EV fires could burn EV startups' image and boost legacy players' chance
The electric vehicle industry in India, especially the EV startups making electric scooters has suddenly felt a jolt when multiple fire incidents occurred in quick succession across India. Videos and images became viral, many EV owners started panicking, Several potential electric two-wheeler buyers changed their decision and were inclined toward ICE vehicles, the government ordered a probe into the matter and Okinawa announced the country's first-ever EV recall. With all these happenings in the Indian electric two-wheeler market, the EV startups that make and sell the electric two-wheelers are facing a tough question ahead. Will the EV fire burn the brand image that has been built over the past few years?
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The concern is a valid one. A sudden shift in consumer sentiment away from the electric scooters and electric motorcycles built by the EV startups could dent the brand image built by them. Also, it could impact the overall EV industry's growth as well. However, on the flip side, it could help the legacy two-wheeler manufacturers that are still lagging in the race compared to the EV startups.
Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Company are the only two legacy two-wheeler brands in India that have launched their products so far in the EV segment. Hero Electric may be a well-established brand in the Indian EV space and a part of Hero Group, but it is a completely separate entity that functions independently. In terms of sales performance as well, both Bajaj Chetak EV and TVS iQube are far behind Okinawa, Hero Electric or other EV startups.
While the consumer sentiment toward EV startups has taken a hit due to the recent fire incidents, These legacy players could find themselves in a good position to promote their products, as they are still away from any such incidents. Hero MotoCorp which is currently gearing up to bring its first electric scooter too could find this situation opportune.
The legacy two-wheeler manufacturers have built consumer trust over decades. When it comes to safety, these automakers have known the importance of that factor with their decade-old experiences. The rigorous testing, validation, and launching of a full-proof finished product are important. These automakers know that and hence, they would refrain from hastily launching any EV in the market, which is reassuring for the consumers.
At a time when the petrol price is on fire and both existing and potential consumers are looking for alternatives with cheaper cost of ownership, the EV startups have attempted to exploit that opportunity by hostility launching their products without rigorous testing, validation and making the products full-proof. Lack of safety and fire incidents are the results of that miscalculations. On the other side, legacy companies are known for following these parameters. Considering this, the current situation may be an opportune moment for the legacy two-wheeler brands in India to explore their EV luck.
Speaking about this, Pankaj Sharma, Co-Founder, Log9 Materials, said that at the current state of affairs, both EV startups and mature legacy OEMs will face the challenges of investing and building technologies from the ground up in India to ensure better safety of the electric vehicles in order to avoid such fire incidents. “While the recent EV fires are clearly pointing towards the need for commercialization of batteries which are designed for Indian climatic conditions, it also shows that Indian EV companies need to urgently focus a lot on creating the right electronics and safety mechanisms within the batteries to pre-emptively stop them from thermal runaways," he further said.