Manu Kumar, Head of Marketing, Hero Electric Vehicles PVT. LTD

Q: Dear Manu Kumar thank you for your time, to start with –government’s recent renewed push on electric vehicles (EVs) has prompted many EV manufacturers to revisit their business strategy so as to take advantage of the country’s subsequent transformation, so how well prepared is Hero Electric to lead India’s this transformation?

A: Hero Electric appreciates the seriousness of the government to push electric mobility in India.

As a company, we swear by our mission of zero emission and have taken rapid strides in improving all aspects of electric mobility, to make it most appealing to consumers.

As the country’s largest player in the electric vehicles space, Hero Electric believes that e-mobility is the country’s present, not some distant future, and is the perfect answer to solving India’s pollution, traffic and overall mobility challenges.

We have worked extensively across our product portfolio, to revitalize it and offer simply the best solutions to customers.

Hero Electric’s e-bikes offer consumers the widest choice in terms of battery options, charging convenience and ease of use, along with extremely low cost of maintenance and exemplary after sales service that guarantees peace of mind.

We are working with global leaders in the electric mobility, battery solutions and technology development space to come out with products that would not only lead the market but also give it directional cues in the times to come.

Q: Being one of the early movers in electric two-wheelers in India what type of market do you see for EVs in the country in coming years as compared to other countries?

A: Hero Electric sees India becoming the world leader in electric two wheelers, as they solve the most basic transportation need with a cost structure that is suited to a middle income country like ours.

Electric two wheelers will be the first to gain widespread acceptance in the country and will drive India’s e-mobility revolution.

Hero Electric will be at the vanguard of this change, thanks to ahead of the curve technology and products that are ideally suited to the Indian market.

China absolutely leads the world in adoption of electric vehicles, followed at some distance, by countries such as United States, Norway and other European countries.

India has the chance to lead the world in electric mobility, thanks to the sheer size of our automotive market. India will learn from the experiences of other countries and adopt the best practices and technology to become a large electric vehicle market.

India’s switch to e-mobility will be led by two wheelers, public transport, passenger cars and then light and heavy commercial vehicles, in that order.

Q: Electric vehicles are expected to gradually replace fossil fuel powered vehicles. However, to do that EVs still need to work on the storage part, can you throw some light on the advancements in the field, and how the affordable electric two wheelers are going to benefit from it?

A: The electric vehicle industry and battery makers alike realize that range anxiety is a consumer concern that needs to be addressed. At Hero Electric, we are working to eliminate this worry.

Hero Electric has provided consumers with lithium ion powered e-bikes –Photon and Optima–that promise greater range than lead-acid vehicles and faster charging cycles along with longer battery life. The lithium ion battery packs on Photon and Optima are detachable, giving consumers the freedom to charge them inside their homes and offices, just like cell-phones.

Battery developers are working to cram more power inside smaller batteries to not only match the range of conventionally-fueled vehicles, but also surpass them.

As Lithium ion battery prices continue their fall, there will be widespread adoption of such vehicles. It is key to establish charging infrastructure that is wide in coverage, easy to access and cheap to use, to truly spread e-mobility.

Q: How many miles can we go on one charge with the company’s latest Electric vehicle, can we take that on long trips?

A: The average distance covered on a two wheeler in India is around 21 kms a day.

Hero Electric’s lithium ion battery powered Photon and Optima e-bikes give a range of 65 kilometers per charge. They offer detachable batteries that have fast charging cycles and can be charged like cell-phones, from the comfort of peoples’ homes and offices.

Q: What new products/concepts can we see from Hero Electric and how soon?

A: Hero Electric is working on equipping its entire range of e-bikes with lithium ion batteries. We believe that lithium ion powered electric vehicles are the present and the future, and will drive India’s electric vehicle revolution.

At Hero Electric, we believe in simplifying electric mobility to suit the needs of customers across various segments.

We plan to first unveil and later, as per market suitability, launch a range of high-end European e-bicycles, which promise to bring a simple, hassle-free, portable and joyous form of e-mobility to discerning consumers.

Hero Electric will unveil these e-bicycles at the upcoming Auto Expo 2018, and depending on market conditions, launch them later next year.

Hero Electric is also working on revitalizing its entire e-bike line-up, both technologically and aesthetically. Some of these innovations will be unveiled and launched at Auto Expo 2018, while others will be follow through the whole of next year.

Q: How has the company’s business progressed in the last one year?

A: Hero Electric has been making rapid strides in the electric vehicles business and has become the country’s single largest electric two wheeler company, selling six out of every ten electric two wheelers in India.

Q: Do you see rise in adoption of EVs in coming years across the world?

A: Yes. Most definitely. Governments across the world have realized that electric mobility is the answer to the planet’s woes. Countries such as China, Norway, United States and India, have made electric vehicles a priority. Widespread adoption of electric vehicles across the world is only a matter of time.

Q: What makes Hero Electric stand apart from the rest of the players in the field?

A: Hero Electric is India’s single largest electric two wheeler manufacturer. The company is a leader not only in numbers but also from a technology standpoint.

Hero Electric offers customers, India-specific electric two wheelers, which suit their pocket, technology preference and offer them the best value for money.

Hero Electric has the widest reach–over 300 dedicated dealerships and a total of around 600 touchpoints across India. We have the largest trained manpower of electric two wheeler mechanics across the country, which offers our customers complete peace of mind and a great ownership experience throughout the lifecycle of the vehicle.

Hero Electric has operations in over 20 countries, apart from India and leverages its global presence and tie-ups with battery manufacturers and technology firms, to develop the most technologically advanced electric two wheelers.

As a company, Hero Electric is constantly working to remain ahead of the curve in developing and implementing electric vehicle technology.

Q: What support does the EV industry needs from the Government to phase out fossil fuel powered vehicles from the road?

A: India’s electric vehicle industry is grateful to the government for the urgency and priority it has given to fleet electrification.

To kick-start India’s electric mobility revolution, the EV industry needs the following key measures to truly usher in the electric mobility revolution:

  • Widespread charging and battery swapping infrastructure, starting from the top 20 cities
  • Gradual and phased reduction of subsidies on lead acid batteries for electric vehicles. No sudden annulment of subsidies on lead acid batteries, as they will truly help drive e-mobility, at least initially.
  • GST charged on batteries used in electric vehicles should be reduced from the current 28 percent and be made equivalent to the GST charged on electric vehicles (12%).
  • Government banks, private banks and NBFCs need to start financing EVs, particularly electric two wheelers.

Q: What is the major hurdle to EV adoption and how can it be sorted out?

A: Following are some hurdles to rapid EV adoption:

  • Lack of widespread charging and battery swapping infrastructure that would help address consumers’ range anxiety.
  • Consumers’ mindsets need to be changed from wanting equal-performing EV alternatives to conventional vehicles, to desiring appropriate mobility solutions.
  • Lack of banking finance for electric vehicles.

Q: What role will EVs play in achieving a de-carbonized future and climate change?

A: Electric vehicles would most definitely save the planet. They are the viable answer to the world’s mobility problems and would serve to not only reduce our carbon footprint but also aid in formation of carbon sinks that are the need of the hour.

Reversing climate change starts by embracing electric mobility. Greening of electricity grids is already taking place the world over, with nations shifting to cleaner, renewable forms of energy generation.

As technologies develop, electric vehicles are only going to get even more efficient, and cost effective, delivering on the twin objectives of providing mass mobility and helping save planet earth.

Q: Share us in detail about the kind of incentives available to stimulate growth.

A: A lot needs to be done to help electric vehicle manufacturing grow in this country. We need an ecosystem of parts manufacturers, battery manufacturers, and friendlier taxation structures.

As discussed above, widespread availability of charging and battery swapping infrastructure is critical to spurring the growth of electric vehicles.

Q: How achievable is the government’s plan for 100 percent electric vehicles by 2030?

A: The government has shown exceptional will in declaring its 2030 target year for complete fleet electrification.

While the direction and intent is right, electric mobility will need a decisive push in the form of friendlier policies, taxation, wider charging and battery swapping infrastructure, among other things.

The target is achievable. However, even if the country’s automotive industry is unable to realize the aim completely, it is a goal worth chasing as we will nonetheless have done a lot as a country to move towards electric mobility.

In its quest for Mission 2030, India would have become a changed country, and that’s saying a lot, given the size of the market. We are looking at what is going to be the biggest fleet shift to electric in the world.

Q: What are your projections for the electric two wheeler market in India for the next three to five years?

A: It would be an understatement to say that Hero Electric is very optimistic about the future of electric two wheelers in India. Electric two wheelers will drive India’s e-mobility revolution, and Hero Electric will firmly lead the way.

Hero Electric is considering setting up multiple assembly plants to meet our target of increasing sales by ten-fold in the next five years, including enhancing exports.

Next year, we are targeting almost three times growth over this year. We will also have to set up multiple plants for supporting our expanding sales.

The opportunity for electric two wheelers in India is colossal, to say the least, and Hero Electric is going to lead this revolution.

(This interview was originally published in Climate Samurai, January-2018 issue)

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