The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari met top officials of Tesla in the US to discuss possibilities of setting up a manufacturing facility in India. The minister also pushed for joint ventures between Tesla and Indian car manufacturers to co-develop a car in India. The Minister also informed Tesla officials about the rapid growth in Indian manufacturers' expertise in electric cars. At present Mahindra manufactures the pure elecric e2O and e-Verito in India.
There was another proposal to make India the Asian manufacturing hub for which the Government offered Tesla land near ports to set up a manufacturing unit. This would help Tesla cater to south and south east Asian countries.
Tesla officials also agreed upon the fact that in order to cater to demands outside the US, it needs to set up manufacturing units around the globe. While there are no concrete plans as of now, it assured the Indian Government that it would be certainly considered at the appropriate time. They also said that India is definitely a future market for the new, low-cost Model 3.
The government is also looking for partnership to manufacture electric two-wheelers, trucks and buses but Tesla officials said that besides electric trucks and pick-ups it does not have any future plans to manufacture electric bikes and buses. At present Tesla sells the Model S, Model X and the recently introduced Model 3.
The Government of India has been taking rapid steps in recent months to mitigate pollution levels in the country. After the diesel ban in Delhi-NCR, the Ministry has urged automobile and auto component manufacturers in the country to get involved in designing and manufacturing electric vehicles and their components in India. The Government believes that this would reduce the cost of electric cars by a significant margin.
Nitin Gadkari said, The Indian Government was committed to encouraging alternate pollution free transport in the country by providing incentives to bio-fuel, CNG, Ethanol and electric vehicles."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Tesla CEO Elon Musk at the company's factory in San Jose, California in September 2015 to discuss greener vehicles for India as well as electricity generation. Nitin Gadkari's meeting with the Tesla officials, then, is the second step in the process of introducing modern, green vehicles in India. While at it, the government could also work with Tesla to set up charging infrastructure in India. This will be instrumental in quick adoption of the cars in India. In the US, for instance, Tesla has set up superchargers and destination chargers at strategic locations.
The superchargers are located along motorways to minimise charge time during long distance travel. These are located at restaurants, Wifi hot spots and shopping centres and charge Tesla in minutes, rather than hours. A half hour charge gives the car a 274km driving range. Tesla says that's enough juice to get to the next supercharger station. At present there are 671 supercharger stations across the US with 4,089 superchargers in total.
Destination chargers are located at hotels, resorts and shopping centers that have partnered with Tesla in the US. Customers, in this case, can arrive at their destinations and leave their car to charge as they go about chores. A similar kind of infrastructure in India would work well for boosting the acceptance and feasibility of owning electric cars in India.
Tesla Motors has been steadily changing the face of the auto industry in the US, with its premium electric vehicles. The Model S and Model X have received a good response and the Model 3 is expected to drive volumes on account of affordable pricing ($35,000 or Rs 23.1 lakh). The Model 3, was showcased in California on April 1, 2016 and is expected to enter production by the latter half of 2017. Its key highlights are the driving range on a full charge (364km) and performance (0-100 in six seconds) which is pretty quick. It will also feature Tesla's Autopilot system as standard.
Recently, the Autopilot system in the Model S was the cause for a fatality on a motorway in the US. Joshua Brown, a former Navy SEAL, was allegedly watching a movie while the Tesla was left on autopilot. The system failed to recognise the side of a truck, that was crossing to the other side, against the bright blue sky, and ploughed right through the trailer. Tesla said the since the system failed to recognise the trailer, it did not apply the brakes. Tesla has clearly stated that while the Autopilot features automatically accelerates, brakes and changes lanes , drivers must remain alert and keep hands in the steering wheel at all times.