As the auto industry continues to debate the dependence of electric vehicle (EV) adoption on the availability of charging network across India, the top executive at Bajaj Auto said that creation of demand for EVs and its adoption is squarely the job of the vehicle manufacturers.
Cautioning the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from blaming the unavailability of charging infrastructure for EVs, Rajiv Bajaj, managing director, Bajaj Auto Ltd said, “We should not get caught in this vicious cycle of chicken-and-egg where we say whether EVs should come first or whether EV charging stations should come first because nobody is going to put up an infrastructure for anything unless they actually see demand (for EVs) on the roads. So it is squarely the job of the manufacturer, not of the government, not of the Niti Aayog, not of the FM or the PM."
“This is our job that we have to put out the EVs, which are such that people buy it despite the absence of infrastructure and all the other known issues," he added referring to the notions around range anxiety, safety and reliability of the battery powered vehicles.
He was responding to a query from Mint on the sidelines of a presentation on the electric scooter Chetak recently.
Earlier, top bosses from the other homegrown vehicle manufacturers including Guenter Butschek, MD and CEO, Tata Motors Ltd and Pawan Goenka, MD, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd (M&M) had voiced out similar opinion wherein they suggested that the OEMs must take the responsibility to create demand for EVs, especially after the several steps taken by the Modi administration to boost the adoption of eco-friendly vehicles.
The central government has taken a bevy of steps such as lowering of corporate taxes on new manufacturing units, customs duty exemption on lithium-ion cells, tax rebates on interest payments on loans for EVs, besides other incentives.
Meanwhile, drawing parallel with the CNG three-wheelers, Bajaj recalled that the demand for alternate-fuel driven auto-rickshaws picked up despite the absence of the CNG fuel stations in Delhi in the past. “The auto-rickshaw drivers used to queue up for six hours as there were no CNG stations. But the demand (for CNG three-wheelers) was there because they loved the CNG vehicles, as they were clean and economical. Despite all those hardships, people bought it because of the strong product USP," he said.
With its all-new electric Chetak, Bajaj Auto returns to the scooter segment after almost a decade. The company had stopped manufacturing scooters in 2009 as it prioritized focus on the motorcycle segment, which offered better margins.
The electric Bajaj Chetak would be commercially launched in January 2020 when its price would be revealed. However, the top company executive has already hinted at a price range of ₹100,000 – ₹150,000 for Bajaj Auto’s first electric scooter.