India – Two wheelers to lead electric vehicle market
NEW DELHI / MUMBAI: Two-wheelers are set to outpace four-wheelers in India’s ambitious drive towards all-electric mobility, as all top scooter and motorcycle manufacturers have lined up their clean-energy products for launch starting next year.
Hero MotoCorpBSE 0.02 %, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, TVS MotorBSE -0.52 %, Mahindra Two Wheelers, Yamaha and Bajaj AutoBSE -0.33 % all have scheduled launches of electric two-wheelers from 2018. The government has a 2030 target to transition the country entirely to electric vehicles.
The two-wheeler segment, in fact, has gained a head start with companies such as Hero Electric, ElectrothermBSE -1.17 % selling electric scooters in India for several years now — the mainstream companies, though, are yet to launch their own electric two-wheelers. In the passenger vehicle segment, while Mahindra & Mahindra makes and sells electric cars, technology to commercially develop full-size electric vehicles is still at an early stage even globally.
“It will take some time for electric cars to be sold en masse. But sales of electric two-wheelers can take off quickly,” said Sohinder Gill, director, Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. “With cost of li-ion batteries coming down, performance of products has improved and more and more manufacturers have started work in the segment, which will give more choices to the consumer.”
Some 4,50,000 electric two-wheelers were sold in India in the past eight years. The potential of electric vehicles in this segment is massive, say industry executives, given that more than 17 million two-wheelers are sold annually in the country.
Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest motorcycle maker by sales volume, is working on developing electric two-wheelers in-house at its Centre for Innovation & Technology in Jaipur. This is in addition to its strategic investment in electric two-wheeler startup Ather Energy. Chennai-based TVS Motor is also developing an electric scooter (codename U218), which may hit the roads sometime next financial year. Bajaj Auto has reportedly announced plans to launch a new brand, Urbanite, for electric vehicles that will be launched by 2020. Bajaj also claims to be developing a premium motorcycle, an equivalent of the Tesla in cars. Tork Motorcycles is planning to bring in an electric two-wheeler (codename P6X) early next year.
“Hero MotoCorp intends to enhance its participation in the EV space by pursuing its internal EV programme in addition to partnering with Ather,” Rajat Bhargava, head of strategy, performance transformation and global business at the company, told ET.
The company is looking at mobility solutions for the future and in accordance with this objective, it has started engaging with external players, including startups, he said. Hero MotoCorp had invested Rs 205 crore in Ather Energy in October 2016.
Ather Energy on its own is scheduled to launch India’s first indigenously designed and developed electric scooter (S340) next year. Chief executive Tarun Mehta had told ET that the S340 would be priced in the same range of 110-150 cc scooters.
TVS Motor CEO KN Radhakrishnan said the company had for some time been investing in electric technology. “In a years’ time you will see an alternative from TVS and we may do both hybrid and electric, as the challenges on charging stations still remain,” he said. “It is not a pilot, it is serious marketable solution from the company.”
For Radhakrishnan and others in the industry, lack of public facilities to charge vehicle batteries is a major worry. The government, though, has promised to build infrastructure to address the concerns.
Honda and Yamaha, which already sell electric two-wheelers in markets overseas, have commenced discussions with stakeholders in India to bring down costs and ensure availability of adequate infrastructure to launch products here. “Cost competitiveness and infrastructure support are the big challenges right now,” said Minoru Kato, the Honda Motorcycle & Scooter CEO.
Globally, Honda has been making investment for over two decades in electrification of its two-wheeler models.
Yasuo Ishihara, managing director, Yamaha Motor Research & Development India, said the company was conducting a feasibility study in this space here.
There is a price difference of around Rs 30,000 between an electric scooter and one that runs on a conventional fuel, said Gill of the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. But the operating cost on electric two-wheelers is almost negligible, he added.
ET View: Boost Solar Power
We need proactive public policy to boost solar-power charging points for electric scooters in urban areas. There’s also the need to incentivise roof-top solar power for the purpose. To generate 1kwh of solar power, about 10 square meters of roof-top space is required. A 0.5-kwh facility will half the requirement. Solar roof-tops of about 0.5-1kwh can charge small e-vehicles overnight, and also provide ‘green’ power for household inverters.
Author: Sharmistha Mukherjee, Ketan Thakkar
Date: Sep 19, 2017
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