2019 Will Offer India’s First Taste Of Long-Range EVs

  • Jan 26, 2019

Written by: Sonny

When it comes to electric vehicles in India, we feel like those annoying kids in the back seat during a road trip who constantly keep asking “Are we there yet?” There have been an endless number of EV concepts from Indian automakers and international car manufacturers alike and many have become a reality too. Just not for us. But that’s about to change in 2019.

Electric cars have been available in various car markets for more than a decade now, so perhaps calling EVs the future is a bit outdated. Electric and electrified vehicles are the present and automotive markets like the USA, Germany, and China are already making significant headway in the adoption of these technologies at every level - be it eco-sensibility, practical daily usability or even straight-up performance.

In India, the burden of change to charged mobility has been borne by Mahindra automotive who, till date, is the only carmaker in India to offer full-EVs in its product portfolio, namely the e2o and the e-Verito. However, Mahindra has not been able to significantly develop those electric powertrains and technologies in all these years, which meant neither car offered more than 150 kilometres of range. There were no satisfactory answers for the consequent range anxiety either.

Now though, other carmakers have committed themselves to introduce their electric vehicles in India after having been more than patient enough for the infrastructure and government policies to support the change. This year onwards, expect a slew of all-electric vehicles, some of which could offer long-range options, to enter the country.

MG Motor, which is set to enter the Indian automotive space with the launch of a mid-size SUV this summer, has already confirmed that it will be introducing a new all-electric SUV later this year. While they haven’t specified which of their global electric SUV models will make it to our shores, we can expect it to offer a range of over 400 kilometres on a single charge, which is close to what can be expected from a full tank of petrol in a regular car powered by an internal combustion engine.

But before that arrives, we can look forward to an electric SUV from India’s second-largest carmaker. We are referring to the Hyundai Kona Electric, which is expected to launch in India in the second half of 2019 with a range of over 300 kilometres. Even though the Kona Electric will be introduced as a CKD (Completely Knocked Down) model to make it less expensive than a CBU (Completely Built Up) unit, we can still expect it to cost quite a premium for its size, with an expected price tag of around Rs 25 lakh. Hyundai will reportedly install a home charger for buyers, which will be capable of charging the car from zero to 80 per cent in six to eight hours, while fast chargers may be installed at public spaces with government or third-party help. The global model of the Kona Electric is even available with a larger battery pack for a range of over 400 kilometres.

Even in the luxury segment, Audi intends to be the first to introduce an all-electric car in India with the e-tron SUV which too offers more than 400 kilometres of range. Equipped with a 95kWh battery pack, it can be recharged up to 80 per cent in 30 minutes using a 150kW fast charger, which may or may not be a feature offered in India. The e-tron is expected to be launched within the 2019-20 fiscal year and will be priced well over Rs 1 crore as it will be brought here via the CBU route. While Mercedes-Benz’s own electric SUV, the EQC, is expected to offer more than 450 kilometres of range on a full charge, the brand has not officially confirmed any plans to introduce the car in India anytime soon. The same applies to the likes of the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model 3 sedan as well.

Long-range all-electric cars are not the only vehicles pushing for newer, cleaner and more efficient technology in the Indian automotive space. Some manufacturers are looking to develop and push for hybrid technology on our roads, which would allow users to switch between electric power-and-motors or fuels-and-combustion engine depending on the need, or even use them in tandem for better overall efficiency. Even within the hybrid car segment, there are two broad divisions currently offered in India: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) and regular Hybrid Electric Vehicles. This, of course, requires a little more explanation and that’s exactly what we’re going to get into.

PHEV technology uses a combination of an ICE (internal combustion engine) and an electric motor, thus the hybrid part of the name. In this type of vehicle, the battery of the hybrid setup can be charged using an external power source. As a result, the car can be driven in pure EV mode without having to rely on its petrol engine for short distances within the city Currently, the only PHEV sold in India is the Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence, which is a luxury SUV with a price tag of over Rs 1 crore. However, the Swedish carmaker had recently announced that it plans to promote PHEVs in India by reducing the cost of the XC90 PHEV variant by means of local assembly as well as introducing more PHEV models to the market in the near future.

Meanwhile, Toyota, one of the world’s leading car brands for alternative fuel technology and hybrid powertrains, in particular, has a less expensive model in the Indian market already. While they do make and sell PHEV models internationally, they believe their ‘self-charging’ hybrid technology makes more sense for this region as of 2019. This regular hybrid vehicle technology has the battery pack connected to an energy recovery system as part of the powertrain. Thus, the electric power is generated and stored as the car is on the go, which necessitates the use of the ICE as well. This form of hybrid-electric vehicles may not be as clean as a PHEV, but it is a lot more cost efficient as proven by the sales of the Toyota Camry Hybrid in India, with the new one being launched at a price just shy of Rs 37 lakh. Another provider of such technology is Honda with the Accord Hybrid which is priced considerably higher than the Toyota equivalent.

Toyota is confident in its hybrid technology and has no immediate plans for EVs in India and they have a good reason to stick by it. In fact, India’s biggest carmaker, Maruti Suzuki, will also be looking to launch a relatively affordable mass-market hybrid car by 2020. The technology is expected to come from a partnership between Toyota and Suzuki to share models and drivetrains, including the Corolla, which is likely to be the basis of the first true hybrid vehicle from Maruti. Till date, Maruti has been employing a mild-hybrid form of the technology which uses a small battery in the powertrain to assist the ICE components for improved fuel efficiency. However, these are not particularly cleaner technologies unlike regular hybrids and PHEVs.

Electrified cars may not entirely replace conventional combustion engine cars as soon as some may promise, especially in the mass market. But the switch to technologies that are not only cleaner in terms of emission but also more efficient is inevitable. The ultimate goal is to achieve sustainability in driving technology and electric and hybrid vehicles are the next step for India as more and more electrified cars will be introduced. To ensure faster adoption of these new technologies will require the development of infrastructure as well as waivers and monetary incentives through government policies. However, neither manufacturer nor consumer can wait for all of that to fall into place and the steps towards change need to start now. Thus, while some may call it a bullish move, now is the right time for modern electric cars. And 2019 is the year that will mark the beginning of a significant change in the Indian automotive industry.


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