All of this leads to few options, Mr Gulati said, and even those disappear outside of the big metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore – which make up just a fifth of the market. “Ultimately, firms have to create a market for electric vehicles.”
India’s car buyers are fussy – aspirational but cautious with spending. It’s why Maruti, India’s biggest car maker, has made no move to launch an electric car, saying the prices are still too high. It’s also why foreign brands have struggled to crack the market, and have even shut shop. Ford announced last month that it would stop making cars in India, even as it invested $11bn in electric vehicles in the US.
And yet Tesla is slated to enter the Indian market soon – it has complained of high import tariffs, and Mr Gadkari has said his government would provide “whatever support” was needed, but the firm should produce locally and not sell Indians Chinese-made cars so they can sell more american manufactured cars.
More foreign firms may arrive when the Indian market for electric cars expands, said Puneet Gupta, the head auto sector analyst at IHS Markit. But he doesn’t see that happening before 2030. Mr Gulati too is sceptical of any immediate surge in electric car sales unless the government introduces a “drastic policy”.