Snapshot: Mahindra is working on hybrid models of its SUV models. The car maker is likely to source lithium ion batteries from South Korean electronics major Samsung and a new manual gearbox (built specifically to work with a hybrid powertrain design) from German transmission giant ZF.
3 summers ago, Mahindra & Mahindra took over Reva Electric, an Indian electric car maker. Ever since, the first product to be developed and commercially launched by Mahindra-Reva has been the E2O. While the car’s high price tag – a result of the removal of governmental subsidies on electric cars – has been a major cause of the E2O’s dismal sales performance, the acquisition has allowed Mahindra to leverage Reva’s expertise in electric vehicles to the likes of the Verito, Gio and Maxximo. The Reva association seems all set to move to the next level, with Mahindra eyeing the hybrid vehicle space.
Why go hybrid?
Picture this. You’re sitting in your Mahindra Scorpio in peak hour traffic, with cars inching ahead at 5 Kph. A large internal combustion engine is simply wasteful in this situation as the amount of power and torque required for traversing peak hour traffic is minimal. An electric motor can step in seamlessly, allowing for fuel conservation and emission reduction.
An electric motor is also suited to speeds under 60 Kph, which is pretty much the legal speed limit in most Indian cities. Also, the effective range of batteries powering the electric motor, limited to about 100-160 Kms, is suited more for distances within a city.
On the highway though, when extra grunt is required, an internal combustion engine (diesel/petrol) comes into its own. Like an electric motor, an internal combustion petrol/diesel engine doesn’t have range limitations dictated by the amount of charge that batteries store.
Therefore, a hybrid powertrain consisting of an internal combustion engine and electric motor offers the best of both worlds, on demand. Car makers across the world have already begun adding hybrid powertrains to their car models in a big way. While this segment is nascent in India, with only the Toyota Prius and Camy Hybrids being the cars on offer, the future is likely to see many more car models in the hybrid space.
Mahindra’s plans for the hybrid car space
While the current crop of hybrid cars sold around the world use a powertrain system consisting of an internal combustion engine (petrol/diesel), an electric motor, lithium ion batteries and an automatic gearbox, Mahindra’s foray into the hybrid space aims to do things differently. In a unique move, Mahindra plans to mate its diesel engine-electric motor to a manual gearbox.
The aim behind this move is to limit the costs of the hybrid powertrain system as automatic gearboxes are more expensive than manual gearboxes. Initial details emerging about Mahindra’s hybrid powertrain suggests lithium ion batteries sourced from Samsung and the manual transmission from ZF. Mahindra’s hybrid powertrain technology is likely to be first introduced on flagship models such as the XUV500 and the Scorpio SUVs, eventually being adapted to cars across the Mahindra range.
The hybrid system is aimed at reducing fuel consumption by a full 20 % and tail-pipe emissions by a significant chunk. However, the addition of a hybrid powertrain is likely to push up the cost of Mahindra vehicles, a tight rope walk that the Indian automaker will have to take. For that, Mahindra will be leaning on the Indian government’s ambitious subsidy support for electric and hybrid vehicles. April 2014 is when subsidies for electric and hybrid vehicles could come into force, under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020.