New Indian-made electric car to hit the roads
Top Indian utility vehicle maker M&M on Monday launched the most advanced home-grown electric car yet seen, pricing it at $11 000 and saying it hopes to sell the hatchback abroad next year.
The four-seater, two-door e2o -- pronounced "ee-too-oh" -- has zero emissions, an 80 kmh (50 mph) top speed, is automatic and can run for 100 kilometres on a single charge.
The new car boasts 10 onboard computers analysing core functions and sending alerts if anything needs fixing -- a feature usually found in costlier cars -- and can be fully charged in five hours from a 15A power socket.
"This is our vision of the future of mobility," M&M chairman Anand Mahindra told reporters in New Delhi.
"We need to make a clean energy future," he said, warning that the nation of 1.2 billion people "is at a tipping point" with vehicle emissions increasingly blamed for respiratory and other illnesses and environmental problems.
"Eco-friendly transport (is) the need of the hour", he said, with M&M targeting affluent families wanting a car for city jaunts or as a second vehicle. It is looking at selling the car abroad starting next year in Europe and Africa.
The car is the fruit of the $16 billion M&M group's 2010 purchase of a controlling stake in Indian electric vehicle maker Reva, pioneered by engineer Chetan Maini, as part of a green technology drive.
Maini, who stayed with the firm, told AFP the hatchback was a "game-changing" vehicle compared to the tiny, boxy two-seater Reva, derided by critics as a "golf cart".
The Reva, known as the G-Wiz in Britain, ended production in 2012 after selling fewer than 5 000 units globally over a decade, with buyers reluctant to pay a premium price for a tiny car.
While the e2o, priced at 596 000 rupees ($11 000), is as much as 300,000 rupees dearer than petrol hatchbacks of a similar size, M&M said fuel savings could total 70 000 rupees annually. The car can also be charged under a solar canopy, saving on energy costs.
The vehicle, to be manufactured at a 30 000-unit-capacity plant in Bangalore, has no oil filters, spark plugs or radiators, reducing maintenance costs.
"It's a quantum leap from the Reva, but it's costly, and we don't have a sufficient pan-India charging network yet. People may not find it practical," Hormazd Sorabjee, editor of leading car magazine Autocar India, told AFP.
Energy-hungry India's endemic power outages have also sparked concerns that owners might not be able to re-charge batteries at home when needed.
M&M is banking on India's government following through with an ambitious $4 billion plan to support an electric vehicle network aimed at having six million electric vehicles on the road by 2020.
A senior company executive said Mahindra Reva would "be happy" to initially sell 400 to 500 cars a month.