India's largest commercial vehicle manufacturer Tata Motors will launch an electric version of its most popular light truck Ace next financial year thus becoming the first manufacturer to do so in the country.
While the regular diesel-powered Tata Ace carry a price tag of over Rs 300,000 and the Super Ace priced at nearly Rs 500,000, a battery-powered Ace will not come cheap, as is the case with all electric vehicles. Cost of lithium-ion batteries that are normally procured from China as such batteries do not get produced locally form a huge chunk of the cost of development.
"In the Auto Expo we showcased the Super Ace electric and Magic electric. Actual commercial production of these models should happen soon. All these things need lots of support from the government. But obviously you have to be ready with the product first to seek that support", said a senior executive of Tata Motors.
Weighing around 1,600 kgs, the electric Ace will have an all steel chassis and no gears and perhaps no air-conditioning. The vehicle will likely have a top-speed of around 50kmph. A regular diesel-powered Ace has a top-speed of 90kmph while the Super Ace has a top speed of 125kmph. Other details such as drive range and time taken to recharge batteries have not been disclosed yet.
Lack of government intervention to support the electric vehicle cause in India has repeatedly challenged the future of such automobiles even forcing a few electric two-wheeler manufacturers to shut shop in recent times. A few front-line global vehicle makers like General Motors and Nissan who had shown interest in launching all-electric cars in India later dropped their plans. In overseas markets local governments have given several incentives to electric car and two-wheeler makers in the form of subsidies which are also there for customers.
However, the new BJP-led government at the center has decided to continue with the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) launched by the UPA government. A sum of Rs 1,000 crore has been earmarked for the project though there was a call for Rs 14,000 crore funds.
The funds will cover four segments, incentivising demand, technology and research and development, pilot project sales and creation of charging infrastructure. According to Tata Motors the government has changed its stance over electric vehicles and is now actively pushing it forward.
"This is what we are strongly pushing for and there is a good interest from the government. We have talked to them about a hub and spoke model which government is actually latching on to. They are coming forward and asking for the vehicles of hybrid and electric. I am sure we will launch the electric it in 2015-16", said the official.
Mumbai-based utility vehicle major Mahindra & Mahindra is also pursuing ambitions in the electric space under the Reva brand. It already sells the e2o, a four-seater mini all-electric car in India and overseas.