Ola founder plans locally produced electric car by 2024

BHAVISH Aggarwal, who founded India's top ride-hailing startup and then moved into manufacturing electric scooters, is expanding his business empire again. He unveiled plans on Monday (Aug 15) to enter the electric-car market in competition with local giants like Tata Group and global automakers from Hyundai Motor Co to Tesla Inc. 

Ola aims to launch its first electric car in the summer of 2024 and price it at less than US$50,000, compared to the global price tag of around US$70,000, the 36-year-old entrepreneur said at the launch event at the Ola headquarters in Bangalore.

The futuristic-looking vehicle, with an all-glass roof, will be part of Aggarwal's Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. His earlier startup, ANI Technologies Pvt, runs the Ola ride-hailing operations.

Ola Electric plans to build its own battery technologies, starting with lithium-ion cells, as it looks to bring down costs with local production. The goal is to forge a path toward self-reliance in the relevant technologies and then produce a made-in-India electric vehicle. 

Aggarwal, whose backers include SoftBank Group Corp and Tiger Global Management, announced the vehicle on a day India celebrated completing 75 years of independence from the British rule, and exactly a year after Ola's electric two-wheel scooter was introduced.  

In a sign of how crowded the market has become, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, part of a storied Indian automaker, on Monday launched 5 electric sports utility vehicles, or SUVs, designed in the UK. It plans to roll out the first e-SUV by the end of 2024.

The entrepreneur has been tweeting teaser videos of a red car with only its rear wheels visible, as well as cheeky Bollywood movie one-liners, ahead of the Monday announcement.

Ola is pressing ahead with plans to earn what Aggarwal has called "a seat at the global EV table".

Last year, he unveiled what was billed the world's largest electric-scooter plant at a site about 3 hours from its headquarters in Bangalore. The goal was to pump out about 2 million scooters annually, but plans have been marred by delivery delays, quality issues and, in some cases, scooters catching fire. 

Traditional combustion-engine scooters and motorcycles remain the favoured mode of personal transport in India and dominate the country's roads. But in recent years, the government has been pushing measures to improve urban air and reduce dependence on oil imports by boosting EV sales through reduced taxes and duty exemptions. Some 0.32 million such vehicles were sold in 2021, up 168 per cent year on year, said the government's India Brand Equity Foundation. 

India is projected to become the world's third-largest auto market by 2030, the foundation said, and the government has set ambitious electrification goals for the period.

"We will integrate both ride-sharing and electric mobility since we are the only company the world doing both," Aggarwal said. BLOOMBERG

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