New Delhi: ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which runs cab-hailing service Ola, will shortly introduce fully electric cabs on a pilot basis in major Indian cities.
“There is a lot of focus on electric vehicles. We shall be rolling out electric cabs in top cities in three months,” Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder and chief executive officer of Ola, said in an interview.
The move is expected to boost sales of electric cars, which have failed to take off despite attempts to promote them through government incentives. Sales of electric vehicles rose 37.5% to 22,000 units in the year ended 31 March 2016 from 16,000 in 2014-15; only 2,000 of these were cars and other four-wheelers, according to lobby group Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles.
Agarwal said Ola will shortly identify the cities where the pilot project will be launched. Any decision to scale up the rollout of electric vehicles will be taken on the basis of the feedback it receives, he said.
The move comes against the backdrop of SoftBank Group Corp. chairman Masayoshi Son’s statement in December that Ola, in which the Japanese company is an investor, may introduce a fleet of 1 million electric cars in partnership with an electric vehicle maker and the government. Mint reported this on 3 January.
Son met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also shared the idea with him. “He was excited about it,” said Son, who wants to reach the 1 million electric cars target in the next five years. SoftBank has invested up to $500 million in Ola.
Any shift to electric vehicles will help reduce atmospheric pollution and fuel imports. India’s energy import bill is expected to double from around $150 billion to $300 billion by 2030.
The government has been trying to push the sales of electric vehicles for a long time. It has set an ambitious target of selling six million electric vehicles by 2020.
Some manufacturers, with the support of the government, formed a consortium to build an electric vehicle platform and components. But companies such as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Ford India Pvt. Ltd pulled out of the consortium leading to its collapse.
Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, which was also a part of the consortium, along with Tata Motors Ltd, has been steadfast in its pursuit of the electric-vehicle market. It already has the E2O and Verito electric vehicles in its portfolio, and plans to build luxury electric cars along the lines of Tesla Inc. under the Pininfarina brand.
But Pawan Goenka, managing director of the Mumbai-based company, said in a recent interview that luxury electric cars wouldn’t boost sales volume in the segment.
“That’s not where the volume will be and that’s not what will make a difference to our country. Difference will come from all taxis becoming electric. Difference will come from Olas and Ubers making only electric vehicles (a part of their fleet). That will make a difference in environment, CO2 (carbon dioxide) emission and pollution,” Goenka said.
To be sure, Mahindra and Ola have a partnership wherein the former will finance vehicles for more than 40,000 of Ola’s drivers by 2018. It also includes offers of discounted Mahindra vehicles, attractive financing with zero down payment and low interest rates, and comprehensive maintenance packages.