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Elon Musk’s Tesla are headed to India, but there won’t be any green car revolution here

There are less than 500 electric vehicle charging stations in India, when the current need has been pegged at around 2,600.

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If we take the eccentric Elon Musk’s tweets at face value, Tesla is going to enter India’s automobile market early next year, turning the page to an important chapter in the country’s electric vehicle revolution story.

There’s no doubt about it, the future is electric. Sooner or later, oil-run cars are going to become a passe and we’ll have, arguably, environment-friendly, less-noisy electric vehicles take over the roads.

But has India made the necessary arrangements to embrace the electric future just yet?

Also read: Message we get is we don’t want you – Toyota stops expansion in India saying taxes too high

Is Tesla India-ready?

From your McAloo Tikki and Chicken burgers at McDonald’s to the full-crusted pizzas at local joints, multinational corporations entering India have had only two choices — dance to the tune of Indian habits or go back.

Recall any ad for tyres, and you’ll see the promise of extra grip in those commercials — they’re meant to keep you safe on India’s pot-holed, congested, unruly roads that promise to surprise you every mile of the way. Even oil engine ads have taken the same route. More than anything, Tesla will have to go through some serious Indianisation and prove its worth on India’s rough roads. The electric vehicle manufacturer will have to ensure its swanky cars turn into the rugged monsters to survive here, or meet the fate of earlier international hits that nobody paid heed to in India.

Take the example of Uno by Fiat, a globally successful car that flopped in India since it was too low-floored for our bumpy roads. My family owned the car when I was young, it was a tough-looking cookie whose silencer would hit every other speed-breaker on the road. A menace nobody wanted. That Fiat’s overall services are also to be blamed is a debate for another day.

Or take the more popular and recent example of Harley Davidson, the ultimate symbol of masculinity, which wasn’t virile enough for India. Indian roads would never let you enjoy such premium bikes to the fullest. Of the 20 million two-wheeler units sold in India last year, Harley Davidson’s share was a measly 10,000 units. This resulted in the closure of their operations here. The ‘open road’ experience, quintessential to its brand, was just not available in India.

Also read: Europe is building the next Tesla

Lack of infrastructure

Tesla’s entry shouldn’t be surprising. A recent report pegged India’s electric vehicle market to become a Rs 50,000 crore opportunity by 2025.

Many big companies make the mistake of entering India with the sole purpose of wooing the potentially huge market, but overlook the glaring infrastructural deficiencies here.

India isn’t going to buy your product if it’s impractical for Indians, no matter how technically superior your offering is.

For a country striving to ensure that by 2030, 30 per cent of the passenger vehicles sold in India are green, a goal that was ambitiously and delusionally set at 100 per cent earlier, the speed of growth and reforms don’t seem to necessarily match the timeline set. Which brings us to the elephant in the room — the ‘elephant pace’ at which our systems function. Most MNCs don’t have the patience to deal with this despite the lure of market volume India offers.

There are less than 500 electric vehicle charging stations in India, when the current need has been pegged at around 2,600. Some electric vehicle-based cab companies have set up their own charging stations at different locations to meet the gap. In sharp contrast, China has more than 5 lakh charging stations.

It’s not like the government isn’t thinking of changing India’s EV landscape. The problem is, it seems, thinking is all it’s doing. According to latest reports, the government is considering installing 69,000 charging kiosks at petrol pumps across the country. At this pace, you might also channelise the power of your ‘thoughts’ to charge your Tesla at petrol pumps. Talk is cheap. Tall promises are made in this country every day. The reality of 2020 India is as far as possible from the 2020 promise that we grew up listening to.

Also read: Battery fires put BMW and Ford on the back foot just as electric vehicles take off

Lack of demand 

It’s not like the government hasn’t tried to stimulate demand. The 2019 budget had introduced an income tax exemption up to rupees 1.5 lakh on purchase of an electric vehicle.

But high ownership costs, poor resale value and lack of adequate infrastructure, coupled with poor battery performance of vehicles selling currently resulted in abysmally low demand of EVs in India. Only 1,309 electric vehicles were sold between April-November 2019. We also sold only a little more than 8,000 units in 6 years, according to a Bloomberg report. China sells more than that in two days.

Your Teslas could also be quite expensive. Under FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid & Electric Vehicles), the government has allotted nearly Rs 11,000 crore over a period of three years to boost local manufacturing of EVs and for setting up of charging stations. At the same time, the government has also increased customs duty on Completely Built Units — the route Tesla is likely to take for its India entry — from 25 per cent to 40 per cent.

India is, undoubtedly, a fertile market for electric vehicles. But if we don’t do exponentially more to make buying, owning and driving electric cars a smart and practical choice, only a few rich will buy Teslas for their garages, bringing no real electric revolution to the country.

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  1. Definitely Tesla will hit big in india, if u compare the prices of petrol in india and to other western countries. In india its quite high, also the initial investment for the vehicle will be quute high as it is. But given the conditions and new face in the market Tesla has a chance to score big. No one drives daily for 300 to 400 miles a day so there is no point in too many charging stations. As government plans 70000 should do good, as anyone who plans to go over 300 miles, does plan everything unless he is struck up in big traffic jams.
    I am not a person who have deep pockets but wish that tesla who arrive in india by 2021 and rest can always be a history.
    But never under estimate india, if tesla manages to sell 50% of cars in europe and imagine just a merely 2 to 3% in india is enough to surpass that number easily.
    Just hope to see some reduction in pollution if i cannot afford one.still we all are winning🏆💪

  2. What’s with the negativity Print ? The whole world is transitioning to Electric Cars and so will India. Believe in India for once. The dynamics of supply and demand make everything work in the long run.

    • brother i am a car guy but after reading this article it was clear that this lady didn’t even have a bit of a knowledge about electric cars or normal bikes. she is talking about harley davidsons but didn’t even mention the price and other costs that come with it. and compared to western countries india is rather a new market, in which demands increased just after independence. this article sorry to say but is next to utter bullshit.

  3. Short-sighted article, to say the least.
    We cannot compare the market experience of Harley and Fiat Uno with those of EV. Harley didn’t fail because of ‘no open roads’, it failed because of crippling and stifling import duties and local taxes which the Indian government refused to waive-off, because the entire Indian automobile lobby was behind it. A powerful and established brand like Harley wouldv’e wiped off the emerging Indian automakers’s future product offerings as they plan to make vehicles of heavier capacity. From Royal Enfield to Bajaj and everyone else. Example: RE did create a 650cc segment once it knew that BS6 wouldnt delay any further and they had to fade out the 500cc. Also the consumer demand was starting to evolve. Similar stories of future prospects and worries from Indian automakers had the lobby which made sure the Government of India didn’t lower taxes for Harley to grow. This is why they left India.
    Tesla will work its way in the EV segment (which is not as lobby driven as ICE automobile segment) and it plans to eventually manufacture in India. While the entire plan might take time, they will still have the advantage of early drivers. And they are a tech company, so they will have many more areas of collaboration with Indian startup ecosystem across the EV segment. When you look at all of this combined, things won’t look half as bleak and terrible as the author of this article would have us believe.
    One suggestion: Please come out of your Fiat Uno experience. It is too far back to even quote today in the annals of history of Indian automobile market.

  4. Tesla could start by owning its own charging stations and also give franchise rights for other players. They can bring a cheaper model for South Asian markets and start producing batteries,and other components in countries like India , Thailand etc ., If Elon Musk is given enough impetus , they can have loop technology like in Los Angeles even in Indian Cities.. Sky is not the limit for Tesla as they are planning for Mars settlements.

  5. Many people make this mistake of thinking that an EV charger is the equivalent of a petrol station, and that if you cannot get access to one then owning an EV is impractical. Unless your car is going from place to place without being parked in a place you can reliably charge it each night then it’s irrelevant. How long does it take to charger your mobile phone? Do you need public phone chargers? No. You plug it in before you go to sleep and it’s done in the morning. Boring and convenient.

  6. Why i am even reading The Print article. So much negativity !!!

    They just hire like minded free lancers for the articles. No research, doesnt even what Tesla is a company like before writing a 100 line article.

  7. Editor is idiot, she probably don’t know abcd of indian automobile. She gave Harley Davidson and fiat example, was you drunk while writing? She probably don’t know 3,4 years of booking is done for Lamborghini urus, she doesn’t know Rolls Royce have showroom in India for decades, she probably doesn’t know Tesla build their own charging Network so why the hell you are complaining about charging infrastructure and ohh you can drive lamo, Ferrari, Aston Martin but you can’t drive Tesla here? Print you allow anyone to write anything on the subject without their any knowledge about that subject.

  8. Just before Tesla chose India to do business, this fake media house “The Print” started to malign the prospect of it by making derogatory comments for their ghost Chinese bosses. They see growth in Pakistan & when Tesla chose China over India they were so happy. Enough of being Chinese stooges, we won’t spare you anymore you propaganda media. Go to hell.

  9. What I want to say this battery technology is at its infancy, still more research is needed. Still petrol/ diesel vechicle enjoys superiority over battery vechicle. Even thousands of battery operated vechicle comes on road, the generation of electricity will be more and for that we have to rely on diesel/coal, and not the least nuclear energy.
    Unless solar charger together with battery simultaneously while driving then only we can achieve better prospects for battery operated vechicles.
    Thanks and regards,
    R. Sai Prasad

  10. You seem to be saying what congress told you to cause the print is its puppet. China doesn’t even have close to 10000 stations and yes india is in track to making 70000 stations by 2025.

    There is one more difference,I haven’t made any grammatical errors. Now you have two things to edicate yourself about.

  11. Only simple way out is increase the infrastructure and get the confidence of the people and their after its the people of India driving the revolution… That’s what people of India have shown… Then do an end to end market study and see what works out for India rather than selling the same models that have done well in other countries. That should do and Indians are more aligned towards the savings aspect if EV’s are giving them more savings then that’s it you don’t need to go and ask them to buy they will come and buy….

  12. Tesla will come in India people are buy outside goods easily .Hybrid vechiles are no demand in India .Tesla will fall in Indian market

  13. I think for Asian Countries Tesela must have different design vehicles like SUV, Model S, or Mini Cars Design for Asian Rough Road, Terrain and Temperature Condition. Other than this Their Vehicle Quality and Technology is Good and no doubt it will be successful. They can even enter into Defence Vehicles which travel in Harsh Environment.
    Other issues uniform and superior charging sockets infrastructure for all electric vehicles.

  14. I think the writer needs to seriously do some research, Tesla is not a car company, it is a tech company which makes cars, solar tiles, power walls self driving chips and now batteries too!! With in future they can make HVAC for residential homes

    Tesla, at will can lower the cost of their vehicles because it’s their goal to accelerate adoption towards sustainable transport which cannot happen by leaving India out.

    That being said I expect Tesla to enter India with their batteries and then do research and then launch a car for Indian market, if India is market like no other than Tesla is also a company like no other.

    It would be interesting to see what Tesla brings to Indian market

    • There is no way ‘electric vehicle’ transformation is going to come sooner in India. Just look at the present scenario, the heavy taxes, absence of ev charging stations, pathetic roads, and ofcourse the dumb policies which are responsible for backing out of so many multinational companies. Market here is good enough though but then there must be some reason due to which these companies are reluctant to expand their businesses in India. PS: That reason is justified and known by all Indians.
      According to govt. 2022 is planned as the modernization era in the field of ev . Lets see what happens!!

  15. Its not like these arguments havent been seen before. And apart from ground clearance, didnt pose much of a problem.

    S and X have afaik an active suspension. Y being more of a crossover shouldnt be a problem, leaving only the 3. Tho all these being in quite a high price segments makes an aftermarket raised shocks a smaller issue?

    Teslas are surely not exactly cheap.

  16. Well Written and quite true.

    In addition to charging infrastructure there should also be authorized service centers aplenty. Imagine taking your broken down Model 3 to a local mechanic, and seeing his expression when he pops the bonnet.

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