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Nissan explores Leaf electric car for India, pilot runs later this year

LiveMint logoLiveMint 17-04-2017 Amrit Raj

New Delhi: Nissan Motor Co. plans to work with “government bodies” and “private sector firms” to see if there is a market for its electric car Leaf in India, a top executive at the Indian unit of the Japanese auto maker said.

“We will start a pilot project involving the Nissan Leaf this year, which will help us in assessing the viability of electric vehicles (EV),” Guillaume Sicard, president, Nissan India operations, added.

Sicard claimed that Leaf is the world’s best-selling all-electric vehicle, with over 250,000 units sold so far. In India, the pilot runs are scheduled for later this year with the objective of testing the car’s (and especially its battery’s) performance in Indian roads and weather conditions, said a person familiar with the developments.

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This person added that Nissan may seek incentives to promote sales of the car and then look for ways to localise it. The idea is to stimulate demand and then assess whether the car can be assembled, or parts made for it, locally.

Local assembly of such vehicles will be a shot in the arm for the Indian government, which has plans to have an all electric fleet by 2030. Transport minister Nitin Gadkari wooed Tesla Inc. to manufacture EVs, but the Palo Alto-based company has been cool to India’s offer of land near a major port to facilitate exports, and other incentives.

Sicard of Nissan did not comment on localization. “Through our experience as pioneers in developing EVs in markets around the world, we have learned that government support for infrastructure and supporting demand for EVs is crucial,” he added.

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According to a government official familiar with Nissan’s plans, the Japanese company’s biggest concern is the functionality of its battery in Indian conditions.

“How will it function in a city like Delhi, where temperature shoots up during summer?” the official asked, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Deepesh Rathore, co-founder of London-based Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors, said Nissan should rather look at forming a consortium, and then approach the government to create the infrastructure for electric cars.

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“Incentives can come in at a later stage. Today, people don’t even consider buying an electric car because we don’t see a charging station anywhere,” Rathore added. Spokesmen for the department of heavy industries, and the ministry of new and renewable energy did not respond to emails.

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