On Wednesday, the Indian arm of Piaggio, the Italian automobile entity, entered the electric vehicle (EV) segment in this country with the launch of a three-wheeler, the Ape E-City. DIEGO GRAFFI, managing director and chief executive, speaks to Arindam Majumder on the why and how. Edited excerpts:
When you go electric, the price of your product goes up. So, how does a three-wheeler product which will be for public transport suit your strategy?
Talking about price, it is true the cost of technology for electric application is costly. Definitely, if you compare a full EV, including cost of battery, to conventional petrol or diesel. That’s why we decided to start introducing a battery swap solution. In this case, the customer will not be forced to buy the battery. So in terms of the price gap as compared to a conventional engine, it would not be much (more). Additionally customers will be enjoying a lot of incentives from the government. Like, you don’t have to pay road tax. These will take the final cost of operating the vehicle more or less to that of a conventional engine.
Will you at some time come with a fixed battery product, too?
To reduce the upfront investment cost for customers, we came up with the swappable solution but, parallelly, we will be studying the fixed battery solution. As and when the customer is ready, we will be able to market that. For the customer, there are advantages — zero emission, zero noise.
Will you follow the same battery swap solution for e-scooters?
A scooter is something we are looking at with interest. We decided to start with three-wheelers because we felt the potential is higher there, at the moment. But, we are already producing and selling electric scooters globally.
How many cities do you initially plan to start with?
We will start in three cities — Chandigarh, Mohali and Gurugram.
Will you be going for more products in the electric three-wheeler segment?
We have decided to go for a gamut. Those will be both fixed and swappable batteries, in the cargo and passenger segments.
Will you market these products with cab service aggregators?
Definitely, partnering with aggregators will be an option. Currently, we will be tying up with Sun Mobility. For developing and deploying in particular cities, Sun Mobility has taken ownership of developing the infrastructure —deploying battery swap stations, owning the battery, and giving the service of battery swaps to final customers. Definitely, we will be trying to get one of the top cab aggregators on-board.
Are you in dialogue with Ola or Uber?
Yes but not only for electric vehicles.
Do you think public transport, rather than private ownership, is an efficient way of making EVs popular in India?
Success depends on customers seeing value in such products. Definitely, aggregators, infrastructure building, is the way to reach customers...see what they require in terms of cost of acquisition. The good thing about battery swaps is that this avoids one of the largest of mental blocks in customers. The customer can now go to the nearest battery station, swap the battery and run as many kilometres as he wants.