Hybrids, not full electric vehicles, get attention of carmakers in India

Hybrids, not full electric vehicles, get attention of carmakers in India

Even as the central government has chosen to back only purely electric vehicles (EVs) to reduce dependence on fossil fuel and cut emissions, hybrids or self-charging EVs are slowly gaining ground in India, albeit in a small way.

The trend is expected to gain momentum as global vehicle makers here, particularly from Japan, ride on hybrids to meet the more stringent fuel efficiency norms that take effect in 2022.

Hybrids command a premium over their petrol and diesel counterparts but that hasn’t deterred buyers. Take Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM). The local arm of the Japanese maker has seen demand for its Camry hybrid outstrip the supply by a wide margin, in less than a month after its launch.

Volvo Cars India plans to start local assembly of its XC90 Excellence, a plug-in hybrid model, by the end of this calendar year. Priced at Rs 1.25 crore, Volvo launched the model in 2016. Honda has been selling the Accord hybrid and plans to bring a Civic hybrid by 2021.

Toyota launched the new-generation Camry hybrid on January 18, priced at Rs 45 lakh (on road, including taxes). “We are not able to fulfill orders,” Shekar Viswanathan, vice-chairman, told Business Standard. He said TKM got an order in excess of 200 units and “it’s counting”. This is despite a sharp increase in the goods and services tax rate, from 28 percent to 43 percent. The unexpected increase had hit the older Camry hybrid badly; sales slumped to 30 units a month, from 100 earlier. Therefore, TKM did not anticipate selling more than 100 or 120 a month, at most, of the new model. Instead, this model now has a waiting of three months, Viswanathan said.

How does the Camry Hybrid functions? Powered by a 2.5-liter petrol engine, the model has an electric battery at the rear. The engine feeds power to the nickel-metal hybrid battery. It also boasts of regenerative braking, which helps in fuelling the battery.

The start is via the EV mode and it offers the option to be driven in the all-EV mode, too, with zero emission. The Camry Hybrid produces up to two tonnes less of carbon dioxide a year than an equivalent car in the same class, claims Toyota. Starting 2022-23, Toyota will bring a complete range of hybrid vehicles, Viswanathan said.

As for Volvo’s plan for local assembly of the XC90 plug-in, it might also get a seven seater variant, said Charles Frump, managing director, Volvo Cars. “There is a much greater awareness on clean technology vehicles in India now than two to three years ago,” he said.

This will be the first such model to be assembled in India.

Currently, the four-seater model is imported as a completely built unit (CBU). In a plug-in hybrid, the battery can be recharged by plugging into an external source of electric power. And, Volvo plans to launch half a dozen plug-in hybrids and full EVs in India by 2021, said Frump. The decision has been prompted by the recent announcement by the government to reduce Customs duty on import of components for EVs from the 15-30 percent to 10-15 percent.

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