Indian companies and researchers will be able to develop electric vehicles that will be “equal to Tesla from the technology point of view,” Union Minster Nitin Gadkari said on Monday.
Speaking to The Indian Express at the Idea Exchange programme, Gadkari, the Minister of Road Transport and Highways and MSME, said that EV major Tesla would be starting operations in India early 2021.
“Tesla is preparing to start operations in India by early 2021. I am sure that there are a lot of EV which are equal to Tesla from the technology point of view. Indian manufacturers are doing a lot of research and changes. In due course of time you will get electric cars which will be equal to Tesla. I am confident and the cost will be very less,” Gadkari said, adding that in due course India would be the “number one manufacturer” of electric vehicles like cars, bikes, trucks, tractors and construction machinery that run on electricity.
During the conversation with The Indian Express editors, Gadkari said Tesla will start operations first with sales and then maybe look at assembly and manufacturing based on the response to the cars.
In October, Tesla CEO Elon Musk had suggested that the company will come to India in 2021 while responding to a tweet from India. “Next year for sure,” Musk had replied when a handle called Tesla Club India checked with him about the company’s progress in India.
Gadkari said that a lot of small companies have started manufacturing electric scooters and bikes in factories in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country. And that there is already a lot of research going on to indigenously develop an alternative to lithium-ion batteries since most lithium-ion batteries are imported from China.
“There are some problems related to lithium-ion. Argentina has got huge reserves of lithium-ion. Our Indian players are also trying to get lithium-ion the world over. But this is also true that the Chinese have already picked up stakes in majority of the lithium -on mines,” he said, adding that Indian researchers were now trying to invent a better alternative to lithium-ion batteries.
“Take for example ISRO sending satellite, using a different type of batteries. Research is going on and our people are competent and we will get the solution for that. Sodium ion batteries are also in the process of being made. The research is in the final stages. I am very much confident about our IITs and engineering graduates. In this field we will get success. The sodium ion batteries are very cheap. So we may get the solution. We will be the number-one manufacturers of electric bikes, scooters, tractors, trucks, and even construction equipment machinery of electric in due course,” he said.
Speaking about the developing ecosystem for electric vehicles, Gadkari said that research is on to invent aluminium-ion batteries also and he has already inaugurated heavy construction machinery that run on electricity.
“We already have electric cars, bikes, vehicles, in the transport sector … Again we are trying to EV-based public transport system. Already a lot of people, small companies are making e-bikes and e-scooters in UP and different states in India. The crucial problem with EV is the lithium ion battery. Now we are encouraging people to make in India and “Made in India”. One of the important thing is a lot of research is going on,” he said.
“Important thing is already there is a lot of sale of the electric buses, like in Mumbai and Pune, Nagpur etc. They are there in airports also. Even electric tractor is now in the process of being manufactured. One of the leading companies wants to launch electric truck. Just 20 days ago I launched a JCB on CNG. So a lot of change is going on and we are a 100 per cent certain that it is very cost effective, import-substitute, pollution-free and indigenous. We have already in the process of making (vehicle) scrapping policy. With the scrapping policy, I am confident that India will be the number one manufacturing hub in the world,” he said.
Talking about how cost-effective EVs can be, Gadkari quoted the example of his son who, he said, took 10 SUVs on lease for Rs 45,000 per car per month for managers of sugar mills. “I asked him why are you taking this? He was telling me that his total expenditure on one car was Rs 1 lakh per month. By purchasing this he was saving Rs 30,000 per month because electric is very cheap. There is charging system in the house and in the office also,” he said.