When some of the iconic car manufacturers announce that they are going to overhaul their fleet, you must take notice. Over the past few months, American and European giants such as General Motors, Ford, Audi and Volkswagen have announced plans to phase out manufacturing of diesel and petrol-powered cars, and send out only electric vehicles over the next decade and a half. Granted, Ford and Volkswagen will cover only the European market initially. At the other end of the world, Japanese automaker Honda has set itself a deadline of 2040.
In contrast, the wheels are turning slowly in India.
There is a buzz all right with Tesla announcing its much-anticipated entry into the market. Top luxury players, including Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and Volvo, have introduced their all-electric variants in the country in a span of one year, and Audi is set to launch its variant soon. Traditional names such as Tata Motors and Mahindra have rolled out their wheels and captured a significant share of the small market. On its part, the government had announced tax cuts and rebates in the FY22 Budget — it slashed the GST on EVs to 5% and announced an income tax exemption of up to Rs.150,000 on interest payments for loans to buy EVs.
But the response from customers has been lukewarm. In India’s EV landscape, two-wheelers are the most popular (see: Two is greater than four). In FY21, a total of 236,802 units of EVs were sold, according to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. Out of this, only 1.9% was four-wheelers.
“The West is a car-centric market,” says Shashidhar KJ, an associate technology fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, “In India, people are more comfortable with two-wheelers… Four-wheelers are also used for intercity travel and stopping to charge midway could be a hassle. You don’t know if you will find charging stations or