Evaluating the option of an Indian launch.

Our Bureau

New Delhi, Nov. 24 With many automakers planning to launch eco-friendly vehicles for the domestic market, Tata Motors said on Tuesday that it may launch the electric version of the small car Indica in early 2011.

The company has been developing the car with Norway-based Miljøbil Grenland/Innovasjon, in which it has a 50.3 per cent stake. It plans to start a feasibility study for this in the next year and may launch the car simultaneously with the European launch.

“It will be available for India at around the same time as the global launch. It will be launched in Norway, Denmark and the UK in 12-14 months. We’re evaluating the option of an Indian launch, but are still not sure if the electric vehicles (EVs) are the best option for the country,” said Mr Prakash M Telang, Managing Director, India Operations, Tata Motors.

He further added that the main problem is the high cost attached to EVs, which is mainly because of the expensive batteries. “It will be 70-150 per cent more expensive depending on batteries. While lead acid batteries are not good enough, lithium-ion is too expensive. We have to look into the cost equation,” he said.

Responding to sales outlook for the remaining half of the fiscal, Mr Telang said that the shift from Bharat Stage III emission norms to Bharat Stage IV in April, may lead to good sales in the fourth quarter.

“There is optimism – I see good sales in the fourth quarter. In commercial vehicles (CVs), there may be pre-buying because of the change in emission norms. Even passenger cars may see better volumes, but not as much as CVs since price escalation will not be as much in them. This has been the experience in most countries across the globe,” he said.

Automakers and especially commercial vehicle manufacturers are expected to raise prices from April, because of the newer engines that companies will have to deploy on their vehicles in order to meet the new emission norms.

When asked about the status of the Nano’s Sanand plant, Mr Telang said that the company is producing around 3,000-4,000 units of the low-cast car a month at the Pantnagar facility and it will start the trial production at Sanand by the fourth quarter of the fiscal. The Sanand plant will have an initial annual capacity of 2.5 lakh units a year, which will later be increased to 3.5 lakh units. The Pantnagar plant mainly produces the light commercial vehicle (LCV) Ace.

“We’re striving between the Ace requirement and the Nano. The plant has a capacity to produce 1.5 lakh Ace LCVs a year,” he said.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 25, 2009)
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