Govt should not insist on technology, should be left to industry: Ex-Maruti chief

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 03, 2019 12:42 hrs
Maruti Suzuki

Noida (Uttar Pradesh): After Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in his interim Budget speech said that India will drive on electric vehicles (EV) with renewables becoming a major source of energy supply, industry veteran and former managing director of Maruti Suzuki Jagdish Khattar has a different view on this.

Goyal on Friday said that India will lead the transportation drive at the forefront with EVs ensuring energy security for the country by reducing import dependence on crude from Gulf countries.

Responding to this, Khattar said that the government should not insist on technology and should be left for the industry.

"I have a little different view on electric vehicles. First, all the technology is not yet confirmed. Toyota Chairman was here for a mobility conference and he said that they will focus more on hydrogen-powered vehicles and they are working on it," said Khattar.

"Should the government identify technology today or leave it to the industry? That's important. Firstly, because if we go and opt today any one technology and make our investment and tomorrow there is another technology coming up then there will be a problem," Khattar told ANI.

"Secondly, talking about infrastructure, we started CNG in the 90s. It is 20 years now but 20 per cent of the country is not covered with CNG. Even in Delhi, we see long queues at CNG pumps. When we fail to develop infrastructure for CNG in 20 years, how can we create an infrastructure for charger stations in India?" he pointed out.

 "Thirdly and an important point is that we started electric vehicles in Delhi. Delhi will become clean, but the electricity is coming from thermal power stations where we are using coal. So while Delhi becomes clean, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh or other places will remain polluted. Even today we are importing coal," he elaborated.

Khattar, who is also the founder of Carnation Auto (India) Pvt. Ltd, called on the government to encourage production of hybrid vehicles and pushed for steps to disincentivise it.

"So my suggestion would be to encourage hybrid vehicles in the intervening period and let technology be handled by the industry. You should lay down parameters. The government should not insist on technology. That should be left to the industry," he said.

On the question of whether the Centre should rethink about their e-vehicle policy, Khattar underlined that the government should have a holistic view on the same.

"Whether they will come in five to seven years or 15 years that they have to see. You must have seen that the government had put tenders of about 10,000 cars (electric). A couple of hundreds came and they were not working. So this will be a very expensive experiment if it doesn't work. We, as a country, cannot afford to be an adventurist," he added.

But Charan Singh, Former RBI Chair Professor at IIM and CEO, EGROW does not buy Khattar's logic.

Arguing that the government is giving directions and laying the path for the industry sector, Singh said: "My own experience has been that the industry should be left to itself to only profit making. They will never make efforts to keep the environment clean. They believe in exploiting the system. There is this very famous Bellandur Lake in Bangaluru. It is now known for toxic foam. If the industry was so responsible then this wouldn't have happened."

Singh further voiced his views that if the industry sector was responsible then it should have taken the lead in propagating the need for electric vehicles. The government will not say how the industries should function, he added.