Full-blown hybrid vehicles may still be a distance from the Indian market, but miniature versions based on start-stop technology which save 8-10 per cent fuel in city driving conditions, may well flood the market soon.
After Mahindra and Mahindra's experiment with the micro-hybrid technology on Scorpio and Bolero earlier this year, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) is also studying the possibility of introducing the technology on all of its existing models.
Maruti is in early stages of talks with Bosch India, who have the patent for the technology. "Out and out hybrid technology is cost-prohibitive and its introduction will take a long time — maybe 15 years or more," said IV Rao, managing executive officer (engineering and R&D), MSIL.
"For the time being we are studying the start stop technology and looking at whether we can use it in our existing products” he added.
Bosch says almost every vehicle manufacturer in the country has evinced interest in the technology, and estimates an 80 per cent market penetration in the country by 2014 — the same as in Europe. A feather in the Bosch cap would will be the Tata Nano, which is slated to sport a micro-hybrid avataar by early 2011.
"The start-stop ecotechnology has been developed by us keeping in mind the Indian conditions and given the evolution of hybrid technology worldwide it remains the perfect model for India in the near future," said Matthiks Wunderlich, regional president, start up motors and generators division, Bosch India.
Japanese auto major Honda Siel Cars India launched the first hybird car — Civic hybrid — in the country late last year. Tata Motors is readying an electric Indica for a commercial launch later this year.
“The customer response has been very good,” said Pawan Goenka, president (automotive sector), M&M, about the Scorpio micro-hybrid. “Within the next year or so we would be covering most of our products including the Xylo (with micro-hybrid technology).”
The FuelSmart system used by M&M automatically detects moments, during the drive, when the vehicle is idle and stops the engine. The system is based on the principle of not burning fuel when it is not required.