Ashwani Gupta: “When the battery costs drop below 95 dollar per kWh we will have reached the tipping point”

by Nilesh Wadhwa 09 Sep 2020


The topic of electric mobility has gathered a huge momentum in the last few years and one OEM that has taken the topic very seriously is Japanese car major Nissan. It should come as no surprise that the keynote speaker at Autocar Professional’s first international e-conference on electric mobility on the topic ‘Scaling up in the Midst of Challenge’ was Ashwani Gupta, COO, Nissan Motor Corp.

“The topic of e-mobility is very close to the heart of Nissan and me. The theme of evolution goes way beyond just what an electric vehicle is and what we want to achieve,” said Gupta.

According to Gupta, “Evolution in mobility triggered by three transformations- social, customer and technology. Megatrends are the outcome of key social challenges like global warming, taking care of ageing population and pressures of urbanisation.”

One of the first major movers in the EV space, Nissan had launched its first product way early in 2010, the first-generation Nissan Leaf, at a time when there were hardly any talks around electrification by any stakeholders. Since then the technology behind the EVs have gone way ahead, while the high battery costs have been coming down. 

Gupta believes that the life of the EV battery plays a big role in the connected vehicle ecosystem, the challenge is not the cost of the battery, but the value it brings to the society. Giving an example of how EVs can be used to power one’s home, feed power to the grid among other things, he said “EVs need to an integrated part of the society, when they need it.”

He said for Nissan, the future of mobility was beyond the topic of just electrification. The new technologies are about how we respect people inside and outside the car. “Autonomous driving is not about removing human intervention but making human the focal point of innovation. The relevance of connectivity grew by many times during the pandemic, wherein smart mobility comes into the picture. EVs can do much more than just simply electrification, zero emission, zero fatality, it can also bring driving excitement. This at this moment. Electrification is superior to ICE-tech to bring driving excitement,” explained Gupta. 

He cited the example of Nissan’s upcoming four-wheel drive – electric SUV, the Ariya, which can achieve zero to 100kph in 4 seconds and this is equivalent to a sports car. Same is the concept with e-pedal. Gupta also mentioned that Nissan’s popular EV offering, the Leaf has crossed the 500,000 sales milestone. 

2010 to 2020: Key learnings in the evolution of EVs
Given the fact that Nissan was the first mover in the mass-volume in the EV space, Gupta traced the decade long journey, “ The only motivation behind was to challenge the innovation, that excites, to bring the first EV on road. Since then our priority was not business case, but customer experience starting from car, battery to recycle. The second generation of Leaf we went beyond not just range, but safety. The third-generation Ariya is a fusion of SUV plus electric, that is the transition from first generation to Ariya. Sometimes we don’t have to follow trends and statistics play a role.” According to this, “that’s where organisations play a role to create value for the society.”

So how should new players in the space brace up for the challenge? Well, Gupta points that, “My definition for EV is very simple, if you want to do it as a objective to talk about CAFÉ or emission, then you will end up building a dull product. It is about the consequence, it is about customers perceiving the value which is much more than what expected from the norms. The day we cross the tipping point and the customer will be willing to pay for the EV and experience the joy.” 

So when can you expect the tipping point for the industry, especiallt with ICEs getting expensive, and EVs costing lesser? Gupta explains that there are two ways of looking at it, the cost and value side—

“When the battery costs drop below US$95 per kWh we will have reached the tipping point. But again, it will also depend from country to country, in Europe we have already crossed the tipping point. The same thing is happening to other countries. On the value side, the customer is not just looking at TCO, but with so many options he/she they are looking at USP, it is no longer just about range, but it is about autonomous, connected, which is more compatible with the EVs. When the value crosses the point, you will see that happening. 

The India story
So how does India stack up in the global perspective. Gupta points out that, “For me India will have EV, but the question is what is the entry point? Is it just driving range that will drive the demand. Around 80% of EV cars are charged at home, the discussion on infrastructure is not most important, but what’s important is to make customer understand that EV is in par with ICE-vehicle in terms of performance, but gives more value to the customer. That will drive adoption.

Ultimately, “It is all about customer experience, Leaf is about family, e-NV200 is about someone transports, Ariya is about customers looking for 4WD. It all depends on what customer is looking for, and if the industry looks at beyond just focussing on range, it is about bringing more value,” said Gupta. 

In his ending note he said it was important “To transform the way we live, drive, for the society, humans, which means we need to have humans at the centre of it.”