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Electric vehicle sales triple in India by 2021, electric mobility picks up momentum

In addition to consumers flocking to the electric two-wheeler segment, companies like Mercedes-Benz and BMW are trying to focus on affluent customers by bringing in their luxury EVs.

Update on:
March 8, 2022, 05:39 PM

Image files are used for representation purposes only.  (REUTERS)
Image files are used for representation purposes only. (REUTERS)

Electric vehicle sales in India tripled last year to 14,800 units and are showing signs of growth in this important market with the potential of 1.4 billion people.

Impatient consumers’ rush to switch from gasoline-powered two-wheelers to electric motorcycles has worried startups like Ola Electric on social media while waiting for delivery.

Luxury brands are actively targeting the nation’s wealthiest people. Tesla haggled for tax breaks to boost sales in India, while Mercedes-Benz is rolling out the locally assembled EQS, an electric version of its flagship car. S-Class sedan, this year. BMW also plans to launch more plug-in models.

Even so, it’s the midpoint of the gasoline-powered passenger car market – options between a cheap two-wheeler and an expensive foreign brand – that has traditionally remained the country’s most lucrative segment. India. Maruti Suzuki India, Hyundai and Tata Engines, all with low-cost internal combustion engines, accounted for nearly three-quarters of local sales last month, according to the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations.

By Maruti Alto, formerly India’s best-selling model, retails for under $4,300 in New Delhi. Even new best-selling cars, like Hyundai’s i10 and Maruti’s Faston sale for less than $7,300.

(Also read | Audi is considering domestic production of electric cars in India, aiming to increase production)

Cars are still deeply desired in India and new buyers often pray when a family gets a new car. The upgrade from two-wheeler to four-wheeler is also a hugely important status symbol.

Despite all that, no automaker currently offers an entry-level electric option. That suggests there’s a huge opportunity for a mass-market model that could accelerate the shift away from gas-guzzling junkies in a country where overall EV penetration is only about 1%.

There are several key hurdles to overcome. India’s per capita income is less than $2,000 a year, making electric cars out of reach for most people. Domestic manufacturers also remain dependent on imported components, a situation that is hampering efforts to reduce sticker prices.

Outside of major cities, charging electric vehicles also remains a significant challenge. The country’s small numbers of plugs are concentrated in major cities including Bengaluru, New Delhi and Mumbai.

(Also read | Skoda is looking to drive electric cars in the Indian car market)

However, optimists about India’s electric vehicle prospects include Gautam Adani, the billionaire who is adding clean energy projects to interests including coal mines and power plants. A unit of Adani is considering ramping up the electric car sector, weighing plans for vehicle production, battery production and installation of a charging network, the Times of India reported in January.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration – which aims to achieve a net emission reduction target by 2070 – is also advocating for faster development of local electric vehicles and supply chains. His government also supports the use of battery swapping, an idea that has so far not gained traction outside of China.

Date of first publication: March 8, 2022, 05:39 PM IST

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