With the government increasingly looking for ways to expedite the shift to electric vehicles, several Indian automotive companies have come together to forge new partnerships, geared towards introducing affordable EVs in the country over the next few years.
In the backdrop of the Auto Expo 2018, over a dozen automakers are in the process of joining hands to make the transition to all electric, zero-emission vehicles as seamless as possible.
At a time when the central government is doubling down to decrease pollution levels and fossil fuel dependence, these partnerships could not only help distribute the risks involved, but also reduce time to market (TTM), which is essentially the time it takes for a product to go from being to being available commercially.
Additionally, such collaboration could potentially bring down battery costs by attaining economies of scale.
Toyota-Suzuki: Aiming To Bring EVs To India By 2020
Leading the race are two Japanese automobile giants, Suzuki and Toyota, that have tied up to launch an electric car in India as early as 2020. The alliance is gearing up to unveil a small electric car for the country’s mass segment within the next three years. According to sources, the car will be manufactured at Suzuki’s plant in Gujarat.
To strengthen its presence in the Indian EV market, Suzuki is also planning to set up a lithium-ion battery plant in Gujarat, as part of a joint venture with Denso and Toshiba. As stated by Kenichi Ayukawa, MD and CEO of Maruti Suzuki, the company is currently studying the various factors that can facilitate the adoption of electric vehicles in the country.
The Indian subsidiary of the Japanese car maker recently unveiled the first design concept of its electric vehicle, e-Survivor, at the Auto Expo 2018.
Speaking at the auto show, which is currently being held in Greater Noida, Ayukawa said that building India-focussed electric mobility solutions would require substantial investment. He added, “It is easy to do so through partnerships. There is so much to learn from each other. We would like to follow their production philosophy and other systems to see how we can make EVs affordable.”
Toyota, on the other hand, has announced plans to electrify 80% of its portfolio by 2022. To that end, the company is working on a range of futuristic electric solutions, said Akito Tachibana, MD at Toyota’s Indian subsidiary Toyota Kirloskar recently.
Urging the government to institute a long-term policy that promotes electric and hybrid vehicles, Tachibana stated at the Auto Expo, “Keeping Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulation (fuel efficiency norms in the US) in mind, a small EV (electric vehicle) is the best buy but for larger segments hybrid vehicles are ideal. We need to know what is the intent of the government, is it cutting down on imports of oil, or, is it meeting the CO2 regulation, or reducing emissions?”
Interestingly, Toyota hit 1.52 Mn annual sales of electrified powertrains globally in 2017, three years ahead of its set target of 2020.
Mahindra-Ford Collaboration To Work On Electric Mobility Solutions
Along the same lines, the country’s first EV manufacturer Mahindra and Mahindra has forged a partnership with Ford to develop electric mobility solutions that are affordable for the Indian consumers.
Reports of the strategic alliance first surfaced in the third week of September when both companies expressed interest in utilising each other’s strengths to develop solutions of the emerging problems in the automotive industry. Later in October 2017, it was reported that the two companies were looking to join hands with Ford Motor to build a new electric sedan.
As part of the association, Mahindra has procured a transportation software for its electric sedan. Through the partnership, Ford has also gained access to the Mumbai-headquartered automotive company’s EV technologies.
On the other hand, Mahindra is keen on utilising Ford’s advanced technologies and global reach to capture the Indian EV market.
According to sources close to the development, the partnership is currently focussing on a number of different areas, including mobility programmes, electrification, product development, connected vehicles, sourcing, manufacturing and distribution within India.
During a media interaction at the Auto Expo, Mahindra and Mahindra MD Pawan Goenka said, “No one is quite sure as to how quickly electric vehicles will grow. It is not a matter of innovating on the technology front, but ensuring that companies are justifying the investments made. Sharing an investment is something that needs to be done; everyone is hedging bets in order to have lower investments now and share future gains.”
Apart from Ford, Mahindra is working with group company South Korea-based, SsangYong Motor, to electrify some of the models of its South Korean Arm. As part of the initiative, Mahindra is looking to sell some of its locally-manufacturer powertrains and EV parts to the South Korean auto firm.
Among the other alliances that are working to bring electric vehicles to India is Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi, a Franco-Japanese strategic partnership between automobile manufacturers Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. Last month, it was reported that the alliance was set to launch a $1 Bn fund for auto tech startup across the globe.
Dubbed as Alliance Ventures, the fund will be used to back promising mobility startups that are working on innovative solutions over the next five years.
The three companies will reportedly invest around $200 Mn during the VC fund’s first year. Some of the key areas that the fund will focus on are electrification, connectivity, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.
Besides Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi, Chennai-headquartered commercial vehicles manufacturer Ashok Leyland has also forged a number of partnerships to bolster its electric vehicles business. For instance, it entered into a partnership with Israeli company Phinergy, geared towards providing a variety of energy management solutions to customers.
More recently, the company has joined hands to Sun Mobility for its first electric bus, Circuit S. As part of the tie-up, Sun Mobility will be providing swappable smart battery solutions for the electric buses through its kiosks.
As evident from the heightened enthusiasm about electric vehicles at the Auto Expo 2018, automotive companies around the world, including giants like Toyota, Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra and Mahindra, Renault and Nissan, are slowly shifting to electric mobility solutions of the future.
While the task of switching to 100% electric vehicles by 2030 is daunting, to say the least, collaborations between established players could help make the goal more achievable.