Tata Motors betting big on EV product portfolio

Tata Motors betting big on EV product portfolio

Tata Motors' electric sport-utility vehicle (SUV) Nexon EV is displayed during its launch in Mumbai, India, January 28, 2020.  (Reuters Photo)

Tata Motors has experience with electric vehicles (EV) in the past with the Tigor EV. But with the launch of the Nexon EV, the Indian auto major is aiming to take things to the next level.

Tata Motors also showcased the Altroz EV at the Auto Expo 2020 in Greater Noida. All indications are that Tata Motors will go aggressive with their EV product portfolio.

“We have declared that we want to proactively win in the market. We have a point of view that the future is electric. While there is noise about so many other technologies, we see that the other technologies will support stringent emission norms and one of these technologies will keep getting chosen over the other. But that will be mainly for meeting the compliance vis-à-vis the internal combustion engine which is also becoming very stringent. But electric will be the future for us and the attempt will be that we would like to have the widest range,” Shailesh Chandra, President, Electric Mobility Business and Corporate Strategy, Tata Motors, told DH.

“As far as this is concerned, we are targeting the Altroz EV. At the launch of the Nexon EV, our chairman had said we will be targeting four products, including the Nexon EV. So, in the next two-three-year time frame, we would have four products. That is what we are targeting,’ he added.

Having been fully designed in India and with Indian engineers, Tata Motors had to get it just right to get customers interested in the Nexon EV.

“The knowledge base was there in the company because we had been working for the last several years, mostly at a demonstrator level. We really upped things when the Tigor EV project came. We had learnings coming from there but there was no commercial project that we had done,” Chandra explained.

“It was challenging as it was the first product of its kind, a high voltage one. Secondly, we had to balance the price, range, performance, and features. Also, making choices in a rapid manner was important. And it was a short and agile project of 16 months. For such a product and doing it for the first time was a challenge. We had to bring the product rapidly because technology is changing and competition will come in,” he further added.

The Nexon is the first EV based on the company’s Ziptron platform. “We had talked about Ziptron being a technology that we will launch multiple products with primarily for the personal segment with a certain set of promises. The promises were to overcome some existing barriers. Dominant logic said we should concentrate on fleet because there is running cost-benefit and incentives are being directed to the fleet segment. So, everything said the focus on the fleet segment as far as the initial years are concerned. Maybe after five-six years, one can come to the personal segment,” Chandra stated.

“Nexon EV was selected because it is the most successful product in our portfolio. Compact EVs are the craze of the industry and we are able to get a balance. We thought this is the best product to bring because if we have to make Nexon EV or any EV a mainstream choice, the price has to be close to that of an internal combustion engine vehicle. We have been able to deliver on our targets. There are very strong bookings, significantly more than we had expected. Expectations are very high and if somebody is thinking of buying an automatic version in a compact utility vehicle segment, they will be forced to think about this car,” he remarked.

Apart from the price of an EV, the big question on the minds of potential customers is charging infrastructure. “The question in front of us was the same: Should we wait for charging infrastructure? Charging infrastructure providers wanting to invest were saying let the products come. The question was about who will do it first,” Chandra said.

“The government is going to give a subsidy of up to Rs 1000 crore under the FAME programme and will be available for the next three years. Everybody would like to avail this incentive and there might be more movement in the next three years is what we anticipate. Tata Power is also going aggressive in this area and have already announced 650 chargers in the next one year.

“Things are not ready today, but I can visualise the situation three years from now where it would get significantly toned down as an issue for EVs. Secondly, people will realise that the need for public charging infrastructure will be less because globally it is a fact that 90% of the people charge at home or the workplace. It is only in the worst situation that one would need it (public charging stations) and that is more for overcoming anxiety,” he felt.

Asked about the expectations from the Union Government to accelerate EV adoption, Chandra said, “It is a solid programme (FAME), possibly one of the best in the world. On top of that, they have reduced GST to 5% and many states are supporting it with road tax registration (exemptions/ reductions) etc. The only thing that they should have done is opened it for the personal segment also to drive adoption across. This is because 85% of the passenger car market cannot be ignored. This is the only missing link.”

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