Hyundai Motors India launched its fully electric SUV Kona in the Indian market on Tuesday at a price of Rs 25.3 lakh. S S Kim, MD and CEO, Hyundai India Limited, told The Indian Express that while the car will contribute in setting some electric vehicle culture in Indian market, lack of infrastructure is the biggest challenge. He also called for subsidy support for private customers from the government. Excerpts:
While car manufacturers in India are working on mass market electric vehicles why did you come up with Kona at this time?
Kona fits into a niche market segment in India and I don’t think there will be big demand for it. Kona’s introduction shows our belief and confidence about future. A full-fledged electrified vehicle can contribute in setting some electric vehicle culture in the market. We will have a top down approach and will bring our mass market electric car over the next few years. That would be the right time as by then infrastructure would have improved. It would be aligned to government strategies and policies.
Experience in other markets shows that when EVs were introduced, many customers had range anxiety and stress concerning charging stations. Kona might be great on that aspect as it can go up to 452 km.
What are the challenges for electric vehicles in India?
The biggest challenge is the lack of infrastructure. Also, in terms of pricing there needs to be some support from the government other than the proposed GST reduction and tax benefit for the customers. I say it because price might be a big burden for the customer. Kona is a full-fledged electric vehicle and the material cost would be more than 2 times higher than for normal internal combustion engine vehicle primarily because of the lithium ion battery.
How do you plan to address the charging infrastructure issue?
We are tying up with IOCL to set up DC charging stations, starting with one each in top four cities. With each car we are giving two chargers free of cost. One CCS Type II charger that can be put up at home or office and can charge 100 per cent in around 6 hours and the other a simple trickle charger.
Additionally, two fast chargers would be placed at showroom and workshops in around 10 cities where the car is sold. We are also providing roadside assistance where vehicle-to-vehicle charger would be provided if a car gets stranded somewhere.
What additional support do you want other than those provided in recent Budget announcements?
There is no subsidy from government side as it is there in some European and East Asian countries for customers. In South Korea and China, we have strong support for EV customers in the form of subsidy. Government support should be around 50 per cent of the cost of electric vehicle. However, such subsidy should not continue for a long period but for a period that gives industry some meaningful scale.
The battery raw material is a scarce resource, do you think it is dependable in the long run?
That’s true. Right now natural resource relating to battery is very limited and in some countries there is very strong competition in the battery industry. That’s one of the reason that there will be some challenge in the growth of EV market. But yes, alternatives are also being worked upon we may see fuel cell coming up etc. We will also localise our battery manufacturing and we plan to be much more competitive in terms of cost, quality and delivery.
How do you see the governments push for EVs?
The push for EVs is good. Personally, I feel that internal combustion engine vehicles can survive for few more decades. So future market situation will be kind of co-existence if IC, EVs, fuel cell cars and hybrids. While there are talks of full conversion to electric by 2030, 100 per cent electrification of total vehicles is not a possible scenario in the next decade. In the meantime I think that it is OEMs responsibility to improve the fuel efficiency and work on reducing emissions.