Metals Tycoon Plans to Make Electric Vehicles in India by 2020

JSW Group, an Indian conglomerate with interests in metals to power generation, plans to venture into electric cars by 2020 on expectations the government will promote such vehicles and falling battery prices will make them more affordable.

The Mumbai-based group will set up the electric-vehicle business on its own and initially buy batteries from suppliers, Chairman Sajjan Jindal, 57, said in an interview with BloombergQuint at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It would consider setting up a joint venture for making batteries in the longer term, he said without providing details.

Jindal is targeting a segment of the auto industry that’s witnessing a spate of new entrants, encouraged by state support in countries like China and consumer interest in manufacturers such as Tesla Motors Inc. In India, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. is the only automaker that sells a fully electric car, while companies including Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. offer hybrid versions.

“As a boy I was always very keen to build cars, but it never happened as I was very late into the game, and thank God for that, I would have gone into engine-based car and probably I would have failed,” said Jindal. “Now there is a great opportunity, there is a new technology. And I believe we can do a great job. We can build a nice and interesting electric car in India.”

The average prices of lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles declined 22 percent in 2016 from a year earlier and costs are falling even faster than the market had expected, according to Claire Curry, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Jindal said he expects the government to take steps to support the electric vehicle industry, as India has an excess of electricity and shortage of petroleum products. The government in April 2015 unveiled a program to invest in creating charging infrastructure and subsidies with the goal of selling as many as 7 million hybrid and electric vehicles annually by 2020.

Jindal said his son Parth Jindal will focus on electric two-wheelers as a separate business and may introduce them ahead of cars. The group is likely to forge a joint venture for the electric two-wheeler business, he said, declining to provide details.

BloombergQuint is a partnership between Bloomberg Media and Quintillion Media in India.

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