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India heats up to electric car


Published: Sunday | September 27, 2009

Reva Electric Car Company product Revai car is seen on display at its launch in Bangalore, India. US automaker General Motors Company and India’s Reva Electric Car Company will start producing a small, affordable electric car for the Indian market in 2010, executives said last Thursday. The two companies have been collaborating for 10 months and have already created test models of the new vehicle, an all-electric version of the compact Spark, said GM India president Karl Slym. — Contributed

MUMBAI, India (AP):

General Motors Co and India’s Reva Electric Car Co will start producing a small, affordable electric car for the Indian market in 2010, executives said Thursday.

The two companies have been collaborating for 10 months and have already created test models of the new vehicle, an all-electric version of the US automaker’s compact Chevrolet Spark, said GM India president Karl Slym.

We’re confident we have a product we can bring to market next year, he said in an interview.

If successful, an electric version of the Spark could be sold in the car’s other major markets, namely, South Korea, China, and Europe.

The Spark currently sells for about 260,000 rupees (US$5,200) in India. Slym said a price had not yet been set for the electric version of the car, but the goal is to keep it affordable.

Capital expenditure will be minimal, he said. The car will be manufactured at GM’s existing plants in India — at Halol, in the western state of Gujarat, and at Talegon, in neighbouring Maharashtra — which can together churn out 225,000 vehicles a year.

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expanding production

The electric car market in India is minuscule. Reva, which sold its first electric car in India in 2001, says it has put more than 3,000 electric vehicles on the road. The company, based in the southern city of Bangalore, is working to expand its annual production capacity to 30,000 vehicles.

Slym said initial production of the electric Spark would be in the thousands, rather than the hundreds.

lack of infrastructure

A major hurdle for alternative fuel technologies in India has been lack of infrastructure. Public buses and some autorickshaws and taxicabs in cities like Mumbai and New Delhi run on natural gas, but outside major centres refuelling stations aren’t available.

In the last year and a half, India’s leading carmakers, like Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai, have created natural gas versions of popular models. GM also sells a version of the Spark that runs on liquefied petroleum gas.

But despite government efforts to expand natural gas refuelling stations, the scanty infrastructure outside urban centres has kept sales volumes low, said Vaishali Jajoo, auto analyst at Mumbai’s Angel Broking. It will be at least five years before the government turns its attention to building a network of electric charging stations, she said.

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