MG Motors has been playing a pivotal role in furthering India’s electrification agenda, and if
you’re thinking that’s only limited to the launch of its gorgeous electric vehicle, the ZS EV, let me assure you that’s not all. The British marque has joined hands with none other than TataGroup’s electric utility company and the largest power generation company in India, Tata Power, to roll out superfast EV charging stations across the country.
Gaurav Gupta, Chief Commercial Officer, MG Motor India, spoke to Auto Futures about the carmaker’s partnership with Tata Power, how it is tackling the problem of EV infrastructure head-on and some of its future plans.
“With Tata Power, our entire partnership is meant to act and trigger the entire ecosystem
development. This means that the partnership is not just limited to charging infrastructure, we are also working with them on the entire second life of the batteries post their automotive use. We have already got 10 Superfast chargers installed with Tata Power that are all energized, which means that the connection is already on.
“Our plan is to get to a total of 50 by the end of this calendar year, which would put 60 high-speed DC Superfast chargers to further enhance the ecosystem. This is in addition to the efforts of the government as well as other players,” says Gupta.
“If you take a step back, when we brought in our second product into India as an EV, many
questioned our strategy, especially since electric mobility is a very nascent sector in the
country. However, what we realised is that the only way we can bring not just tokenism, but realistic focus on this is if you build an entire ecosystem around it.
“The efforts of the MG ecosystem started initially with partners like Delta, Exicom, Fortum, Umicore, etc. Over the last one year, we progressed further. We now have a recent partnership with a Singapore-based company called TES-AMM, where batteries can be sent post their usage, something that we’re also exploring with Tata Power,” he adds.
Extracting and Reusing rare Materials
The second life of the electric vehicle battery is an area that has been garnering a lot of interest off late. For an EV battery that lives out the entirety of its eight-to-ten-year shelf-life, it still has enough of ‘juice’, but it will still have to go since it may not meet the car’s range, or because new technology would have probably kicked in by then.
So, what happens to these batteries?
“That’s where Tata Power comes in because it does an end-to-end range of power solutions,
where these batteries can be utilised to their maximum potential. Moreover, their usage isn’t restricted to the automotive sector alone.”
Another area that it’s working on is what is called ‘urban mining’, where all the precious metals of the EV battery are extracted and recycled to repurpose the metal into another use case, which includes the making of fresh batteries as well. For example, expensive components, rare earths and rare metals can be extracted and reused.
“We realised that in the electric vehicle stage that the industry is in right now, everyone has to come together and play their part. One cannot be waiting for the other player or the other stakeholder to do their work. And that’s exactly what we did. We did not wait for any of the charging infrastructure to come in from other sources, we took this task upon ourselves,” explains Gupta.
I think the time is already ticking for us to invest and that’s why we are making some huge leaps.
It’s been almost a year since MG launched the ZS EV, it’s first and only electric offering in the Indian market, and I was curious to know more about how the consumer response to the allelectric model has been and what growth opportunities MG sees in India’s e-mobility sector.
Gupta answers: “In 2019, the electric vehicle passenger car industry was collectively selling
less than 1,000 units. The ZS EV itself got 2,000 bookings, so the bookings were higher than the entire industry volume the previous year. In 2020, despite the pandemic, the ZS sold around 1,200 units. We were very much able to create a significant share in a very evolving sector, keeping in mind that our cars are around INR 21-24 lakh (US$ 28.90k – 33.06k) I can tell you that the response to the EV is very reassuring, in fact, encouraging”
According to Gupta, there are a few reasons for the response that ZS EV got. Apart from the obvious math of low acquisition, running and maintenance cost, one of the biggest drivers has been the need to control pollution, a realisation that collectively dawned on the country ever since clear blue skies were witnessed during the lockdown.
Secondly, with more and more states opting in to allow the zero registration charges benefit, it gives a real transactional benefit to the consumers, which encourages EV usage.
And, finally, the ‘green number plate’ has become a real statement in today’s day and age, almost equivalent to the prestige of having a VIP vehicle. But does that mean that the apprehensions that Indian customers had about EVs have been addressed finally?
Unfortunately, not yet. “I would say we are still not out of the woods when it comes to addressing the apprehension of range or infrastructure. Infrastructure definitely gives customers the confidence and goes on to serve as a catalyst for adoption of EVs. There
is still work to be done and, in fact, more accelerated work will be very helpful and act as a
further catalyst to the entire sector. Stakeholders should come in with scalable investments
and not wait for the other person to come in first, because this is going to be the future.”
Gupta believes the government along with OEMs, the various parts and components manufacturers and other ecosystem players should come together, scale up and invest in the area of infrastructure.
“We already have a policy framework and a roadmap. There is no point in waiting to say that ‘let’s wait for one more policy’ or ‘let’s wait for FAME III or FAME IV and then we’ll invest’. I think the time is already ticking for us to invest and that’s why we are making some huge leaps in this area, whether it is the infrastructure, new products or whether it is giving the actual consumers a reason meaningful enough, both emotionally and financially to get into EVs,” Gupta says.
As for MG, the future looks bright with a lot more in the pipeline than just EVs alone.
Gupta expands: “MG as a brand is an auto-tech brand and when I say the word ‘auto-tech’, by itself it implies that we have to keep working in the area of bringing technology to the automotive industry as well, otherwise, the entire core of the brand would not be fulfilled. We are already looking at working in the areas of connected, autonomous, electric and shared. The work in all these four verticals will continue to evolve.”