In the commercial vehicle space in India, Piaggio is possibly the only company that offers an electric version of all its vehicles, in both cargo and passenger segments. But it has no plans to discontinue its diesel, CNG and LPG offerings. Diego Graffi, chairman & managing director, Piaggio Vehicles (India), told FE that diesel, CNG, LPG and electric can coexist for another five years or so, post that the company will take a call whether or not to turn fully electric.
“My assumption is that diesel three-wheelers will remain popular in rural areas for a long time, where charging infrastructure and CNG stations won’t have as wide a coverage as petrol-diesel pumps have for the next few years,” he said. “In urban areas, we will see more and more CNG and electric vehicles (EVs), at least for last-mile connectivity.
”As far as goods carriers vis-à-vis passenger carriers is concerned, he said traditionally the customer order pipeline for electric three-wheelers was equally divided between goods and passenger carriers, but with e-commerce players in urban areas shifting to electric, it is fast changing, as e-commerce players are more invested in goods carriers. “Within the goods carrier space as well, the bigger demand for EVs is coming from aggregators and e-commerce players such as Flipkart and Amazon, instead of individual buyers.
”The current sales mix is 80:20, in favour of aggregators, but very soon more and more individual buyers will start buying electric three-wheelers even in the goods carrier space. “Individual buyers are gradually noticing the benefits of EVs that aggregators are reaping, and soon a section of them will shift to EVs,” Graffi said.
Already, with rising prices of diesel and especially CNG, Graffi said many individual buyers have shifted to electric.
According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, the demand for three-wheelers has not yet come back to the pre-Covid-19 levels, but Graffi said that with policies such as battery swapping and state governments providing incentives for EVs, electrification will boost three-wheeler demand.
“The battery swapping policy draft covers all kinds of passenger transportation, but its success depends upon the availability of battery swapping network and a standard solution for battery module,” Graffi said. “The good thing is that we are on the right path.
”Piaggio India currently has five electric three-wheeler models—for which it has 100% localisation as far as tier-1 suppliers are concerned—of which two models are in the goods carrier space and three in the passenger carrier space. These have both fixed battery and battery swapping solutions. In this calendar year, the company doesn’t have plans to launch all-new electric two-wheelers, but will upgrade a few of its models in terms of driving range and performance, and will also make the cost of ownership more affordable.
As far as charging habits of users are concerned, in the goods carrier space mainly the users charge their vehicles on public charging points (because most of these are operated by aggregators and they have installed charging points at convenient locations), but owners of passenger carriers mostly charge their vehicles at home, using the regular three-point electric socket.