The past year was one of trials and tribulations for the auto industry in India. Amid a slowdown that has proved hard to shake off, it had to work around the clock to meet the deadline to comply with the greener Bharat Stage VI emission standards by 1 April 2020.
Though there are but hopes for a speedy end to the slump, if the Auto Expo 2020 is any indication, then the auto industry is well on its way to meet the deadline. All major automakers who participated showcased wheels that comply with BS VI emission norms. There are electric versions of popular models and those that have not yet launched one yet hinted that it is in the works. All of which drew rich praise from Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari. Speaking at the Expo, he thanked the industry for shifting to the cleaner tech in record time.
India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India unveiled its first-ever electric concept car and said it will sell one million green cars over the next few years, Mahindra and Mahindra launched the most affordable electric SUV (sports utility vehicle), while Tata Motors says it will leverage the might of the whole group to create an electric ecosystem at the Auto Expo as automakers push for a more sustainable future.
Maruti’s sustainable fleet will include CNG, hybrids, and electric cars, the company said, adding that it has already sold a million green vehicles in India after the launch of CNG in 2010 and smart hybrid in 2015.
“We have complete faith in the future of Indian automotive market and will accelerate our efforts for electrification of powertrains, with a technology-agnostic approach. Our endeavour will be to offer realistic solutions for mass acceptance by customers,” Kenichi Ayukawa, managing director and CEO, Maruti Suzuki India, said.
The company, which is one of the few big carmakers that hasn’t launched an electric vehicle yet, said its concept electric car FUTURO-E is a design study for the SUV segment.
Meanwhile, Mahindra and Mahindra, a pioneer in the electric segment in India launched a line of EVs. The Mumbai-headquartered automaker also unveiled Funster— an electric concept with a convertible mode. M&M unveiled e-XUV300, the electric version of the popular compact SUV, and the e-KUV100, which the company says is India’s most affordable EV. Its price starts at Rs8.25 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi, post FAME benefits). The company also launched two variants of Treo, the Lithium-ion battery electric three-wheeler, and ATOM, a new age electric urban mobility solution for last-mile connectivity.
“Our electric vehicles have been driven in India for over 200 million km. It has saved us 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, you can imagine what it will mean for the environment if more vehicles become electric,” said Pawan Goenka, managing director, Mahindra and Mahindra, at the Auto Expo. Goenka said the company will soon launch Treo 2.0, which will be completely locally manufactured, except for the lithium-ion cell.
“Shared mobility will drive the large scale adoption of EVs and hence our products and offerings will continue to redefine the shared mobility space. we intend to offer the widest range of electric vehicles to meet the needs of shared mobility, affordability is our guiding principle,” said Goenka.
The company also showcased its new vehicle recycling division CERO (Mahindra MSTC Recycling Pvt. Ltd.) “We are committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040,” said Rajan Wadhera, president, automotive sector, Mahindra and Mahindra. He said that Mahindra’s lgatpuri manufacturing plant is completely carbon neutral.
He also said the company’s water footprint has come down by 35% and the company has stopped using wood by almost 96%, and corrugated boxes by 35% and paper by almost 75%.
Tata Motors had on display SUVs Nexon EV and Altroz EV. In the commercial vehicle space, the company displayed the Tata 4/12m low-floor entry electric bus, the first full-electric drivetrain.
Guenter Butschek, CEO & MD, Tata Motors, said the company has taken the decision to go all-in for electrification in India.
“We have the full play available. We have been doing it in the last couple of years to invest in electric powertrain. This is something where we invest today, and the return is going to come as the electric vehicle population increases. Volume for such kind of investment is critical,” Butschek told Fortune India.
Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran, who was also at the Expo, said Tata is leveraging the might of the group to build an entire electric ecosystem.
“With 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in India, we cannot emphasise the importance of sustainability more ... sustainable solutions, building it is not about building passenger cars or commercial vehicles, it is an an ecosystem. As Tata group, We have been able to leverage the entire power of the group and bring in seven of our companies to build the entire ecosystem and solutions to deliver a world-class ecosystem for electric vehicles,” he said.
The company, which has launched two electric models since its first all-electric vehicle Tigor in 2017, said the company will launch at least four more electric products in the next 18-24 months. Chandrasekaran said the company will keep investing to expand the electric ecosystem and to drive sustainability.
JBM Auto, a Fortune India Next 500 company, also emphasised the ecosystem. The company was showcasing two electric buses and one CNG bus at the Expo. Nishant Arya, executive director, JBM, said the company has launched a complete electric vehicle ecosystem, which includes generating renewable energy, energy storage, battery technology, battery technology, charging infrastructure, the electric vehicle, and the operating cycle. The company has a 300-strong R&D team which is developing its electric powertrain and other products for the ecosystem.
The company’s electric buses, which can run for about 200 km on one charge, are already deployed in Mumbai and have clocked in about 3,000 km. The company has put in place charging infrastructure at bus depots in Mumbai, it says.
Arya says about 9-10% of the company’s fleet is electric as of now, and is expected to become more than 50% in the next two-to-three years.
Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor Company (GWM), which premiered in the India market on Wednesday with its two sub-brands, Haval and GWM EV, said it plans to launch a new energy brand Great Wall EV and has plans to invest in battery R&D and manufacturing in India to reinforce and accelerate India’s electric transition.
As most automakers are gearing towards an electric future, challenges like the acute lack of charging infrastructure and affordability remain.
“You need to put density of charging station, but in order to make a viable proposition for the one who has invested you need to get some subsidies at the beginning to justify the investment. While we actually build the pitch for setting positive sustainable businesses for the vehicle car population in India, electrification is going to increase,” said Tata Motors’ Butschek.
Additional reporting by Prerna Lidhoo.