GO/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Hurt by the high fuel prices, Vinod Gore, a farmer in Go village in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, dumped his gasoline scooter for an electric model to underline how two-wheelers are driving the country the objective of the electrification of the vehicle fleet.
A worker checks the power supply for charging of an electric scooter in a workshop in Ahmedabad, India, December 31, 2018. This photo was taken on December 31, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Gore’s electric scooter, built by Indian start-up of Okinawa, runs for approximately 100-120 km (60-75 miles) on a single charge, making the cost of the sugar cane farmer less than 10 percent of the 150 rupees ($2.15) he would have otherwise spent on fuel for the same distance.
“I bought it to save money,” said Gore, who paid 75,000 rupees ($1,077) for the scooter and expects to recover the cost in two to three years in terms of savings on petrol and maintenance.
Prime minister Narendra Modi’s government has set a target of electric vehicles to make up 30 percent of the new sales of cars and two-wheelers in 2030 of less than 1 percent today.
But her trying to convince car manufacturers to produce electric vehicles have flopped especially because there is no clear policy to reward local production and sales, the lack of a public charging infrastructure and high cost of the batteries.
Cost-conscious two-wheeler buyers such as Gore might be a better bet. It would also open a new market for international companies such as the japanese Yamaha Motor and Suzuki Motor, which is the preparation of the initial plans for the launch of electric scooters and motorcycles in the country.
The potential is huge. India is the world’s largest market for scooters and motorcycles with an annual domestic turnover of more than 19 million in the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2018 – six times that of the sales of cars in the same period.
The next market is China, with annual motorcycle sales of approximately 17 million in 2017.
Electric scooters are a fraction of the total, but is growing rapidly. In fiscal 2017-18, sales more than doubled to 54,800 a year ago, while the electric car sales fell to 1,200, 2,000 more than in the same period, according to data from the association of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (WITH).
In 2030, sales of electric scooters are expected to cross 2 million per year, even as most car manufacturers resist to bring electric cars to India.
The obstacles for scooters less. In comparison to cars, scooters are lighter, making them less powerful batteries that are cheaper. The scooters can also be recharged quickly and easily, often using existing power outlets in the house, and the price is comparable to that of gasoline-powered models.
The challenge is that most of the electric scooters sold today are utilitarian and not as powerful as the models that run on gasoline, that can go faster and climb easy. The supply chain is not robust, which means that manufacturers need to rely on the import of components.
More importantly, the supply of electricity in smaller towns, where the demand picks up again, it is irregular although they are often power shortages in India are a thing of the past.
“India is the electrical revolution will be led by two-wheelers. It is a value for money comparison,” said Sohinder Gill, global chief executive officer at Hero Electric, the country’s top-selling e-scooter manufacturer.
In May 2017, India federal economic policy think tank, started the discussions about a new policy that proposed electrification of all new vehicles in 2030, mainly by offering subsidies to buyers.
The proposal is facing resistance from automobile manufacturers and auto-parts companies that considered the shift to be sudden and ambitious, and the goal was dialed back to 30 percent.
India is now busy with a new policy aimed at rewarding investment in electric vehicle production, battery and smart charging, instead of just giving advantages to the sales.
The government also wants to pressure on the use of electric vehicles for public use, a revolution led by the three-wheeled autorickshaws. The sale of these vehicles, ubiquitous on the Indian city roads is expected to double to 935,000 units per year to 2023, according to consulting firm P&S Market Research.
“A policy or an incentive for manufacturers of cars or two-wheelers go a long way in making electric mobility more affordable than the funding of individual buyers,” said mr. kaushik Madhavan, vice-president, mobility consultant at Frost & Sullivan.
A handful of car manufacturers, including Maruti Suzuki India Ltd Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co are testing the ground for the launch of electric vehicles in the country, some already in 2020.
Two-wheeler companies are also on the road with Hero Electric and various start-ups including Okinawa, Ather Energy, and Twenty-Two Engines already selling electric scooters.
Hero, which sold 31,000 electric scooters in 2017-18, expects to double sales every year for the next few years and break even on the cost within a year, said Gill.
The japanese Suzuki Motor is working on plans to launch an electric scooter in India by 2020, while Indian motorcycle makers Bajaj Engine and a Motor are also looked at electric models.
Yamaha, that is the development of a global electric two-wheeler platform, plans for an electric scooter or motorcycle in India in the next 3 to 5 years, Yasuo Ishihara, managing director of the manufacturer’s India unit, told Reuters.
While Ishihara not say how many Yamaha plans to invest in the electrification of press, he said: each investment will be primarily for power units, batteries, and infrastructure development with partners.
“Right now the need of the hour is a good roadmap and a clear policy by the government of India to actually put this ambition into reality,” Ishihara said.
COUNTRY GOES ELECTRIC
Gore is pleased with his Okinawa scooter, which he bought four months ago, because it is easy and inexpensive to maintain, and he can charge it at home. The scooter is equipped with a battery that can generate maximum power of 2500 watts, giving a top speed of 75 miles per hour (47 km / h), which, he says, is sufficient for his needs.
His only gripe is that the engine struggles when going uphill.
“You can’t speed on the mountain way, you can speed up with traditional gasoline-powered scooters or motorcycles. There is a turbo mode that delivers more power, but that is still less than gasoline scooters,” he said.
Frost Madhavan said that most of the electric scooters currently on sale is based in the area of the design, range and performance so the price can be kept affordable, especially in the smaller towns, where distances are shorter and buyers are more frugal.
But he says there is also a market for more premium models such as that by Bengaluru-based start-up Ather Energy that are designed to appeal to tech-savvy city commuters.
After the scooters are connected to the internet, equipped with a touchscreen and a top speed of 80 km / hour. They cost about 131,000 rupees – nearly double the amount of Gore paid.
Okinawa and Ather are both the expansion of their production facilities. While Okinawa has been the construction of a new plant in north India to more than tripling its capacity to one million electric scooters a year, Ather is scouting for a site for its second plant.
“There is a line of sight now,” said Ravneet Phokela, chief business officer at Ather which is backed by venture capital firm Tiger Global, to add that there is more acceptance by customers and the government also comes on board.
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Ather, whose business model consists of the setting up of charging stations in each city, the launches, is working on new products ahead of plans to expand to 30 cities in the next three years.
“There has never been a better time to be in this company than now,” he said.
($1 = 70.4610 Indian rupees)
Write by) Aditi Shah; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan