4 min read.Updated: 27 Aug 2019, 01:32 AM ISTAmit Panday
In an interview, Tata Motors’ Shailesh Chandra talks about developing cost-effective electric mobility solutions for mass adoption in India
Shailesh Chandra, president – electric mobility and corporate strategy, Tata Motors Ltd spoke to Mint recently on developing cost-effective electric mobility solutions for mass adoption in India, banking on shared mobility and exploring new skateboard concepts, which are used by the likes of Tesla, General Motors and Audi, for developing futuristic EVs. Excerpts from the interview:
While the first generation electric Tigor cars supplied to the EESL failed to meet the claimed performance, what has Tata Motors learnt from its products?
We have learnt a couple of things. First things first, the product was made completely to meet the tender requirements. We followed whatever requirements the tender specified and the product that we made just met with those specifications. I won’t comment whether that was right or wrong.
I’d rather say it was right because we always make products per the market evolution with cost structures under consideration.
If I had to give anything better than those products, I could have only given a higher (running) range. However, the existing (EV) prices are already high. It is ultimately about optimization of vehicle’s running range and price. It directly impacts the total cost of ownership (TCO). If someone wants a range of 400-500 kms per charge from an EV simply because that’s the range an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle offers currently, I believe it is an overkill. If I have to choose between the two, I will choose the price and optimize the running range because that’s how you can make it mainstream.
What according to you is the sweet spot for an ideal EV running range in India?
It is between 200 km – 250 km for every single (battery) charge. If you give anything above that, it will not help in terms optimizing the whole equation. I believe a 220 km running range overcomes the range anxiety and with the right charging infrastructure, it should work well for the market.
What is the price range that you think a typical electric car buyer will accept?
I will go with a few studies that say a customer will be ready to pay not more than 20% - 25% over the typical ICE car of same model variant.
What is the EV product roadmap you are looking at in the mid-term?
There are four fundamental pillars on which we are working to set up an EV market: product choices, micro-markets, charging infrastructure and ecosystem enabler such as e-vehicle financing.
As far as choices are concerned, the number of products required for fleet applications from body style perspectives is very limited. You have to create different set of range conditions to meet different requirements of different categories of the fleet. For example, for a cab aggregator, the cab needs to run through the day and not lose out on time on charging the battery.
Meanwhile, for an employee transport category, we will have to see the used cases. It gives a window during the day to charge the vehicles.
In the personal segment, I think the performance and connected car features will be the two pillars that will build the foundation for EVs. You will start seeing products from early next year including the Altroz EV. The upcoming products will address the existing challenges such as the running range and the price points. We plan to bring aspirational, high-performance products with accessible price points.
With such products, the incentives that the government is offering and the charging infrastructure, on which we are working with Tata Power, I think we will be able to solve all the barriers that exist today in the mass adoption of EVs in India.
So, there will be a new electric car (Nexon EV) before the launch of Altroz EV. I will not talk about specific products but anything that is made on alpha architecture that we make in the PV can be made as an electric vehicle. So, we will be agile enough to bring all potential models as electrics in the future.
If alpha and omega vehicle architectures are EV-ready modular platforms, then can all the 14 nameplates on both put together be had as EV portfolio too?
Technically, yes. But that will largely depend upon the specific segments where an electric car will make sense, given the current price matrix. For example, I would not want to position an electric car in the small car segment because of price constraints. But theoretically, we can do what you say.
How do you see the potential of skateboard concepts for adoption of EVs in the shared mobility space?
I see promise in the skateboard concept(s) but it requires a major investment. We have been evaluating that and we have also been discussing this with some aggregators in terms of what would make sense in shared mobility. We have also been discussing some concepts with a few startups in this space.
However, we have not firmed up any specific plan on this front. We are aware of the merits, we have studied the concepts that have come up in this space and we believe that you would need some special solutions for the shared mobility space.
Once we will complete this evaluation, we will see the merit of this idea vis-à-vis the existing solutions in the field because everything will translate down to the overall economics.
So I would not like to jump to a conclusion but see a very strong merit in what you are saying. There will be a case of investment at the right time.
How are your suppliers developing the competencies for EV parts?
Parts localization will be followed with competency development. We will move to manufacturing from there and then gradually the capabilities will develop.
Tata AutoComp Systems will be entering this space. We are still exploring on how to invest in systems and sub-systems. We have a clear plan of working on localizing EV parts with Tata AutoComp and other suppliers who have worked on them globally.
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