Tesla R&D Coming Soon — What Does it Mean for India?

“We all accept that the future is electric; it is now time to embrace electrification as an opportunity to create a self-reliant and cleaner India.” — a report by Avendus, an Indian financial services firm, in July 2020.

Tesla is in talks with the industry department of the Karnataka state government to set up a research and development (R&D) centre in Bengaluru to harness the potential of India’s tech capital. “The first proposal is for an R&D centre and we have already had at least two rounds of discussions,” said one official from the department, requesting not to be named. He also said that Tesla’s head of India and the Karnataka State Commissioner for Industry would meet again later this month. Karnataka is noted as the first state in India to establish an electric vehicle policy, and that effort is geared towards raising significant investment in zero-emissions technology. Eleven other states in the country have since followed suit. The report also estimated that over 3 million EVs will be sold nationwide by 2025.

TESLA — Making Cars with Alternative Energy Sources

Tesla started not with a product but with research & development. They first outlined what an EV environment ideally ought to be, planned for that environment, and then developed a product for that environment. They realised that an EV cannot be made or run like a conventional fossil-fuelled car. Tesla was planned, designed, and developed as an EV maker from the get go.

Unlike other car companies, Tesla is strongly & vertically integrated with near complete control over its supply chain; this integration involves collecting mapping data and driving habit data. Currently, this data is used to improve Tesla vehicles, but in the future it can be used to map and improve traffic patterns, electrical usage, road signage, civic planning, road safety, etc. Tesla has ushered in a new ecosystem instead of a product by investing heavily in charging infrastructure, which increases the vehicles’ practicality by a huge margin. They have the most sophisticated navigation system in the world built in to make it easy to plan long trips using their Tesla Supercharger network (map showing Tesla Superchargers in North America attached below; red is where they already exist; blue where they are being planned).

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The battery pack is the most important component of an EV. This component troubles most manufacturers and is also the one that costs and weighs the most. Tesla has invested heavily in battery production and research to the extent that it has become the major battery source of the world. The Tesla battery pack is regarded as the industry standard. In Tesla cars, the battery pack is an integral part of the car’s chassis design and structure. The confidence in their battery pack allows them to offer an 8-year unconditional warranty on the entire drivetrain!

How Much Can Tesla’s R&D Centre Help India?

  1. The R&D centre will serve as a bustling hub for all bright minds of this country who are looking to utilise their skill-sets and tenacious dedication for aiding the production of environment friendly electric vehicles.
  2. Instead of just providing a product to the market, Tesla will be working very closely with civic authorities, power infrastructure, improvement of road safety, improvement in charger network, increasing solar power generation, etc., through new cutting edge technologies, equipment, and tools.
  3. Some or many of the designs, materials, equipment, tools and the like may be developed here and thus enable better knowledge sharing and transfer.
  4. New technologies and thought processes will be ushered in and most importantly, working attitudes and aptitudes. This R&D centre will be an aspirational workplace rather than just another centre.
  5. A newer transportation ecosystem, both personal and public, can be introduced by the growth of this R&D centre.
  6. Tesla is working on a Hyperloop system closely with the government of Maharashtra to be developed and run between Pune and Mumbai. India could well be the first one to get a Hyperloop if all goes well as planned.
  7. All of the above will boost the economy by bringing in significant resource management and employment. The numbers cannot be estimated now, but this will be an ongoing process.
  8. The cascading effect of each project that comes out of this Tesla R&D centre in Bengaluru will impact the entire subcontinent and will have far-reaching benefits to the environment, import substitution, alternate energy generation, and utility. A myriad of other benefits are inevitable, which will only push us upwards.

Let’s hope that the deal goes through and becomes a reality!