult to make a good value proposition immediately unless the cost comes down substantially," Maruti Suzuki India Senior Executive Director (Engineering) C V Raman told PTI.

He was responding to a query on how the preparation for launching EV next year was progressing.

"There is still testing going on. We are trying to understand the range, temperature, charging time," he said, however, adding there were three major issues of cost, charging infrastructure, and customer acceptance.

MSI is currently testing a fleet of 50 prototype EVs based on WagonR model platform developed by Suzuki Motor Corporation in Japan.

Under the current circumstances, a mass segment EV is likely to cost around two-and-half times more than the same vehicle type powered by a conventional engine, he added.

On charging infrastructure issues, Raman said, "As per our study, 60 per cent of people don't have their own parking. There is no way they can do charging. They won't adopt."

Even for fleet operators, Raman said at the current costs the EVs don't offer a viable alternative to a CNG or a diesel vehicle.

When asked if that meant the company would go slow on plans to launch the EV next year, he replied in the negative.

"We are still working towards (launching it)," he said, adding EV is a technology which needs to be looked at.

"Battery chemistry is changing, technology is changing. We have to work and make ourselves capable to do it. So, from an engineering point of view we will continue to work on it and we won't stop but whether that translates into a product or not is a different thing," he said.

The company has also reconciled to the fact that government support will not be forthcoming for promoting private usage of EVs.

Addressing shareholders last week at the company's AGM, MSI Chairman R C Bhargava said, "The fact that FAME (II) scheme does not provide any incentive for private buying of EVs is a very clear signal that the government doesn't think that this segment is going to be at all important in the coming time."

Last year, Suzuki Motor Corporation Chairman Osamu Suzuki had said that the company has decided to launch EV in India around 2020 in cooperation with Toyota Motor Corporation.



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