Maruti Suzuki’s Chairman RC Bhargava has announced the first electric car from his company will be launched in 2020. The car will have technology that is sourced from the Suzuki-Toyota partnership as Maruti currently doesn’t have the technology needed to deploy an electric car.
Suzuki and Toyota have tied up for electric car technology. A Toyota-owned company Denso has even partnered Suzuki for setting up a Lithium Ion battery factory in Gujarat. So, it is likely that the electric car from Maruti will feature lithium ion batteries.
So not expect the Maruti electric car to be cheap though. Mr. Bhargava has indicated that they’ll be costlier than petrol and diesel powered cars at least initially. He has also revealed that Maruti is now conducting a survey to figure out what the customer really wants from an electric car. This survey will be concluded in 2018.
So far nobody has any idea about what the consumer thinks about an electric car. We know what the government thinks, we know what the media thinks and we know what the experts think. The vehicle must be what the customer expects and it should be affordable to him. Both these criteria have to be met for EVs to be viable. 75 percent of cars sold in India are small cars. How to make them electrified and affordable is the challenge. Making an affordable small car is different than making a large affordable e-car. A car may be affordable in the US or Europe but the same car may not be so affordable in India. So what kind of policies and incentives have to be worked out in detail. I don’t see battery-driven cars becoming cheaper than fossil fuel cars for a long time. The survey will try to find out what do buyers think about electric cars, where could they charge such a car, do they have a charging station at home, how will they compare it with petrol/diesel powered cars. This will be similar to what Maruti did before launching the M800 which was a result of a market survey because that’s what the consumers wanted.
Maruti’s chairman has not revealed whether the electric car would be a hatchback or a sedan. But one thing is certain, it will be a mass market car that aims to drive a lot of buyers towards the Maruti brand. Presently, the only electric cars available in India are from Mahindra, in the form of the E2O and the eVerito sedan. This will rapidly change from 2020 as more automakers including Maruti launch electric cars.