Government think tank NITI-Aayog has told the two-wheeler industry that if they don’t pull up their socks and prepare for conversion to electric vehicles (EVs) then the start-up communities would take over.

In a joint meeting between senior management of NITI-Aayog and senior officials of the two-wheeler industry, it was told that if the established players such as Hero, Honda, Bajaj and TVS don’t start rolling out battery-powered two-wheelers, then India would miss the E-mobility revolution just like how the country already missed electronics revolution and semi-conductor revolution.

Sources privy to the meeting told BusinessLine that NITI-Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant sarcastically even asked the players to inform when exactly can they launch the EVs. “He asked how long do you need…25 years, 50 years? Can you give some time line…we are in a hurry and cannot wait beyond (2025),” an industry source privy to the meeting said quoting Kant. Kant was told by the traditional players that 2025 is too early for the rollouts.

Players divided

The meeting was attended by Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj, TVS Motor Co Chairman Venu Srinivasan, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) President & CEO Minoru Kato, and a representative from Hero MotoCorp along with SIAM Director-General Vishnu Mathur, and Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA) Director-General Vinnie Mehta.

There seems to be a clear divide in the industry between conventional manufacturers on one side and start-ups such as Tork, Revolt, Ather, Kinetic and SmartE on the other, who want adoption of EVs to happen faster. “They (the conventional makers) said let there be ‘business as usual’ and let the EV industry grow in itself…don’t make anything mandatory. But, is it possible that the EV industry will grow without a policy? We (India) are 14 cities already most polluted out of 15 cities in the world. So we need to act now,” a NITI-Aayog official privy to the meeting said.

He said when the start-ups are ready, then why are the traditional/ leaders of the sector hesitating in making EVs? This was the first meeting between NITI-Aayog and two-wheeler makers, after the Centre’s indication of mandating electric three-wheelers and two-wheelers from 2023 and 2025 respectively. The think tank has asked the players to respond in two-weeks time with their plan.

However, the Ministry for Road Transport and Highways has been cautious as it feels that before reaching any decision a proper debate is required, as two-wheeler is the most popular mode in rural and semi-urban markets.

Start-ups ready

The official privy to the meeting said that companies such as Revolt Intellicorp, Ather Energy, SmartE and Kinetic Green said that they are even ready for 2023, if the government advances the adoption of electric two-wheelers from 2025. The government has indicated that it is looking at complete conversion of three-wheelers by 2023 and two-wheelers by 2025 to electric in the country.

He said that the government has to take care of the citizens first; and two-wheeler and three-wheeler industry are the first ones to start with the clean mobility drive because they constitute around 80 per cent of the vehicles on roads today.