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‘The best solutions can come from sharing’

Murali Gopalan | Updated on June 27, 2014 Published on June 27, 2014

Tesla Motors Inc.'s Model S electric car

Reva E2O

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Chetain Maini, Mahindra Reva’s CEO, believes Tesla Motors’ move will benefit EV industry



Elon Musk literally set the cat among the pigeons a fortnight ago when he opened up a number of his company’s patents to the world. The CEO of the California-headquartered Tesla Motors said he would not sue anyone who used its electric car technology in good faith.

It was an astonishing move which had everyone sit up and take notice especially in this competitive environment where the survival mantra is to either shape up or ship out.

Sure, the electric vehicle (EV) industry is still in its nascent stage but there are enough manufacturers already embracing the cause be it BMW, Daimler, General Motors or Nissan. This is perhaps what prompted Musk’s daring move primarily intended at survival of the industry and not any sense of charity.

Back home in India, Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles is keen on establishing a clean air footprint both here and in other parts of the world with the e2O. Founder and CEO, Chetan Maini, believes Musk’s initiative for Tesla is a positive step going forward.  

“I believe this move is a signal of some rethinking in the EV space and will break barriers going forward. By the end of the day, this is a flat world where sharing information is only inevitable especially in a segment which is still niche,” he told Business Line.

According to Maini, the EV industry needs to update itself and innovate constantly. It is especially important to anticipate and work on R&D initiatives. “What is the next new thing is something we need to ask ourselves all the time and this is what I keep telling my team,” he says.

This, perhaps, puts in context the Tesla move since the company will still be ahead of the innovation curve. Contrary to what sceptics say, Maini does not think it has anything to do with its survival, but, on the contrary, that the company intends going flat out in R&D and innovation. “In the process, you do not actually face the risk of others catching up and can afford to share things,” he reasons.

Garnering interest

Maini also believes that there will be quite a number of global OEMs keen on checking out the Tesla patents.

Big names such as Toyota and Daimler (with the Smart) have already benefited from the company’s technology.

Will Tesla’s move then interest his own company? Maini says it is too early to say anything at this point in time considering that “we have been in the business ourselves for nearly 20 years”. If it means accelerating development in a new area, Mahindra Reva would be “quite happy to look at it”.

On the contrary, for someone who is new, it will be a big help and, in the process, the EV industry will benefit with newer solutions. Maini believes that as the EV industry evolves, commonalisation of infrastructure is a logical step going forward especially when there are large spends involved. This will help others use the technology and spread the good word at a time when clean air is an imperative. “The best solutions can come from sharing especially for an industry which is still in a niche segment,” he says.

The good news is that over the last four years, the EV industry has seen 100 per cent growth. In this positive scenario is an interesting statistic from Norway where sales went as high as 20 per cent for a month last quarter (which means one in five cars sold were electric).

Collaboration

Five years from now, perhaps, there will be more intense competition in the EV space but till then, collaboration would seem a pragmatic option. And this is not for EVs alone. Today, you have a Fiat engine which is used in cars made by Maruti, Tata and General Motors. Across the world too, there are several instances of carmakers sharing platforms.

“In our (Mahindra Reva) case, for instance, we have low-cost fast charging stations and are willing to share this with other players. Sure, we spent six years developing it but the benefits to the country through sharing this with others would be immense,” Maini says.

Win-win model

If any OEM is interested, the company would be “only too glad” to take the association to the next level as this is eventually a win-win model.

According to Maini, Mahindra Reva’s ‘Goodbye Fuel, Hello Electric’ programme is working well from the viewpoint of increasing numbers for the e2O.  It separates the initial acquisition and usage costs (in the form of battery and its maintenance) to make the e2O more affordable.

It also guarantees the performance as ownership of the battery lies with Mahindra Reva. Starting at ₹2,599 a month, the programme allows the consumer to beat inflation by locking in the running for five years.

Published on June 27, 2014
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