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Policy prop for car makers on way

Govt looks to allay auto industry's fears over tech shift

Greater Noida: The government will release a draft of its auto policy in two months to allay the industry's worries over the entry of new technologies such as electric vehicles, heavy industries minister Anant Geete said on Thursday.

Inaugurating the 14th Auto Expo, the minister said all policies would be introduced in a phased manner without hurting investor interests.

The industry is worried that the electric mobility deadline set by road minister Nitin Gadkari will bring an end to internal combustion engines.

Geete acknowledged the industry's contribution to the country's GDP, which stands at 7 per cent. Also, there have been substantial international and domestic investments in the auto sector in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make in India initiative.

"There should be no fear in the industry. The new automobile policy will be both industry and consumer friendly. Whatever changes will come will be adopted keeping in mind everyone's needs -the customer's and the industry's. After all, if the newer technologies we are talking about are not affordable to the Indian consumer, policies promoting such technologies will not work," Geete said.

Responding to Siam president Abhay Firodia's call for lower duties, the minister said, "The new policy will take into account differential duties on different categories of vehicles."

Firodia pointed out the industry upgraded to BS-VI from BS-IV in four years when most countries do so in 10 years.

"With BS-VI, both petrol and diesel vehicles will have cleaner emissions than the air they suck in," said Firodia, the Force Motors head.

The industry remains confused about the path to electrification. "Today, with the kind of flooding happening in Mumbai roads, how will you manage electric cars?" Mercedes India chief Roland Folger said.

The government also needs to have a scrap policy to get rid of old 15-year vehicles.

"Unless you do that, you are not seriously addressing the pollution issue," said N Raja of Toyota Kirloskar Motor.

The minister, however, emphasised that India needed to move along with the rest of the world to cleaner emissions and green technology, including electric mobility and BS-VII norms.

Companies have raised questions about charging infrastructure, the source of electricity, battery costs and customer incentives for the shift to electric vehicles.

The lifecycle of batteries, too, is an issue with an ecology for end-of-life batteries yet to be in place.

"If lithium ion batteries are not properly disposed, lithium seepage can cause serious hazards," said Raja.

Phase 1 of the government's Faster Adoption and Manufacture of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) policy is coming to an end in March 2018. Phase 2 will come into play with the new financial year, which will indicate the government's incentives for electric cars.

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