By Euan Rocha and Promit Mukherjee
MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's Tata Group is making its biggest push yet toward clean vehicles with plans to make electric cars and batteries, set up charging stations and build a battery recycling plant, senior executives said on Tuesday.
To try to curb pollution and reduce its fuel import bill, India is pushing automakers to produce electric vehicles, but has faced resistance from some that say the charging infrastructure needs to be set up first and battery costs are too high to allow the manufacture of affordable EVs.
Companies from the steel-to-autos Tata conglomerate plan to address some of these issues.
Tata Motors <TAMO.NS>, Tata Chemicals <TTCH.NS>, Tata Power <TTPW.NS> and Tata Croma, a chain of stores selling consumer electronics, are pooling resources and expertise to build an electric vehicle ecosystem, the executives told reporters in Mumbai.
The plans were announced ahead of the launch of Tata Motors' electric sport-utility vehicle (SUV) Nexon EV, which was attended by N Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons, the automaker's parent group, and family patriarch Ratan Tata.
"This is the launch of an ecosystem, which is the real need, not just another vehicle launch," Guenter Butschek, managing director at Tata Motors, which also owns the British luxury car brand Jaguar Land Rover, said.
Tata Power, which has set up 100 charging stations, will add another 650 in more than 20 major Indian cities over the next year, the company's CEO Praveer Sinha said.
All stations will support fast charging and will be linked to a mobile application, which has been developed with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) <TCS.NS>, for payments and to check the availability of chargers, Sinha said.
Tata will use its chain of Croma stores to display digitally its EVs, and some stores could offer test drives and charging stations and may even sell cars.
The Nexon EV, priced starting at $19,700, is one of four electric car models that Tata Motors plans to launch over the next 2 years. The others will also be an electric version of its existing cars and will include a hatchback, sedan and SUV.
The EV will be sold through Tata dealers and its retail Croma stores, Butschek said during the launch, adding the company will offer an 8 year warranty on the battery.
One of the biggest hurdles to building affordable EVs in India is the cost of the batteries, which are typically imported making them expensive.
Tata Chemicals has built a battery recycling center and acquired land to set up a battery manufacturing plant that is expected to be ready in 3 years, CEO Ramakrishnan Mukundan said.
It plans to invest $113 million in the plant, which will have initial capacity of 200 megawatts with potential to scale it up to 2 gigawatts, depending on domestic and global demand, he said.
(Writing by Aditi Shah; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Barbara Lewis)