Toyota Prius is only hybrid available in India, but Maruti may change that

Petrol-electric and diesel-electric hybrid cars have not caught the fancy of Indian buyers at all. Even the Toyota Prius, which is the world’s best-selling petrol-electric hybrid and is available in India at Rs. 29 lakh ex-showroom, hardly gets any buyers.

However, a tiny news report on CNBC, published on a few weeks ago suggests that Maruti may be mulling a small petrol-electric hybrid car for India that will be a lot more affordable. The report states that the car is being co-developed by Maruti and Suzuki engineers, but it is still at a nascent stage. However, given the rising cost of petroleum fuel products and lack of charging stations for pure electric cars, a switch to petrol-electric or diesel-electric hybrids seems the most viable option for the time being. Also read: Five car types we need in India now

Toyota Prius is only hybrid available in India, but Maruti may change that

A case for more hybrids

Currently, the Toyota Prius is the only true hybrid car in India. It is powered by a 1.8 litre petrol engine that puts out 98 bhp of power in series with a 35 bhp electric motor, totally putting out 134 bhp of power. The vehicle can run only on the electric motor or together with the petrol motor, giving excellent fuel economy of over 25 kmpl on petrol, with power output equal to most best-selling mid-size sedans. The car is designed as a five-door notchback, and features tech such as regenerative braking, no drive belts, limited emission and is incredibly silent as well. Also read: Govt framing norms for hybrid cars

Toyota Prius is only hybrid available in India, but Maruti may change that

In 2008, Honda attempted to get into the hybrid market in India with the Honda Civic hybrid – which was imported into India as a completely built unit and priced at an astronomical Rs. 22 lakh, when the regular Civic was selling at about Rs. 13 lakh. The car had a 1.3 litre petrol engine and 60Kw electric motor that would propel the car till 40kmph, after which the 110-bhp petrol motor took over and the batteries got recharged. The car had few takers and Honda had to do a distress sale at Rs. 13.5 lakh a piece (that, of course, got sold out in days).

Today, though after petrol prices have gone up by nearly Rs. 30 a litre compared to 2008 levels, the only options that exist are the upcoming Mahindra E20 all-electric car that is good for about 60-80 km a day of regular use and is likely to cost about Rs. 5 lakh or the expensive Toyota Prius. With the former, range anxiety is a reality – as you are limited to only electric power. With the latter, it’s not affordable to many. Also read:Mahindra E20 launch delayed

Can Maruti really bridge this gap with an affordable hybrid? It’s too soon to call, but this market is wide open right now.

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