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Budget outlay worryingly ‘too little’ for EVs

According to reports, the Budget outlay of ₹75 crore for electric mobility has come as a bit of a dampener for manufacturers like Mahindra Reva headed by Chetan Maini. In an interview, he throws more light on the subject even as he gears up to shortly move out of his present role as CEO to a new one at Mahindra & Mahindra.

With the Union Budget announcing the launch of a scheme for faster adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles (FAME) at an initial outlay of 75 crore, how does it benefit the electric vehicle industry?

At the outset, we thank the Government for announcing the scheme for electric mobility. It was very eagerly anticipated and we were hoping that something will happen. We are happy that something came our way, but are somewhat concerned that the money is too little and it is unclear where this would be spent.

The Ministry of Heavy Industries was aggressively pushing for the required incentives which were to be fairly significant. However, 75 crore appears to be far lower than the expectations. This allocation has in its broad agenda the production of electric vehicles, the detailed workings of which are yet to be known. We will be able to comment any further only after learning the minutiae of the plan.

The Centre has also said that the concessional excise duty of six per cent on specified goods to make electrically operated vehicles and hybrid vehicles is being extended by another year. How would you react to this?

Considering the need for a long-term policy in creating a nationwide positive impact, this extension of concessional duty should have been for a period of five years. A five-year plan would have definitely been more beneficial for companies to plan their investment portfolio accordingly.

This announcement only provides an overview for a one year period and seems limited to production of electric vehicles. The EV industry today requires a holistic approach to develop an overall eco-system for EV sustenance. We do look forward to more support from the Government. We would like to believe that this is just the beginning towards achieving the bigger plan under NEMMP 2020.

Moving on to Mahindra Reva, is the company ready to share technology with other automakers for electric cars?

We are open to licensing EV technology for developing electric vehicles in India. We have developed EV kits that comprise a full suite of integrated electric vehicle technology solutions including the know-how for developing the drivetrain, battery pack, HVAC and telematics for remote diagnostics. While Tier-1 suppliers can typically supply one or more components required to build a full vehicle, we offer unified solutions that are also field proven in our products. This reduces the development costs and time-to-market for other OEMs interested in the electrification of their platforms.

Are there plans to launch electric car versions of some M&M models too?

As showcased in Auto Expo 2014, we had developed electric variants of the Verito sedan and Maxximo minivan platforms from M&M. In fact, the Maxximo electric pilot project’s launch was recently announced under the aegis of the National Mission on Electric Mobility at the Taj Corridor in Agra. Over four battery-powered (Maxximo) electric vans were handed over to the Agra Development Authority. These will be used along the clean, green Taj Mahal Zero Emission Corridor to help reduce vehicular emissions. Formal launch dates of other new products and technologies will be announced soon.

How about launching models in Europe?

With new products in the pipeline, we look forward to adding more to our global portfolio shortly. Mahindra Reva will mark its presence with the launch of a European version. Details of the same will be announced at a later point in time. We have sold more than 5,500 Mahindra Reva EVs in over 24 countries today and growing.

How has the e2o fared so far and has it met targets?

On the whole, we have seen positive results and will be close to achieving our sales targets. The launch of a new variant of Mahindra e2o with a range of 120 km and electric power steering has been received positively in July.

We had set certain targets at the beginning of the financial year wherein sales in India may not have completely fulfilled that expectation but despite the odds, we have received a very good response for our e2o across India.

Over the past few months as well, a rising trend has been noticed: more and more buyers are coming forward, people are keen on learning and some are well informed, mindsets are changing and month-on-month sales is slowly gathering a positive pace. We are able to meet the growing demand on time, as our facility in Bangalore is capable of producing 30,000 cars per annum (across two shifts). As of now, we are only utilising a portion of the capacity.

We are also exploring new market segments for the e2o; beyond personal mobility and expect to see an increase in uptake. We also plan to invest more in creating greater product awareness to support sales.

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