Lack of charging infrastructure, high acquisition costs and a poor supply-chain system are putting off established manufacturers from entering the electric two-wheeler space.
After Atsushi Ogata, the newly appointed head of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI), evinced little interest in entering the electric two-wheeler category, the head of Piaggio India, which manufactures the Vespa and Aprilia range of premium scooters, has joined the chorus.
While Ogata blamed scarcity of charging stations for Honda’s reluctance in entering the electric two-wheeler space in India, the inability to scale up EV component sourcing within India to 100 percent is the reason behind Piaggio’s unwillingness to launch EVs.
The decision comes just a few months after the company showcased the electric version of the Vespa, which it sells in Europe, at the India Auto Expo.
Positive response, but…
Speaking to Moneycontrol Diego Graffi, Chairman and Managing Director, Piaggio Vehicles, said: “We are producing and selling electric two-wheelers mainly under the Vespa brand outside India. We felt quite positive about the response we received from dealers and customers for the electric Vespa showcased at the Auto Expo.”
Piaggio believes that there is a natural restriction on the level of localisation a company can manage for electric vehicles in India, and this is preventing it from launching any electric two-wheelers here.
“The constraint is that the level of localisation for electric two-wheelers in India, at least in the scooter space at the moment, is not affordable for our kind of product proposition. Mainly considering the fact that most of the powertrain is still not available in India but has to be imported from China or other parts of the world,” Graffi added.
The electric version of the Vespa is called Vespa Elettrica and is sold mainly in Europe. It has a charging time of four hours and a ride range of 100 km. A 4kW motor powers the Vespa to a top speed of 70 km per hour.
The e-Vespa’s specifications are almost the same as the electric Bajaj Chetak, which was launched in January. In fact, both the e-scooters have the same design and styling theme as both are of the same lineage. The Chetak of the 1970s borrowed design and styling from the Vespa following a partnership between Bajaj Auto and Piaggio.
Heavy reliance on China
Though an electric vehicle has far fewer moving parts than petrol- or diesel-powered vehicles, many of the parts related to the battery or the motor are imported, mainly from China.
In fact, Pune-based Bajaj Auto suffered a complete halt in the supply of such parts for the Chetak since its component supplier was importing them from Wuhan, the Chinese city that was the origin of the Covid-19 virus. All lithium-ion batteries fuelling electric vehicles in India are imported from China.
“We are investigating the possibility to have full localisation of the powertrain that we have designed for the European model here in India for the Vespa. Whenever we see the level of cost for this kind of initiative becoming affordable, at that point we will come with a product in that range,” added Graffi.
Piaggio has launched electric passenger three-wheelers in India and in the coming months, will launch electric cargo three-wheelers with fixed and swappable battery technology.