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Mar 21, 2017 08:53 AM IST | Source:

Electric vehicle development loses spark as consortium members decide to go solo

Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Mahindra Electric, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Ford were jointly working on the project.

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India’s ambitious plan to build a consortium for electric mobility solutions has failed even before hitting the road. The five members in the group working on the project to jointly develop critical hardware for all-electric or hybrid vehicles have decided to go their own way.

Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, the country’s only electric car maker Mahindra Electric (formerly Mahindra Reva), utility vehicle market leader Mahindra & Mahindra and Ford were jointly working on the project.

When asked by Moneycontrol if the electric vehicle development consortium had achieved any breakthrough, CV Raman, Executive Director (Engineering), Maruti Suzuki India said: “There is no movement on that front.”

The open-ended technical alliance entailed an investment of Rs 22-25 crore with the government to invest an equal amount under the faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid and electric (FAME) vehicles.

Motor, transmission and batteries are the hardware part of an electric vehicle. However, the software is equally crucial as it the controls vehicle's critical systems like motor and battery. Hybrid or electric vehicles make use of on-board computers to distribute the right amount of power to the vehicle.

While Maruti Suzuki’s parent company Suzuki Motor Corporation has forged an alliance with Toyota Motor Corporation, the second-biggest car company in the world, Tata Motors has joined hands with Volkswagen for a similar objective. Both Toyota and Volkswagen have invested heavily in electric and hybrid solutions from which their Indian partners stand to benefit.

The Mahindra group, which had spearheaded the electric car evolution in India, will continue to work independently. It aims to electrify the Scorpio and XUV500, two of India’s most popular sports utility vehicles, at a later time.

It had showcased a two-seater high-end electric sport car Halo at the 2014 Auto Expo. This sedan could be launched commercially if there is strong demand.

The group already has three models running with full electric motors – Verito, Supro and E2o – in the domestic market on which it is getting incentives ranging from Rs 124,000-187,000.

All-electric or hybrid cars are expensive though they are cheap to maintain. Batteries, which have to be imported from China, make up for 50 percent of the cost of the vehicle. Mahindra Reva e2o, for instance, costs Rs 703,905 (ex-showroom, Mumbai) - the cost of a petrol-fired mid-sized sedan.

Issues regarding range (distance of travel) of the vehicle and top speed have to be closer to a conventional internal combustion engine while keeping prices affordable if electric cars have to get a jump start.

A compact hatchback which typically has a 35-litre fuel tank can cover a distance of 420-525 km (mileage of 12-15 kmpl) before refuelling. But the four-seater Mahindra e2o can travel a maximum of only 120 km.

With the supposed entry of Tesla, the world’s most popular electric car company, in India later in the year coupled with increasing environmental awareness among car buyers, electric car sales have gathered steam in the past one year.
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