This Week in Auto: Ola Electric plans new investments, Hero and JLR halt production, oxygen sucks life out of steel plants and more


Automotive plants can make do with nitrogen and do not need industrial oxygen to survive. But oxygen is one of the primary raw materials for the core product of an automobile — steel.

Steel plants have been ordered to divert industrial oxygen for medical use which is taking a toll on the steel output. More on the this later in the copy. First, a look at all major headlines from the automotive space this week.

Jaguar Land Rover to shut plants

Output at two of Jaguar Land Rover’s British car factories will be temporarily halted from April 26, due to supply chain disruption caused by the second wave of COVID-19, including a lack of semi-conductors, the firm said on April 22.

“We have adjusted production schedules for certain vehicles which means that our Castle Bromwich and Halewood manufacturing plants will be operating a limited period of non-production from Monday 26th April,” the Tata Motors-owned firm said.

Hero, Gogoro tie up for EV

Electric vehicles are the future, this is a trend globally, and in India too, EVs have been gaining increasing push. The newest development here is Hero MotoCorp, which has now announced a strategic partnership with Gogoro to develop EVs and charging infrastructure in India.

Gogoro is a Taiwan-based e-scooter manufacturer that has become popular since its first vehicle launched back in 2015. Gogoro’s belief in battery swapping has lead the company to manage over 2,000 swapping stations handling over 2.65 lakh swaps in a single day.

Ola Electric plans to invest $ 2 billion

Ola Electric, which aims to build the largest two-wheeler plant in the world, said it would invest $ 2 billion over the next five years along with its partners to set up more than 1 lakh charging stations across 400 cities.

In an interview with Moneycontrol, Ola chairman and group CEO Bhavish Aggarwal said this would solve one of the key barriers in EV adoption: range anxiety.

Bajaj Auto launches Pulsar NS 125

Bajaj Auto on April 20 launched its new Pulsar NS 125 motorcycle priced at Rs 93,690 (ex-showroom Delhi).

The Pulsar NS 125 is powered by a 125cc BS-VI DTS-i engine that delivers power of 12 PS and a peak torque of 11 Nm and comes with “Nitrox” mono-shock absorbers offering stability even at high speeds, the company said in a statement.

Hero MotoCorp halts production

Hero MotoCorp has halted manufacturing at all its plants in light of the ongoing surge in spread of COVID-19 across the country. The shutdown, which is temporary and includes the global parts centre (GPC), is a first by a two-wheeler maker in this financial year.

The Delhi-based maker of Splendor stated that it will utilize these shut-down days to carry out necessary maintenance work in the manufacturing plants. Each plant and GPC will remain shut for four days, in a staggered manner between April 22 – May 1 basis the local scenario, the company said.

COVID-19 cripples EV sales in India

The COVID-19 pandemic severely crippled the auto industry, and the disruption had its impact on demand for electric cars, electric two-wheelers and electric three-wheelers.

As per the Society of Electric Vehicle Manufacturers (SMEV) registration of all electric vehicles during FY21 declined 20 percent to 2,36,802 units as against 2,95,683 units sold in FY20.

Rerouting of oxygen his steel production

The rerouting of industrial grade oxygen by steelmakers for medical purpose is starting to impact steel production which would impact a variety of sectors including the automotive sector. The steel sector is the biggest consumer of oxygen in India, ahead of petrochemicals and shipbuilding industries.

“Oxygen is a raw material in steel plants and at this crucial time we have committed to the government to prioritize saving lives over steel making”, Sajjan Jindal, chairman and MD of JSW Group tweeted earlier this month. Oxygen is used in steelmaking to remove impurities and the process is called oxidation.

Steel plants across the country are tasked to supply medical oxygen. More than 1.43 lakh metric tonne (MT) liquid medical oxygen has been supplied by the steel making plants till now with the central public sector enterprise (CPSE) pitching in with over 39,000 MT, Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Steel tweeted on April 23.

Price of steel has been rising since the past few months on the back of strong demand from the automotive, auto components, consumer durable and other industries. With steel production set to get hit because of the oxygen issue automotive production could also get impacted.

“The disruption in the supply of oxygen for industrial use would temporarily impact the revenues of small and mid-sized companies into metal fabrication, automotive components, shipbreaking, paper and engineering”, Gautam Shahi director Crisil Ratings.

However, according to CRISIL, the disruption in oxygen supplies for industrial use, is expected to last for 6-8 weeks. This will, therefore, not expected to have a severe impact on production provided the national shortage in oxygen lasts for a limited period.