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Perspective

Driving On Empty
If a sense of urgency is missing among automakers in taking electric seriously, it is because of the huge investments that have already gone into making conventional cars

N Mahalakshmi

Electric vehicles are becoming a reality, finally. And surprisingly, the first segment that has seen a massive shift is three-wheelers. Several cities, small and big now have electric three-wheelers being increasingly used for short distance commutes. Soon, we will also see electric buses on the roads as several state governments have warmed up to the idea and placed orders. 

Still, the pace of adoption remains very weak. And most companies only seem to be nibbling rather than going the whole hog. While Indian companies have almost lost out in the race for electric three-wheelers, in two-wheelers they are playing it safe. Rather than investing in developing their own products, they are buying into electric start-ups. The idea is to not miss the upside if electric two-wheelers indeed catch on. 

As for carmakers, just Mahindra and Mahindra has displayed some degree of seriousness and now Tata Motors is following suit. Notably, none of the global carmakers have any plans to launch electric vehicles here. If a sense of urgency is missing among automakers in taking electric seriously, it is because of the huge investments that have already gone into making conventional cars. It’s a global problem — companies simply cannot afford to stake the billions of dollars invested in existing capacities. Currently, global automotive is nearly a $2 trillion industry and disrupting it will come at a cost that the world economy is surely not ready to bear. India is not isolated in this regard.  

The other hurdle that is coming in the way of electric vehicles is that the existing models are not exciting enough for buyers at the prevailing prices. While there is limitation in bringing down prices for four-wheelers because of the high battery cost, it is ironic that even electric two-wheeler makers are clamouring for subsidy despite boasting of unbeatable fuel efficiency. 

That and more is the focus of this issue’s cover story. Among other stories, we take a look at how Balaji Telefilms is making inroads into the streaming business. Then, there is a feature on how mutual funds are preparing themselves to deal with market volatility in an election year.

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