Suzuki will invest ¥4.5-trillion (R595-billion) this decade in research, development and capital spending to make battery electric vehicles (EVs).

The Japanese car maker known for making compact cars, said it would invest ¥2-trillion in electrification and autonomous driving technologies, while allocating ¥2.5-trillion to build a battery EV plant and for renewable energy facilities.

Of the money earmarked for electrification, ¥500-billion would be invested in batteries, it said.

Suzuki’s announcement comes after other Japanese car makers have rolled out similar goals to catch up with European and US rivals in the fast-growing battery EV market.

Mazda unveiled in November a R180-billion spending plan to electrify its vehicles.

Suzuki said it would introduce its first battery EVs, including small sport utility vehicles and micro “kei” cars, in Japan in the 2023 financial year. With cost-conscious customers in mind, company president Toshihiro Suzuki said he wanted to sell vehicles for around ¥1-million (R132 000).

Suzuki plans to introduce battery EVs in Europe and India, and its first battery electric motorcycles globally, the following year. The company is aiming to leverage its cooperation with car giant Toyota to capture a bigger share of India’s budding EV market, which is gaining momentum.

Suzuki plans to learn from Toyota how to use EV technology to make small electric cars, Suzuki said during a visit to India this month.

Still, Toshihiro Suzuki said on Thursday the car maker was not abandoning hybrid and internal combustion vehicle line-ups, pointing to a lack of charging infrastructure, high EV costs and concerns over limited battery resources.

For India, Suzuki’s key market, it predicted EVs would make up 15% of its vehicle line-up by 2030, while internal combustion engine cars using biofuels and ethanol as fuels would make up 60%.

“We will put in vehicles for various price ranges, for various people, for various regions,” Toshihiro Suzuki said.  — Reuters