Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)
Maruti goes back to drawing board for its EV push
NEWDELHI: Thirty-four years after rolling out the country’s first people’s car, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd is back at the drawing board. The trigger: The coming shift to emissionfree electric vehicles, the kind of change that comes once in a lifetime.
The company is looking for lithium suppliers for a lithium ion battery plant in Gujarat, planning to build a brand new electric vehicle for India, and working with its dealers to set up charging networks, managing director and chief executive Kenichi Ayukawa said in an interview. The efforts are part of Maruti’s initiatives to move towards an electric car portfolio.
“In a sense, we are trying to challenge ourselves as the time has come to change the game. Hence, we have to review (our strategy) and start again from zero,” Ayukawa said. “We need to decide if we want to buy (lithium) from a (Latin) American country or some other country. We need to find a source for that.”
Electric vehicles account for less than 1% of global auto sales, but their threat is forcing the world’s biggest automakers to reinvent themselves -- including Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker.
The company is also running a nation-wide survey to understand the needs and expectations of customers in the electric vehicle segment.
Seeking government support, Ayukawa said that if the supply of lithium is constrained, it will hinder the country’s electric vehicle programme. “If we cannot get lithium, we cannot make such kind of a product.”
Getting lithium is one thing, safe handling is another. “Lithium ion batteries can be very dangerous -- it can lead to fire,” Ayukawa said. While the lithium supply falls in place, Maruti will focus on developing the electric vehicle.
The company will also need to figure out how the batteries can be used. Such systems need to be in place before introducing electric vehicles, he added.
It is also critical to keep costs under control: “It will be impossible for people to buy a ₹5 lakh car, if that becomes a ₹20 lakh car. Nobody could buy that.” Ayukawa added.
“Dealers will have to handle a new kind of technology; so, we will have to educate the people at the service centres. That will take some time,” he said.