India’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki is set to launch a hybrid version of either its premium hatchback Swift or Dzire, the compact sedan based on it, later this year, which will give Indians the first taste of a plug-in hybrid car in the country.
“The government has begun the FAME scheme, under which it subsidises the purchase cost for hybrid and e-vehicles. We have asked auto majors to start introducing more such variants than the regular petrol and diesel cars so that consumers get more choices,” a senior government official told HT. “The scheme cannot be a success alone with one or two such cars available in the market. Companies including Mahindra, Maruti and Tata have assured us of launching some of their vehicles on the hybrid or electronic platform this year itself.”
The Swift Range Extender, the plug-in hybrid version of the car, has been displayed in India on numerous occasions in the last two years, and is currently being used for a pilot project being run by the government. The car is powered by a 658cc petrol engine attached to an electric motor, which is powered by a 5kwh lithiumion battery pack. The motor and engine together develops 73 PS power and Suzuki claims a fuel economy of 48.2kpl. The battery can be completely charged through a 200 volt electric socket in 90 minutes, and has a range of 25.5 kilometers on a full charge.
The car can be driven in three modes-series hybrid, parallel hybrid and all electric. In modes series, the engine is used to charge the electric motor, which, in turn, powers the vehicle. In parallel, both the engine and the electric motor turn the wheels and in all electric, only the electric power is used.
“We do not give guidance on forthcoming models or technologies. Maruti Suzuki has been working in line with government initiatives for alternate electric vehicle development. We demonstrated 10 SX4 hybrid and 4 EECO EV’s during commonwealth games and subsequently, worked on the Swift Range Extender Electric vehicles,” a Maruti Suzuki spokesperson said.
“The Swift REEV was showcased at the SIAM auto expo 2014, Vibrant Gujarat 2015 and IETF 2015. We have made 4 Swift REEV’s for participation in the government’s pilot project,” the Maruti spokesperson added.
As most of the components including the engine, motor and battery pack are imported from Japan, the price of the vehicle is expected to be very high. It will, however, benefit from the government’s ‘faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid and electric vehicles scheme’ announced in April that gives direct cash discounts. Plug-in hybrids, including the Swift or Dzire, are eligible for a discount of around Rs 1.2 lakh.
At present, the only hybrid models available in the country include the Toyota Camry and Prius that costs over Rs 30 lakh and BMW i8 (Rs 2.3 crore), while Mahindra’s e2o is the sole all-electric vehicle.
Maruti will not be the only company to launch alternate energy vehicles this year. Tata is expected to bring in electric versions of its light commercial vehicle super Ace and Magic.
“We are working on the electric Verito and hope to launch it this year,” a M&M spokesperson told HT.
A Tata motors spokesperson refused to comment on future products.