it was 2016, and Arun Bhat, a 34-year-old production expert from Bangalore, would not have been so happy. Tesla, his favorite car company, has finally opened a reservation for his Model 3 cars in India. Shortly after the discovery, Bhat booked one.
Now, five thousand years later, Bhat is still waiting for his car, and the company has not shared any updates on when it will bring cars to India. “I always harass the company with my emails to get a renewal, [but] so far there has never been,” Bhat, who founded the first Tesla fan base in India in 2019, told Quartz. Despite the delays, he has not given up hope on his car – or company – yet.
Tesla in India
If all goes according to plan, Bhat’s wait will end soon. US-based Tesla plans to begin its tour of India this year, as CEO Elon Musk confirmed in a tweet from another Tesla fan club. So far, the only concrete step he has taken was in January when he registered his company under Karnataka province.
But there are indications that the company is doing more; False reports suggest that Tesla plans to establish R&D centers in various regions. Tesla himself has not yet publicly confirmed his plans in India and has not responded to Quartz’s request for comment.
When Tesla actually enters the Indian market, it will face many challenges of finding a place, including competition from domestic car manufacturers to affordable prices.
But if it can overcome those challenges, Tesla could continue to expand its dominance by opening up to millions of new customers — and, experts say, accelerating the growth of India’s EV sector.
“Tesla will make a difference in the EV show across India,” said Deb Mukherji, managing director of Omega Seiki Mobility, a New Delhi-based EV startup.
What captures the Indian EV sector
Today, the Indian automotive industry makes up 6% of the country’s gross domestic product, while EVs represent less than 1% of India’s total car sales. There are two, three, and four-wheel drive EVs, but two-wheel drive and three-wheel drive are well-known because they are cheaper.
However, it is clear that India’s growing EV market is full of opportunities. The industry is expected to grow by more than 40% in the next six years, according to a December 2020 study conducted by the India Energy Storage Alliance, an energy conservation organization and e-mobility technology companies in India. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said it aims to have 70% of all vehicles sold, 30% of private cars, 40% of buses, and 80% of two-wheelers and three-wheelers sold in India to be electric by 2030.
But for the industry to be fully accessible, it will have to overcome many major challenges. Some bad roads. Approximately six million miles (3.6 million miles), India’s road network is the second largest in the world, in terms of each government (pdf). And of course, most roads are not smooth enough to allow for smooth driving, no matter what the vehicle may be.
In addition, the lack of charging infrastructure explains the problem with the development and adoption of EVs. It will be difficult to convince customers to buy EVs if there are a few private parking spaces, inaccessible electricity meters, and broken power charging ports that can keep them running. In 2018, India had about 650 charging stations, compared to 456,000 Chinese charging stations in the same year.