The electrification of Indian cars4 min read . Updated: 02 Sep 2021, 03:56 PM IST Electric vehicles or EVs are becoming the future of mobility in India as the price gap between EVs and traditional cars reduces. Luxury carmakers are introducing new models in the EV space and Volvo India’s latest offering, the XE40 Recharge, is expected to hit the market early next year.
The EV fever is gripping India. Do you know that more electric vehicles were sold in the first seven months of this year than the entire tally of last year. As the price gap between EVs and traditional cars reduces owing to government subsidies, reduced prices of lithium batteries and record-high petrol and diesel prices, the EV market is hotting up.
Volvo India’s latest offering – the pure electric compact SUV XE40 Recharge – will be the first fully electric car to be launched by the luxury car maker in India. After this, Volvo plans to introduce one new electric car model in India each year. The luxury car maker envisions to go fully electric globally by 2030, an aim which they feel will be achieved in India earlier than that.
“We believe that there are a lot of customers who are now willing to move to electric cars in the Indian market – they are just waiting for the right model to come in. Keeping this in mind, we decided to start transitioning from diesel to petrol and simultaneously introduce our electric or recharge range and XE40 Recharge will be the first one there. The government’s policies in terms of taxes and many other things that we see around us, it is quite clear that they are pushing us towards a full-electric vehicle future and it is important that we align ourselves to that thought," said Jyoti Malhotra, Managing Director, Volvo Auto India at the recently held HT Auto EV Conclave.
But how does the company ensure after sales services for the early transitioners to electric vehicles? Volvo plans to make all its staff undergo skill upgradation and ensure that all the dealerships where these cars will be serviced are fully upgraded and have a full understanding of how to take care of electric cars.
“We are already in the process of upgrading and upskilling our technicians and when we launch our first car, we will have sufficient people who can take care of the after sales of these cars," he added.
What India needs to power this EV revolution is a wide charging infrastructure. There are also concerns about the travel distance of EVs, but as technology is evolving, the range is going up. For the XE40 Recharge for instance, the range is going to be upwards of 400 km on a single charge.
“With this kind of range, you can easily look at a weekend getaway especially if it is between locations that have a fast charging capability which will be provided at dealers. These cars are largely going to be used for within the city travel – to the workplace and back. I see use of EVs will happen beyond cities as we target the luxury segment who will have one charger at home and at office at least," he added.
Big players are joining hands to create a collaborative charging environment for EVs. For instance, Audi is creating charging stations all over the country which all EVs can access, not just those manufactured by the auto giant.
Taxes and duties in India are another area of concern for carmakers, who welcome a rationalisation to ensure that more luxury cars seen globally are made available in India and their share in the overall car market improves.
The demand for EVs will first come from luxury segment and then lead to a spill over in the form of mass adoption by a larger base of customers who are cost sensitive. Younger customers are also worried about sustainability and the environment, and EVs give them space to be comfortable about it. At present, the luxury electric car models introduced in the Indian market by bigwigs like Volvo, Mercedes and Audi are being imported. But, in the future, the plan is to manufacture them indigenously.
“This change from ICE to EVs is not going to happen overnight. Our research so far shows that customers in the luxury car segment are ready for this change. There are always some opinion makers who are willing to try new things out. EVs are a new technology and there are some anxieties that come with it, like how the cars will be charged or serviced," said Malhotra, speaking at another session at the conclave titled ‘Luxury EVs – can top-down effect boost clean mobility movement’.
The high price tag attached to EVs could be another barrier to their adoption in the country, especially for the masses. In the luxury segment, most customers own multiple cars which could be a mix of luxury and non-luxury cars. “Customers will not buy a EV as their first luxury car but those who have multiple cars will definitely look at these new models. The pricing needs to be at a sweet spot and XE40 Recharge is our start there," he added.
A shortage of chips has pushed the India debut of XE40 Recharge to early 2022. “This is a global issue affecting everyone. One of the reasons why we had to push back the XE40 Recharge debut is because we want to ensure continuity in supply. We don’t want to bring a car and then stop and start supplies later," said Malhotra.