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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Lack of clarity spurs concern on Indian electric cars

Head of electric vehicle association says group is "quite confused and we are seeking clarification from the government"

Mahindra's UDO compact two-seater electric mobility pod at the Auto-Expo 2018 in New Delhi. Sajjad Hussain/AFP
Mahindra's UDO compact two-seater electric mobility pod at the Auto-Expo 2018 in New Delhi. Sajjad Hussain/AFP

Sohinder Gill, the director of corporate affairs at the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), which represents Indian electric vehicle (EV) and electric vehicle components makers, talks to The National about his concerns for the development of the electric transportation sector in India.

India's road transport minister has been reported as saying that there is no need for an electric vehicle policy. What is your reaction to this?

Frankly, as an association, we are quite confused and we are seeking clarification from the government because we heard them say that India wants to go for zero emissions mobility, so we fail to understand why this lack of focus is there on electric vehicles now.

Why do you think the minister Nitin Gadkari said this?

Mr Gadkari said that electric cars are not yet ready, but there are products in India which have been ready for the last six years and are already on the road, generally two-wheelers and three-wheelers, for which no such waiting period is required. There are more than 500,000 electric two-wheelers on the road. [Mr Gadkari's position] is a setback.

What will SMEV do now?

We need to get clarification from the ministers or if required from the prime minister on which sort of direction the industry should take on investments and action.

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How will this impact car manufacturers?

Mahindra and Tata are the ones that are ready and they've been investing. Whether they will be left alone without subsidies or incentives, no one really knows. All we are expecting is at least the current incentive scheme will continue as it is. If that happens it's a bit of saving grace for the existing players. Otherwise the industry's going to collapse.

What do you think the government might do next in this sector?

They perhaps have other options available. India is a country is very keen to do alternate fuels which is understandable because India can produce ethanol. Similarly, [multinational corporations] say that hybrids is the right answer, so all that might be why there's a reconsideration.

What other effects might arise?

Already people were sitting on the fence and were not investing, so this is going to create another question mark. Also, so many companies were making losses and they were seeking investors and start-ups were getting a lot of money from investors and bigger electric vehicle companies were getting investment. Those investors are going to be shy of investing into India until the policy is clear.

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