Aishwarya Ramesh

“'Range anxiety' is a challenge when it comes to marketing electric vehicles”: Vivek Srivatsa, Tata Motors

Concern over an electric car's battery running out is an insight Srivatsa highlighted during a chat about the brand's new range of EVs.

Tata Motors has launched a line of fleet vehicles under a sub-brand, called XPRES. The first vehicle to be launched under this sub-brand will be an electric sedan, called the XPRES-T EV.

Targeted at mobility services, corporate and government fleet customers, the XPRES-T EV will come with an optimal battery size, captive fast charging solution and claims to ensure low-cost ownership, in addition to passenger comfort and safety.

All vehicles in the fleet segment will sport an XPRES badge, clearly differentiating them from the growing New Forever range of cars and SUVs that cater to the requirements of the personal segment.

Tata XPRES cars
Tata XPRES cars

Vivek Srivatsa, head – marketing, PVBU, Tata Motors, tells us over a Zoom call that fleet vehicles make up 10 per cent of the overall market for passenger vehicles. He admits that the COVID pandemic has accelerated some norms in the sector, and adds that it’s important that fleet vehicles have a low emission cost.

"Comfort isn’t only about the space available in the car, but also the comfort against environmental stressors, pollution, noise, etc."
Vivek Srivatsa
Vivek Srivasta
Vivek Srivasta

“The cost of ownership, acquisition, running the car and maintaining it are important parts of the fleet business. Passengers comfort is also an important factor. Comfort isn’t only about the space available in the car, but also the comfort against environmental stressors, pollution, noise, etc.”

The conversation around electric vehicles is incomplete without talking about charging. Srivatsa explains that charging a fleet vehicle is different from charging a passenger vehicle.

“With fleet vehicles, people know exactly the distance a car can travel in a day, and also the downtime – when they can actually charge their car. It makes the nature of charging a fleet vehicle slightly different from how a personal vehicle is charged. Personal vehicles are charged a little bit more unpredictably, I would say.”

A glimpse of the Tata XPRES car
A glimpse of the Tata XPRES car

Bookings for XPRES-T EV can be made at select dealerships across India soon. It has two range options – 213 km and 165 km. According to a press release, the XPRES-T EV packs a high energy density battery of 21.5 kWh and 16.5 kWh, and can be charged from 0-80 per cent in 90 and 110 minutes respectively, using fast charging. It can also be charged (normally) from any 15 A plug point, which is easily available as well as convenient.

“The two (range options) can be charged fully in less than two hours…,” adds Srivatsa.

Talking about the overall marketing challenges as far as electric vehicles go, he mentions 'range anxiety', i.e., a person is stranded somewhere and is unable to charge his vehicle.

“This has to be mitigated in two ways. One is to have better battery options, or a predictable battery... Second is to have a better charging infrastructure spread across the country.”

Srivatsa mentions that the range of the electric cars is around 200 km (normal daily usage) in Indian conditions...

Opining on this Tata Motors initiative, Avik Chattopadhyay, founder, Expereal, a brand consultancy firm, points out that fleet is the best place to introduce electric mobility in India, right from corporate to e-commerce to public transport.

“There are really no cons of this strategy. There are lots of pros for both the operators as well as the users.”

Chattopadhyay explains that the fleet customers always get a special price and the vehicles that are tailor-made for their use, need not be as plush as their counterparts for individual buyers.

“Also, charging is not an issue, as cluster charging facilities can be installed at the parking lots. In this case, Tata Motors has tied up with Tata Power to provide charging infrastructure. This allows the vehicle to have a lower driving range, as compared to one for personal use, where 'range anxiety' runs high. These two reasons will ensure a lower sticker price for the fleet operator.”

“So, for the operator, the acquisition cost is low and the charging is taken care of. It brings operating costs down to a large extent, as compared to operating conventional fossil fuel vehicles. This will benefit the user as the pay-per-use bills will come down,” he concludes.

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