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Is India ready for expensive, imported electric vehicles?

Pubali Neogy
·3-min read
The Jaguar I-PACE is seen during the first press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
The Jaguar I-PACE is seen during the first press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, October 2, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

On the surface, 2021 appears to belong to the electric vehicles. Okay, correction: High-end electric vehicles.

Electric carmaker Tesla is already grabbing headlines with its announcement to foray into India this year. Other heavy hitters such as Audi, Jaguar, Porsche and Volvo are lined up for a launch too.

But getting a foothold in a cost-conscious Indian market may not exactly be a cakewalk. Take for example Tesla’s Model 3 that is expected to debut by the middle of 2021. It is the most affordable model yet of the Silicon Valley-based carmaker and is expected to sell at Rs.60 lakhs.

And if that made you gasp, then consider this: Porsche’s first fully electric car Taycan, expected to hit the shores next month, will be priced around Rs.2.5 crores.

The eye-watering figures of course can be justified by the extra-ordinary features and functionalities that these cars pack. Powered by a 79.2 Kwh battery, Porshe’s Taycan has a range of 500 km and can hit 0-100 km/hr in just 3.5 seconds. Not just that, the battery can charge up to 80 percent in less than 20 minutes.

Similarly, Tesla has a range of 420km and can hit 0-100 km/hr in less than 5 seconds. It also has a laptop-like 15-inch dash mounted touchscreen.

Jaguar’s I-Pace, which has already landed in India and has an estimated price range of Rs1.5 to Rs.2 crores, is powered by a 90Kw lithium-ion battery that offers a range of 470 km.

Uber luxurious and sophisticated, all these cars can go a long way – quite literally – to fix the range anxiety like no other, especially in India where there are only 1800 public charging points built so far.

But will such unique selling propositions hit the bulls eye?

Well, for starters, the reasonably well-off middle class in India is not so much environment conscious as it is cost conscious. And, if at all they decide to go for an EV, they already have a wide range of lower-end models to choose from; makers of these vehicles are continuously upping their game with respect to range, features and performance.

The all electric Hyundai Kona, for example, costs Rs.23 lakhs, has a 39.2 kWh battery and offers a range of 452 km. It has already found many takers in India.

But the leading the sales chart is Tata’s Nexon – for just around Rs.13 lakhs, it offers a range of 312 km.

And going forward, the competition is expected to heat up further with more players entering the fray with low cost, high performance models. Tata, Mahindra & Mahindra, MG Motor India are all gearing up to launch new vehicles in the EV sector.

To survive in such a cut-throat environment, it goes without saying, the expensive new entrants will have to rethink their price tags. To do so, they might need to build manufacturing facilities in India. It would help them cut costs and offer better price to consumers. Tesla has already expressed interest in setting up a manufacturing unit depending upon the demand. It has been linked with Tata motors for a possible partnership on that front. Tesla is also in talks with the Karnataka government to establish a research and development centre in the state.

A downtrend in prices combined with the development of solid charging infrastructure (India would need a network of over 2.9 million public charging points beyond the in-home charging points) can eventually work in favour of such expensive, imported electric vehicles.

Till that happens, there’s no harm in testing the waters and devise better strategies to woo the Indian consumers.