New Delhi: The Union government has placed initial orders with Hyundai Motor Co. for the Kona electric compact sport-utility vehicle.

This comes as the government’s largest electric vehicle (EV) procurement programme, run by state-owned Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), faces bottlenecks because of issues such as vehicle quality and a lack of demand, according to several government officials.

Power and new and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh, and NTPC chairman and managing director Gurdeep Singh have started using the Kona, which went on sale in July. Top officials at policy think tank NITI Aayog too are keen to use the vehicle.

The preference for the Kona is despite the vehicle’s price tag of 23.71 lakh post government subsidies, which is about double that of Tata Motors Ltd’s Tigor and Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd’s e-Verito electric sedans.

The Kona can travel up to 452km on a single charge and has a 39.2 kilowatt hour (kWh) advanced lithium polymer battery. The Tigor and e-Verito have less than 20kWh batteries.

“Kona’s battery size is almost three times that of these other cars (Tigor and e-Verito). The running cost is just 40 paisa/km. It’s a brilliant car in terms of comfort and this is the beauty of EVs anyway," said EESL MD Saurabh Kumar.

Only 500 Tigors have been supplied by Tata Motors to EESL so far, while M&M has delivered 1,000 e-Veritos. This was in response to the two companies receiving orders from EESL in September 2017 for 10,000 cars. While 60% of the sedans were to be supplied by Tata Motors, the rest were to come from M&M.

EESL now plans to limit the final order to around 3,000 cars by March 2020 amid an economic slowdown.

Mint reported on 27 June, 2018 that senior government officials were refusing to use EVs made by M&M and Tata Motors, citing poor performance and low mileage.

The problems with the Tigor included issues related to AC cooling, pick-up, sudden battery discharge and inability to charge. These were resolved after a delay, according to EESL.

Miffed with the quality of Tigor cars, EESL in a 10 April 2018 note to the automaker reviewed by Mint said: “It has been observed that Tata Motors is not taking any sincere steps to resolve these issues, causing delay and leading to customer dissatisfaction."

“The performance of Tata Motors is found to be below par and EESL will not accept delivery of any new vehicle till all the issues with the existing cars have been rectified," it said.

Tata Motors has denied that there are quality issues with the EVs. A company spokesperson said in an emailed response: “After getting the LoA (letter of award) from EESL, we have completed the phase 1 deliveries in line with the technical specifications of the tender."

Queries emailed to spokespersons of EESL, M&M, power ministry and Hyundai Motor India Ltd remained unanswered till press time.

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