The country’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki is set to become the first Indian company to mass produce 'strong' hybrids, which it hopes to price at a premium of Rs 2.5 lakh over petrol variants.
Speaking to Moneycontrol, RC Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki said although a GST rate cut on hybrids would be welcome making it affordable, the company is benchmarking diesel cars to price its hybrids.
“The hybrids will also have a similar cost (increase) as diesel and we have spoken of a hike of Rs 2.5 lakh over a petrol variant,” said Bhargava.
Diesel cars ready to run on Bharat Stage – VI (BS-VI) fuel type cost around Rs 2.5 lakh more than their petrol variants. Currently, a BS-IV diesel hatchback or compact sedan costs Rs 80,000-100,000 higher than its petrol variant.
Maruti Suzuki has already said it will progressively switch production to BS-VI after December 31, 2019, three months before the deadline of March 31, 2020, to stop sales of BS-IV products.
Several companies have stopped new diesel engine development programs following a change in consumer preference towards petrol. After BS-VI introduction the share of diesel engines is expected to slip below 25 percent from the current 40 percent, according to an ICRA report.
Diesel cars are 25 percent more fuel efficient than petrol counterparts but hybrids are even better with a claimed mileage of 30 percent over petrol, as per Maruti Suzuki.
The Delhi-based maker of models like Swift, Baleno and Alto is banking on technology from partner Toyota to power its hybrid ambitions. Maruti Suzuki has so far dabbled with only mild hybrid technology.
While Mahindra & Mahindra was the first company to launch micro/mild hybrid technology (seen on Scorpio in 2009) in India Maruti Suzuki adopted it in 2015 when it launched Ciaz and Ertiga models with the same technology. Tata Motors is yet to have it in its portfolio.
A hybrid uses twin sources of energy to power the vehicle. A strong hybrid uses conventional petrol or diesel engine, and an electric motor. This hybrid is used mainly for highway cruising.
The 'mild' hybrid, on the other hand, comes into play during stop-go city traffic. It doesn't have a battery pack like its 'strong' cousin.
According to Bhargava, the level of hybridisation on its models offered by Maruti Suzuki will depend entirely on consumer demand for it. The level of penetration of hybrids may not be as high as that of current generation diesels purely because of a parallel improvement in the performance of petrol models.
When asked for the level of hybridisation within Maruti’s range Bhargava said, “It depends on customer demand and also on what the government will do on GST. What we are talking about is strong hybrids which is the outcome of Suzuki Toyota alliance. The electric vehicle will be out in 2020 and so (the launch of a hybrid car) has to be around the same time.”