Making sub-Rs6 lakh EV for India 'very difficult': Maruti

Maruti Suzuki, which accounts for one out of every two cars sold in the country, has said that it will be "very difficult" to price electric cars affordably in India and launch them at the price levels of Rs5-6 lakh - a price-point that is the heart of the Indian car market.

Maruti Suzuki managing director and chief executive Kenichi Ayukawa told The Times of India in an interview that making affordable electric cars remains one of the biggest challenges for auto companies, especially as batteries for the vehicles are "very expensive" and there is no public charging infrastructure.

"Affordability is a concern, and we can't seem to find answers," Ayukawa said. "There are still cost concerns ... we need to find solutions."

Asked whether it would look at a price range of Rs 5-6 lakh, which is where Maruti currently dominates with its products, he said, "It's very difficult ... practically impossible, I think."

Maruti's Japanese parent Suzuki has signed an MoU with compatriot Toyota for introducing electric vehicles in India by 2020, and is also constructing a plant for lithium-ion batteries in Gujarat. They would also look at development of allied technologies as Suzuki will produce electric vehicles for use by Maruti while also supplying "some" to Toyota.

Ayukawa said that Maruti is currently studying whether it should electrify models from its existing range, or if all-new cars need to be introduced. "It is still not clear. We have started planning just now." However, he added that the effort of Maruti will always be to manufacture cars that are affordable and are placed at the heart of the market. "Affordability has been our philosophy from the very beginning. It has not changed over the past 35 years."

The company's chairman R C Bhargava has also said that affordability is one of the key factors that will decide the adoption and popularity of electric cars in the market.