Maruti Suzuki India feels that mass production of electric vehicles is going to be difficult, considering apprehensions that customers have over the lack of charging infrastructure. RS Kalsi, senior director – marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki India, told FE’s Deepak Kumar & Arun Nayal that the company plans to launch an electric vehicle by 2020 only to get the ball rolling. However, the ramp-up would depend on the acceptance of customers. Excerpts:
Mercedes recently launched a BS-VI car that can run on BS-IV fuel. Do you plan to launch something similar?
It may be possible for a single model. But when you are handling a portfolio of 16 models, it could be a humongous task for us.
By when will you be able to switch to only BS-VI engines?
We are sure that we will be able to bring BS-VI to all our models well before the deadline given by the government.
You plan to bring one electric vehicle in 2020. Will you bring more in the subsequent years?
The ability to make an EV is one thing and the commercial acceptance of the vehicle is another. The market has to first accept it at the higher price point, and the charging infrastructure has to be adequate. If the infrastructure is not there, customers may not accept the product. We as automakers can launch new products, but it is more than just that. For instance, sourcing the required lithium is going to be a major challenge.
Then why are you considering EVs at this point, when the charging infrastructure is poor and demand is low?
What is important is to make a beginning. You have to set the ball rolling. The ramp-up of production, though, would completely depend on customer acceptance. We are currently researching what products would best suit the Indian market in the EV space. Once the research results are out in April this year, we would take further decisions.
Currently, what are the challenges with respect to electric vehicles?
The charging time for EVs is very long, whereas gasoline fills up in 5 minutes. Adequate parking space is also required as cars would be charging for hours. You also require supply of power. The gap between two charging stations on the road has to be shortened due to range anxiety. These apprehensions have to be kept in mind before we think of mass production of EVs.
What are your thoughts on the hybrid technology?
Hybrid, we feel, is an intermediary step in our journey towards EVs. If we introduce strong hyrbids, we can slowly ramp-up the charging infrastructure. By popularising strong hybrids, production of lithium-ion batteries will also increase, which would bring down their cost. This would, in the long run, reduce prices of fully electric vehicles.
What are your plans with the new Concept S Future that you have unveiled on Wednesday?
The Concept S Future shows the things that are to come from us and it showcases the company’s futuristic style. It is a compact car with SUV-like features.
By around when can we expect a car based on this concept out commercially?
Putting a time line for a product launch with this concept is difficult. Our engineers are working currently on the BS-VI technology. However, from the concept to a commercial launch may take up to three years.