Toyota lobbies for hybrid vehicles, wants govt to ease electric adoption

Toyota shas made several representations to the ministry of heavy industry and Niti Aayog explaining the merits of hybrid technology over pure electric vehicles


Shekar Viswanathan, vice-chairman at Toyota Kirloskar Motor. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Shekar Viswanathan, vice-chairman at Toyota Kirloskar Motor. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Mumbai: Toyota Motor Corp.’s local unit is lobbying the government to adopt a calibrated approach to adoption of green vehicles instead of a radical plan to make India an all-electric vehicle (EV) market by 2030, a top official at the company said.

The maker of Innova and Fortuner sport utility vehicles has made several representations to the ministry of heavy industry and Niti Aayog explaining the merits of hybrid technology over pure electric vehicles and why a complete phase-out of vehicles with internal combustion engines is not feasible. 

“EVs can progressively replace vehicles with internal combustion engines but not totally. You can’t say overnight that you will only have electric vehicles,” Shekar Viswanathan, vice-chairman at Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd, said in an interview on Wednesday. Not only is the acceptance of such vehicles poor because of the so-called range anxiety associated with them but the move can also disrupt the supply chain ecosystem, Viswanathan said. While the policy push for greener technologies is laudable, the government should be technology-agnostic and the choice should be left to consumers, he said, adding that demand for EVs can be built over hybrids over a 15 to 20 year time frame. 

In bid to lower the fuel import bill and running cost of vehicles, the government is planning to introduce electric vehicles in a very big way, Piyush Goyal, union minister for power, said at the annual session of Confederation of Indian Industry on 21 April. “We are going to make electric vehicles self-sufficient like Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA). The idea is that by 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country,” Goyal said.

Launched on 1 May 2015, the UJALA scheme sought to replace the so-called “Bachat Lamp Yojana”. Within one year of its launch, 9 crore LED bulbs were sold in the country, reducing their electricity bills by Rs55 billion ($850 million).

The route to faster adoption of EVs is through introduction of hybrid vehicles as people have got used to the concept of batteries running the vehicles, said Viswanathan. “The Camry hybrid on Indian roads doesn’t give range anxiety but still gives good mileage. People are used to the fact that I am getting better mileage and not worried about the car suddenly coming to a halt,” he said.

A hybrid vehicle utilizes more than one form of energy to achieve propulsion. Typically, a hybrid has a traditional internal combustion engine and a fuel tank, as well as one or more electric motors and a battery pack. Hybrids are most often petrol-burning machines that utilize their electric components to collect and reuse energy that normally goes unutilized in standard cars.

In the year ended 31 March 2017, India sold only 22,000 EVs, 2,000 of them two-wheelers, despite a subsidy under the FAME (faster adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles) scheme. Under the scheme, a subsidy of Rs795 crore was offered to consumers in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Lack of charging infrastructure, higher ownership cost and the low range that such vehicles offer are key deterrents for mass adoption of EVs.

A global leader in hybrid technology, Toyota, which sells the Camry hybrid in India, plans to launch more of such models in the mass segment by 2020. “We will continue to focus on hybrids, as we approach 2030, hydrogen-powered cars will also find its way,” said Toyota’s Viswanathan. 

“Hybrid, which is a proven technology globally, offers the best solution for a market like India, at least in the intervening period till the EV technology evolves and issues related to infrastructure and costs are taken care of,” said Abdul Majeed, auto practice head at PwC. Moreover, it’s important to ensure the source to generate power is clean, he added. 

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