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India’s Electric Vehicle Segment: Market Expansion, Domestic Production Are Underway

India is making great efforts to expand the use of electric vehicles and strengthen domestic production. Auto Expo 2020, India’s main auto show, held near Delhi in February 2020. The announcement and exhibition of new electric automobiles (concept and mass-produced) by Indian and Chinese companies stood out at the event. Looking at motorcycles, mainly local manufacturers displayed their product lineups. Simultaneously, an auto parts show was held in the center of Delhi, exhibiting drive motors for electric vehicles among other products.

The story goes back a few years. In 2017, the then-head of Ministry of Power said that by 2030, the entire new car market will be electric. The Indian government has stated that it will strongly push the electric vehicle-oriented direction. Under such circumstances, at the previous Auto Expo held in February 2018, the main topic was electrification. However, many automakers and suppliers have questioned the Indian government’s overly ambitious goals. It was evident that the government and automakers viewed the issue differently. Subsequently, the Indian government lowered its goal to 30% in 2018 and revised its course.

Looking at this year’s Auto Expo, there seems to be a growing consensus that local companies must expand the electric vehicle market and advance local production. Important issues such as vehicle (or battery) cost, charging infrastructure and cruising range remain largely unsolved for the full-fledged expansion of electric vehicles. Although the hurdles remain high, there is growing recognition that government policies need to be steadily implemented. Under these circumstances, Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors and Force Motors among others announced and exhibited new electric vehicle products. China’s MG (SAIC Motor) and GWM (Great Wall Motor) brands also displayed their own products. Mahindra & Mahindra was particularly prominent. In addition to the featured concept car Funster (a convertible sports car), the eKUV100 and eXUV300 (both of which are SUVs), scheduled to be launched in the market in 2020–2021, were also unveiled. Regarding the eKUV100 with a cruising range of 150 km, the company has announced that it will be sold for 825,000 Indian rupees, possibly generating a certain extent of demand. Meanwhile, motorcycle startups such as Okinawa Scooters are gaining momentum.

In contrast, some of the existing players, whose main products are internal combustion engines, are willing to minimize electric vehicle-related efforts for the time being. Companies who take a quiet stance include some Japanese manufacturers and major motorcycle makers. Among them, Toyota, Honda (automobiles and motorcycles), Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj, TVS Motors and Yamaha among others have not exhibited at the Auto Expo this time. Some say that in a poor market environment, cost effectiveness is considered. But the truth may be different. Given that the Indian government is putting considerable pressure on automakers regarding electric vehicles, it is conceivable that automakers with limited electric vehicle product lineup felt inferior exhibiting at Auto Expo. Electric vehicles may now be the de facto “entrance ticket” to the Indian market.

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