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Honda may let Indian businesses test ride e-motorcycles

Minoru Kato, president of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt. Ltd., a local Honda Motor Co. subsidiary, unveils a plan to launch an electric motorcycle on a trial basis as soon as next year as he talks in an interview with NNA in Gurgaon in the northern state of Haryana on May 23, 2019. (NNA/Kyodo)

NEW DELHI (Kyodo) -- Honda Motor Co. is considering a project to let businesses in India test ride its electric motorcycles on a trial basis as early as next year as the government is pushing for the use of eco-friendly mobility to address worsening air pollution.

    "We are planning to implement an electric two-wheeler trial program in the next fiscal year (beginning in April 2020)," Minoru Kato, president of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt. Ltd., its local subsidiary, said in a recent interview with NNA.

    Honda has already begun lease sales of e-scooter PCX EV in Japan, an electric version of the PCX scooter. Kato said the company plans to use its China-made electric two-wheelers for the envisioned project in the South Asian country, without disclosing further details.

    While private use of electric motorcycles and scooters on a mass scale will take some time, such vehicles could be initially used for commercial purposes in the country, Kato said.

    Honda unveiled the plan amid renewed focus on the electric vehicle sector in the country as the National Institution for Transforming India, the government's think tank known as NITI Aayog, has proposed the full use of electric three-wheelers on roads by 2023 and electric two-wheelers with engine displacement below 150cc by 2025.

    Kato regards the proposal as unrealistic, saying the industry needs a proper roadmap and infrastructure development toward the complete transition to electric vehicles.

    Meanwhile, industry bodies such as the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers and the Confederation of Indian Industry have also joined the growing chorus of concerns over the think tank's proposal.

    "The ambition needs to be tempered with a practical approach and what is possible without needlessly disrupting the automotive industry," Rajan Wadhera, president of the automakers' association, said in a statement.

    Wadhera said the industry is facing multiple challenges of leapfrogging from Bharat Stage IV to VI, the most advanced emission standard for automobiles equivalent to the European Union's Euro-VI norms, and complying with many new safety requirements, involving huge investments of 700 billion rupees ($10 billion) to 800 billion rupees.

    Electric vehicle sales in India more than doubled to 130,620 units in the year to last March, backed by government subsidies. But the penetration of EVs in the country currently remains less than 1 percent of the market, according to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles. (NNA/Kyodo)

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