Electric Cars in India - Is There A Future?
My assessment of whether or not we can realistically expect electric car manufacturers to supply their vehicles en masse, to the Indian market.
I'm sure we’ve all been intently watching Tesla as their cars have grown into some of the most stylish symbols of both affluence and a forward-thinking mentality. While those of us in India may be watching intently, we’ve been doing it from a distance. The few of us that took notice of the Fisker Karma a few years ago felt the same way about it as we do about Teslas today - that upmarket hybrids and electric cars are a pipe dream for the West to enjoy and for us to hear about in rap lyrics - for now, at least.
The reason I narrow our perspective to Tesla for our first case study is because it is the figurehead of widespread electric motoring today. The way we feel about this brand, is possibly the most optimistic we can feel about any brand of electric vehicle, en masse. They’ve managed to make their cars sporty, fashionable and appealing while remaining environmentally considerate.
We Indians aren’t born pessimists or anything of the sort, though we do know our roads and country. Building a system into it at present that involves several hundred recharge stations (which will only be in Tier 1 cities to begin with) and some level of lane discipline to accommodate the frightened (and highly automated) Teslas is a daunting task to say the very least. To remove the bovines currently wandering our strips of tarmac and replace them with white lines will take years and an inordinate amount of money, considering our leaders’ priorities.
At the moment, the only sort of random idea which springs to mind that may make the possibility of owning a Tesla on the subcontinent real, is one which involves Elon Musk meeting with our politicians to discuss the possibility of bringing Tesla to India conspicuously while facing the public. That’s the only way there will be any kind of accountability and chance of success in the short-term. One can hope though, that in a decade or two, our systems will have improved exponentially.
For our second case study, you’ll need to remember your Aunt’s old Reva. It’s the only completely electric car that I believe India really took to. Granted, the Purple Reva (hatefully called the G-Wiz in the UK where it was also sold) with the bendy-wavey stripes down its sides was still a fairly unusual sight back in 2013. Though I happen to know that the Bangalore-based company’s sales seriously trumped that of it’s few competitors at the time.
The competing Smart Car in the UK (which is a subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz) barely made a dent in Reva’s sales there because of the massive price gulf between them (of roughly £13,000 depending on trim and model). Not to mention, the Reva is small and light enough to be quickly picked up by four people and thrown into a river under the cover of darkness. That last fact brings me to the reason I believe this car worked as well as it did - it adopted several values of the successful and high-selling Indian car. It was compact, easy to run, reliable and well-priced.
While Tesla and Reva are close to either end of a very long spectrum, they are (or were) both manufacturers of electric vehicles. The question to be asked is, which of either can truly handle our country while being practical? I personally believe that the latter is still the only feasible option in India. As mentioned before though, one could hope that our systems will improve exponentially over the next couple of decades and afford us an actual choice between the two, on our roads, here at home.