In a major dampener to the nascent electric mobility story in India, the Delhi government late on Monday suspended subsidy on Nexon EV, India's largest selling electric car, after it received multiple complaints from customers of low range. The suspension comes barely three days after the car won a prestigious first evergreen car of the year award at the Indian Car of the Year Awards ceremony last Friday.
Launched in January 2020, Nexon EV is priced at Rs 14-16.4 lakh and has quickly become the largest selling EV in the country with nearly 3,000 unit sales and a commanding market share of 64 per cent. Part of it is due to state government subsidies like in Delhi, which goes up to Rs 3 lakh per vehicle. The vehicle comes with a 30.2 kwh battery pack, which gives it an ARAI certified range of 312 kilometres. It has, however, received flak from customers who claim to have got a much lower range of not more than 200 kilometres. Range, the number of kilometres an electric car can travel on one full charge, is a critical component and a major stumbling block for EV due to the lack of an adequate number of charging stations in the country.
The decision by the Delhi government was based on such complaints after it had served a show-cause notice to the company in December and had found its response non-satisfactory. "Delhi government has decided to suspend subsidy on EV car models pending the final report of a committee due to complaints by multiple users of substandard range performance," Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot tweeted on Monday. "We are committed to supporting EVs but not at the cost of trust and confidence of citizens in claims by manufacturers."
This is not the first time EVs in India have received criticism for the low range. In 2017, the government PSU EESL's ambitious plan to electrify vehicles used by government officials in the country flopped badly after some consumers - high ranking PSU officials and bureaucrats, complained of poor performance and low range. Against an initial target of procuring 10,000 vehicles, EESL ended up buying only 1524 units. The vehicles being bought then were the Mahindra e-Verito and Tata e-Tigor, which have an even smaller battery pack and lower range as compared to Nexon EV.
Last week, a Delhi based Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Manoj Sharma had also shared his similar experience of low range from the car in a viral post on social media. The committee looking into the case at DTC also took note of his case while announcing the interim judgement.
"Tata Motors is insisting on the range of 312 kilometres solely based on a test result of ARAI. In My view, the sole piece of evidence is not sufficient to displace the basis of the complaint when the said complaint was based on the actual and real-time experience of the complainant and that too consistently," Jyoti Seth, deputy commissioner, wrote in the six-page order. "Moreover, one other complaint has also been noted from social media wherein one Dr Manoj Sharma has tweeted very adversely on the range of this car. Therefore, the complaint of Rajesh Kumar (original petitioner), is not an isolated one and is substantiated by the other vehicle owner who is a responsible person in society."
In its response, Tata Motors said the decision by the Delhi Transport Commission was unfortunate, insisting the car had an ARAI certified range of 312 kilometres, which can be achieved under ideal conditions, adding that it would work with customers to familiarise them with the technology.
"It is unfortunate to receive this order from the Delhi Transport Commission. We will continue to engage constructively to protect the interests of our customers. The Nexon EV is the only personal segment EV available in the market today that meets the stringent FAME norms. The range at single full charge (312 km) for the Nexon EV is basis the certification received from the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), which is the official body that independently tests all mass-produced vehicles under standard/defined test conditions before they can be offered to customers," a detailed statement from the company said.
"As with conventional vehicles (with IC engines), the actual range achieved in EVs is dependent on AC usage, individual driving style and the actual conditions in which the vehicle is driven. The range achievement is also a function of familiarity with the new technology, and customers report improvements upwards of 10% within 4-6 weeks of familiarity. We have been receiving several positive testimonials from our customers and are encouraged to see them exploring new places with Nexon EV and sharing their experiences. We are extremely confident about the value proposition of the Nexon EV, which since its launch a year ago, has consistently grown in popularity to become India's largest selling EV with thousands of families enjoying the pleasure of owning and driving it."