Initial response to the Tata Nexon EV has been tremendous: Shailesh Chandra

We caught up with Shailesh Chandra, President, Electric Mobility Business & Corporate Strategy, Tata Motors, at the 2020 Auto Expo to talk about the Tata Nexon EV and the next product, the Tata Altroz EV.

You have launched the Nexon EV in a few cities. How has the response been? Do you have any numbers to share on bookings?

SC: We cannot give any numbers. There was a certain expectation in terms of numbers and what will be the initial bookings. It has significantly surpassed the expectations. That is the quantitative thing that I can tell. We did not expect that there were so many EV buyers.

I think if you bring a product that makes sense to a customer and ticks all the boxes in mind, the customer is ready to adopt. It will of course start with early adopters and there also we were able to see a mix of people beyond what we expected. Surprisingly, there were a lot of doctors and small time entrepreneurs who are also buying it. The tech geeks are definitely going for this, and people who are more fitness enthusiasts, closer to the environment are the natural customers of EVs.

So, the Nexon EV has not only appealed to the natural EV adopters but also the mainstream customers as the price point is not much of a premium to normal ICE cars. The Nexon EV gives you the right balance of everything, takes care of your range anxiety, gives you sufficient peace of mind because of the higher warranty term. And it delivers something more than an IC-engined car – that is the performance of the car, making the whole driving experience very thrilling.

One open point still remains regarding the mass adoption – charging infrastructure. We have seen Tata Power already declaring the plan with 650 chargers. There’s an incentive which is available for next two to three years which will end after the FAME program ends. There might be an extension, but if you are a charging infrastructure player, you would like to invest fast.

I think the initial response has been tremendous.

You have spoken about how Tata companies have been backing Tata Motors for the EV ecosystem. How are you going to bring down the cost of the electric vehicle and how much closer the Altroz EV will be priced to the normal Altroz?

SC: That will be speculated but I will only talk about the underlying factors and judgement can be made because we are also not clear on how much the gap will be. The factors which are going to control the price of the car in future including the current products is the trend of the components like battery, motor etc. So, localisation itself has a low cost factor which will come in to play as far as India is concerned.

The other factor which will come into play is the scale. With more volumes, there’s some better negotiation and battery prices sharply falling that will bring down the price further. I can either deliver more range or reduce the price, depending on what the consumer wants.

Also, the price of petrol and diesel cars are increasing due to BS6 norms and more. Given this, we should be able to price it close to normal cars. The price difference shouldn’t be more than 25 per cent, which is our research reference.

If you want to increase your volume going forward, how are you going to control the price difference between the Altroz EV and Altroz petrol/diesel, considering that main cost will be the battery?

SC: You have to see within the segment. Altroz compared to Nexon has a certain price differential and that is the price differential of what logically should be maintained. It is what the market expectation would be. It is not about a price point per se. Many people also ask when will you coming out with a less-than Rs 10 lakh car or Rs 8 lakh car. You have to always ask this question – which segment? It depends on the segment and therefore the premium that has to be paid in that segment.

I can bring a low range product but it will not drive the mass adoption and therefore it’s a balancing game. I expect that it will be easier for us to package batteries and other components in Altroz because the ALFA architecture is already electric-ready. We will drive commonality across the products as far as EV powertrain is concerned to generate scale and therefore bring down the cost.

You have announced that there will be four EVs from Tata Motors in the next two years – two SUVs, one sedan and one hatchback. Are HBX and Sierra the two SUVs?

SC: Logical conclusions can be made but let our plans be firmed up. We will announce but that is the intention of coming with four cars.

Going forward, will you be moving the Tigor EV into Ziptron as well or will it continue with Electra technology? Is Electra going to service the fleet customers and Ziptron primarily for individual customers?

SC: That is exactly the current plan. Electra Solutions is serving very well in the fleet segment and their service has made the Tigor EV the largest selling electric car last month. Now it is selling in huge numbers after the introduction of the 213 km range version. The car makes tremendous sense to fleet operators as they are able to save Rs 6000 to Rs 7000 per month when compared to a diesel vehicle.

The fleet segment has certain set of requirements which is very different than the personal segment. And the Electra Solutions is working very well. We would like to continue in the fleet segment with this and Ziptron technology will service the personal segment primarily, because it is more performance driven.

Tata Motors has showcased Tiago EV and some commercial vehicles like the Ace, Magic Iris in electrified forms in the past Auto Expos. Are these vehicles also in the pipeline?

SC: We are working on all of these. We will take a call on whether to launch them or not because still it makes commercial sense for both customers as well as us. If our studies show that there will be a traction, we will launch. Right now, there’s no firm plan on that.