India simply loves cars with high fuel efficiency ratings, and Maruti Suzuki is the leader of this market. It’s of no coincidence that India’s top-three most fuel efficient mass market cars happen to have Maruti Suzuki badges on their bonnets. But a Maruti Suzuki isn’t India’s most fuel efficient car. Surprised? Don’t be. Technically, this crown belongs to the BMW i8 hybrid sportscar, which manages an astounding 47.45 Kmpl fuel efficiency.
While the BMW i8 proves that hybrids are clearly the future for sometime to come, the sportscar’s crown may soon come under threat, by who else but Maruti Suzuki. India’s largest automaker is readying up a petrol-hybrid version of its best selling B+ segment hatchback, the Swift. A fleet of Swift Hybrids was spotted on Indian roads as recently as last week.
[Image courtesy Gaadi]
The Swift Hybrid is powered by a 660cc, triple petrol engine (53 Bhp-63 Nm) whose main role is to act as a generator that generates electricity to charge the on-board lithium ion battery stack. The battery stack will in turn power the 73 HP electric motor of the car, which will serve as the primary mode or propulsion. This mode is called series hybrid and the Swift Hybrid can also be operated in two other modes – pure electric and parallel hybrid.
In pure electric mode, the car can go 30 kilometers. The lithium ion batteries will take about an a hour and half to charge fully through a 200V electric socket. In parallel hybrid mode, the petrol engine and electric motor will combine to power the car. So, this mode can be used for quick acceleration. The real deal though is the series hybrid mode. In this mode, the Swift Hybrid manages a stunning 48.2 Kmpl of fuel efficiency.
Now, what does 48.2 Kmpl actually mean?
[Image courtesy GluttonForThought]
Well, it means a lot. It means that you’ll have a car that costs lesser money to run than your monthly internet broadband connection. Or how does this sound? You can do 1,200 kilometers in this car for roughly the same price of 12 Kingfisher beer bottles. That’s about 3 kilograms of choicest Surmai fish from Goa. Yes, we love our beer and fish, and the Swift Hybrid will get us more of that as it costs so little to run. Let us explain.
The petrol powered Maruti Suzuki Swift starts at around 4.6 lakh rupees for its base variant, going up to 6.17 lakh rupees, for the top end ZXi variant. The Swift Petrol is powred by a 1.2 liter K-Series petrol engine, whose fuel efficiency is rated by ARAI at 20.4 Kmpl. Assuming you drive for 40 kilometers everyday on an average, and about 1,200 kilometers a month, your fuel cost would be about 3,900 rupees at today’s petrol prices in Delhi.
On the other hand, the Swift Hybrid’s 48.2 Kmpl fuel efficiency figure means that the same monthly distance can be done for 1,650 rupees. This makes the Swift Hybrid nearly one and a half times more efficient than its petrol engined sibling. Comparing it to the diesel powered model, you’re still looking at savings of up to 850 rupees, which will still buy you some beer and fish.
What are the challenges?
One word, cost. Maruti Suzuki is yet to indigenize the hybrid propulsion system consisting of the electric motor and batteries. Selling the Swift Hybrid with a high level of import content would baloon costs and make the car more expensive than the diesel powered Swift. However, the automaker is working on developing a low cost hybrid system for the Swift, one that could keep prices to affordable levels.
Take the example of the Toyota Camry petrol-electric hybrid. The car is priced at 32 lakh rupees in India, which is about 3 lakh rupees more than its petrol powered variant. That’s about a 12 % price bump up. So, if Maruti Suzuki can come with with a starting price tag of around 6 lakh rupees for the base variant of the Swift petrol hybrid, the car will make big sense, even for diesel car buyers. 8 lakh rupees for the top-end hybrid variant is great value too.
The other factor is weight. The Swift Hybrid weighs about 1,600 kilograms, which is about 600 kilograms heavier than the fully loaded petrol model and about 500 kilograms heavier than the top-end diesel. What this means is, the hybrid variant is likely to be much slower than the petrol and diesel variants of the Swift, except of course in parallel hybrid mode.
All in all, if Maruti Suzuki can manage to indigenize the Swift Hybrid’s electric propulsion components, and price the car at about 8 lakh rupees, the new fuel efficiency champion has all the makings of yet another best seller. Expect to see the Swift Hybrid on Indian roads sometime next year, making good use of the subsidies that the Indian government doles out to hybrid and electric cars under the FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles) scheme.