India's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki is planning to launch the electric version of its best-selling WagonR hatchback in 2020. The car has already been seen testing on Indian roads several times. At present, the company is testing some 50 units of this car in the country. Maruti Suzuki executive director (sales and marketing) Shashank Srivastava confirmed this news. Bear in mind that Maruti had launched a new version of WagonR hatchback earlier this year. The latest car was built on brand new form factor and platform and challenged Hyundai Santro in India. The all-new WagonR is also available with petrol and CNG-Petrol dual fuel trims. The company also plans to launch LPG variants of the car later this year.
Talking to CNBC-TV18 about WagonR Electric, Maruti executive director said,
We will launch electric vehicles in 2020. At present, we have 50 such vehicles that are tested across the country in different terrains. We are not so sure (about the demand for electric vehicles) and the reason is that it all depends on the battery cost that is very high in electric vehicle. About 50-60 percent of the car cost is the battery and battery cost currently is extremely high. Therefore, we expect the price of EV will be significantly high and Indian consumer is price sensitive and so we will have to see, it’s not very clear, how much the demand will be.
WagonR Electric is expected to be priced around Rs. 10 lakhs or higher because of high cost of batteries. The hatchback is likely to have a range of around 150 kilometers per charge. That makes it primarily a city car. This range is supposed to be adequate for a lot of city car users and cab operators as they have sufficient time to recharge the car during the day. Coming to the cab market, many operators have started inducting Mahindra eVerito and Tata Tigor Electric in their intra-city fleets. However, it will take the likes of Ola and Uber some time before they induct electric cars into their fleets in a big way. The absence of infrastructure is still a big problem for electric cars. It is only when electric cars start delivering 250-300 kms per charge will they be accepted by both private as well as cab drivers on a large scale.
In order to boost infrastructure for electric vehicles, the Indian Government has called tenders to set up 1,000 charging points all over the country. These points will be expanded to 3,000 units in a short while. The government is also offering tax breaks to electric cars through lower excise duty, zero road tax, and registration charges, and also tax benefits on loans taken to purchase electric cars. All these measures will make electric cars more affordable and spur more car buyers to opt for them over petrol and diesel cars.