Ashok Leyland, which has been working on electric variants of its existing line-up of light and medium commercial vehicles, has confirmed that it will be rolling out its battery-operated Dost and Bada Dost light commercial vehicles (LCV) during this calendar year. The electric variant of Bada Dost was unveiled at the Auto Expo held recently.
The flagship company of the Hinduja group has claimed that its upcoming electric LCVs, targeted at the last-mile logistics segment, will be able to shake up the cargo LCV market.
The Chennai-based CV maker already has electric buses running in some states, manufactured by its subsidiary Switch Mobility EV.
Responding to a query raised by Moneycontrol during a media interaction, Dheeraj Hinduja, Chairman, Ashok Leyland, stated, “We are looking at the electrification of LCVs under the Switch brand. We will be introducing the (electric version of) Bada Dost, followed by Dost, this year. We're seeing that people are preferring electric vehicles for last-mile delivery within cities. At the moment, the options are limited. But with the arrival of four-wheeled products like Dost, we will see significant volume.”
At present, Tata Motors is the only automaker that has commercially rolled out an e-LCV in the domestic market. While the Mumbai-based automaker unveiled the ACE EV in May 2022, it commenced customer deliveries of the same early this January.
Electric four-wheelers have very low penetration in the EV market due to high upfront costs, low battery life, an underdeveloped charging ecosystem, and an import-based infrastructure, as per a report by Reasearchandmarkets.com.
Ashok Leyland stated that it had already started holding discussions with many logistics and e-commerce players. “I think it's a question of how quickly we can get the product to them because the type of volumes that they are foreseeing is quite significant. I think the light (truck) EV segment would be a game changer. In fact, in Europe, it is expected that by 2030, 60 percent of the light (truck) segment would be all-electric,” added Hinduja.
However, he didn’t share the price points and market size for the upcoming e-LCVs. “In terms of segment size, it is a completely new market that is being created. When talking to potential customers we find their requirements are far greater than what we believe all the suppliers put together can service. So there is no specific TIV (Total Industry Volume) I can give to you at this point. All I can say is that over time the light segment would be all-electric," Hinduja explained.
Ashok Leyland has also confirmed that it will be deploying a major chunk of its R&D outlay towards alternative fuel-run products in order to be future-ready. At the same time, it will continue to pursue solutions both in internal combustion engines (ICE), as well as in EVs, and in alternative technologies like hydrogen ICE.
“We are looking at the development of new products based on alternative fuels, and most of the R&D budget will be spent on that. But we do not see diesel going away anytime soon. After the implementation of BS-VI emission norms, we will have BS-VIII emission-compliant vehicles. So we will be ready with our range of products in diesel as well. At the same time, as the market shifts towards alternative fuels, we will be ready for that as well,” Hinduja explained.
Meanwhile, at Rs 361 crore, Ashok Leyland reported a multi-fold jump in its profit after tax for the third quarter that ended December 2022 due to record sales. The company had posted a profit after tax of Rs 6 crore in the October-December quarter of the previous fiscal. Revenues for the quarter stood at Rs 9,030 crore compared to Rs 5,535 crore in the year-ago period.