By Aditi Shah
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - SoftBank Group is in talks with the Indian government to facilitate the use of renewable energy like solar to charge electric vehicles in the country, a senior executive at the Japanese group's local unit told Reuters.
India is considering electrifying all its vehicles over the next 15 years, a plan that could boost SoftBank's solar ambitions in the country if the government adopts renewable energy to charge the vehicles.
SoftBank, which has said it will invest up to $20 billion along with Foxconn Technology and Bharti Enterprises in solar projects in India, estimates the electrification drive could create a requirement for over 150 gigawatt (GW) of additional power.
India has an ambitious target to generate 100 GW of solar power by 2022 and while President Donald Trump is pulling the United States out of the Paris accord on climate change, India is sticking to its renewable energy commitments.
SoftBank is also one of the biggest investors in ride-hailing firm Ola, which is preparing for a large-scale rollout of electric vehicles by next year and in May launched its first trial project to test viability.
"Clearly we are at the intersection - on the solar side we are building plants and on the electric vehicles side Ola is planning induction of vehicles," Manoj Kohli, executive chairman of SB Energy, SoftBank's solar business, said in an interview.
In a few years when the number of electric vehicles and charging stations is significant there may be need for dedicated solar plants to supply energy for transportation, Kohli said.
In a strategic shift, India's most influential government think-tank, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, unveiled a policy blueprint last month aimed at electrifying all vehicles in the country by 2032.
The blueprint, designed to help India reduce emissions and cut its oil import bill, suggests lower taxes and loan interest rates for electric fleet taxis like Ola while capping sales of petrol and diesel models.
Despite government subsidies, electric vehicle sales in India have been negligible mainly due to high battery cost and lack of charging infrastructure, problems automakers say could make electrification unviable.
Kohli said the local government would need to take the lead on setting up charging infrastructure and that the new policy, expected to be finalised before the end of the year, is likely to include suggestions to enable that.
SB Energy has held discussions with government officials on ways in which countries in Europe and the United States are using solar power to charge electric vehicles and the potential solutions for India, Kohli said.
"The intention is very clear that electric vehicle charging should be done using renewable energy. How it is done, the modus operandi, the architecture is still to be finalised," he said.
(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)