India’s largest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, has announced that it will soon begin testing of its first electric vehicle prototype as it gears up to release 50 electric cars onto the Indian market.
Showcasing the prototype electric Wagon R at the MOVE Global Mobility Summit earlier this month, managing director and CEO Kenichi Ayukawa, joined by chairman RC Bhargava, said that rigorous testing of the vehicle will start next month.
“The testing in multiple terrains and climatic conditions will help us get valuable insights from real life driving conditions. With these tests, we are confident that our Electric Vehicle will be well accepted by our valued customers,” he said.
The company hopes to launch its first EV by 2020, in a country that analysts McKinsey & Co say promises to become the world’s largest for electric vehicles.
The announcement by Maruti Suzuki comes after the signing of an agreement with Toyota Motor in November 2017, in which Toyota have committed to providing technical support for Maruti Suzuki EVs sold in India, with Suzuki supplying EVs in return.
The carmaker also recently invested Rs 1,137 crore (about $A215,000) in a new lithium-ion battery plant that it is building in Gujarat in collaboration with Toshiba and Denso.
The batteries manufactured at the Gujarat plant will be supplied to Suzuki’s car factory, also in the same Indian state.
While India promises to become a lucrative market for electric vehicle makers, Ayukawa recognised at the summit one hurdle that the industry faces.
“In order to increase the penetration of EV vehicles in India, it is obvious that it will be possible/practical only when sufficient charging infrastructure is developed,” he said.
Suzuki currently has nearly 50% of the market share of passenger vehicle sales in India, and considers it a first priority over other markets.
Whether they will be able to maintain that market share with the introduction of electric vehicles however remains to be seen.
The company has not yet released any EV sales targets.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.