Amid the ongoing industry-wide push for moving to electric vehicle (EV) technology, Japanese automaker Suzuki Motor’s two-wheeler unit may start testing its electric scooter on the streets of India as soon as next year, but will likely wait for infrastructure to develop before marketing the product.
“We will respect the government policy. We will make some prototypes. But there is no infrastructure — the charging system, battery station,” said Satoshi Uchida, the managing director of Suzuki Motorcycle India.
When the company eventually launches its electric two-wheelers in India, it stands to benefit from the EV infrastructure of Maruti Suzuki, the country’s largest carmaker and Suzuki Motor’s cash cow.
“We can coordinate with Maruti, using the same core technology; not only technology but (even their vendor and EV infrastructure) network. It is our advantage,” Satoshi told ET on the side lines of EICMA 2019 here.
His comments come weeks after Bajaj Auto showcased its first electric scooter under the Chetak brand with plans of a market launch as soon as January 2020. India’s two-wheeler market leader Hero MotoCorp has invested in electric vehicle maker Ather Energy to prepare itself for a shift towards electric mobility.
Uchida said like every technology, EVs would also take time to be accepted by the masses. The first- and second-generation electric two-wheelers in India may not be a success, he said. “We don’t believe it (electric scooters) will be very successful immediately; it takes time. We are carefully monitoring the situation — what is the bottleneck, what is the issue.”
A little over 50,000 electric two-wheelers were sold in India in the first six months of fiscal 2020, of which only 3,000 were comparable on performance with conventional models.
The government is pushing the automobile industry towards electric mobility to combat worsening air quality and rising petroleum imports in the country. It even mooted banning all combustion engine two-wheelers with engine capacity less than 150cc in favour of electric vehicles by 2025.
Uchida said while a move towards EVs was necessary from the environment perspective, there were some concerns that needed to be kept in mind. EVs would reduce the country’s dependence on crude imports, but increase the dependence on lithium for making the batteries. Once EVs take off in India, both consumption and price would go up for this limited resource, he said, adding that such a situation would only benefit China as it controlled vast lithium reserves.