Business / Corporate

Honda ponders plan to let Indian companies test e-cycles amid state-backed EV push

by Kaoruko Naruoka and Atul Ranjan

Nna/kyodo

Honda Motor Co. might undertake a project to let businesses in India test ride its electric motorcycles on a trial basis next year as the government pushes eco-friendly mobility to address worsening air pollution.

“We are planning to implement an electric two-wheeler trial program in the next fiscal year,” Minoru Kato, president of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt. said in a recent interview. Fiscal 2020 will begin in April.

Honda has already begun lease sales in Japan of the PCX EV scooter, an electric version of the PCX. Kato said it plans to use its China-made electric two-wheelers for the project envisioned in India.

While the private use of electric motorcycles and scooters will take some time to develop on a mass scale, the vehicles could be initially used for commercial purposes in India, Kato said.

Honda unveiled the plan after the National Institution for Transforming India, the government think tank known as NITI Aayog, proposed the full public use of electric three-wheelers by 2023 and two-wheelers with engines below 150cc by 2025.

Kato regards the proposal as unrealistic, saying the industry needs a proper road map and infrastructure development to complete the transition to EVs.

In the meantime, industry bodies such as the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers and the Confederation of Indian Industry have also joined the growing chorus of concerns over NITI Aayog’s proposal.

“The ambition needs to be tempered with a practical approach and what is possible without needlessly disrupting the automotive industry,” Rajan Wadhera, president of the automakers’ association, said in a statement.

Wadhera said the industry is facing the multiple challenges posed by leapfrogging from Bharat Stage IV to VI, the most advanced emission standard for automobiles. Bharat Stage VI is equivalent to the European Union’s Euro-VI norms. It is also trying to comply with many new safety requirements involving a huge investment ranging from 700 billion ($10 billion) to 800 billion rupees.

EV sales in India more than doubled to 130,620 units in the year to last March, backed by government subsidies. But their penetration in the country remains less than 1 percent of the market, according to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles.