Cars Made in India: A Survey of Indian Clean Car IndustryBy Cuong Huynh • Jul 22nd, 2009 • Category: Clean Car Talk Posts
India is becoming one of the most significant contributors to the car manufacturing industry. India’s name in the car industry has been practically synonymous with amazing breakthroughs especially in terms of car sizes and prices. Though not a giant in the global car market, India carmakers sure find ways to rock the market with their unusual offers. One of these is the iconic Tata Nano, which is currently one of the world’s cheapest cars, as well as the hybrid vehicle Scorpio from Mahindra and Mahindra and the electric car Reva G-Wiz. The Indian car manufacturers may not be churning out cars by the minute, but the cars they do come out with seem to command attention, because they are very affordable.
India is finding itself in a similar situation as China, where a huge population of consumers (approaching 1.2 billion people as of mid 2009) is increasing its consumption, and economic growth begins to add more demands for energy use. India has taken serious steps to begin mass production of clean cars such as hybrid cars and electric cars in the near future. In recent years, the concerns regarding global warming have propelled the Indian automotive industry to go in search of eco-friendly alternatives to help reduce pollution.
Hybrid cars including those made in India are expected to hit the Indian highways very soon. Hybrid cars will run on the combined power of electricity and an engine of various conventional fuels. Many world leading car industry pioneers already turned to the development of hybrid cars, and India certainly followed suit.
Indian Automobile Manufacturing Leaders
The development seen by India in the clean car industry is progressing thanks to pioneering Indian car manufacturing leader Mahindra and Mahindra on the native front and Honda Siel Cars India, Limited (HSCI) on the foreign import front. Honda Siel Cars India is the joint venture between the Indian company Siel Limited, a Siddharth Shriram Group company, and the Japanese car giant, Honda. The partnership has already introduced the gasoline-electric Honda Civic Hybrid to become the first hybrid car in India. Even though this is an imported model, it is setting the stage for more public knowledge and acceptance, and eventual manufacturing of India’s own hybrids.
Other global car manufacturing leaders such as Ford as well as Japanese giant Toyota, however, are also observing the Indian car market for its response to hybrid cars, testing the potentials of the market. Toyota is a recognized leader when it comes to clean cars with the famous Toyota Prius. The release of import hybrids like the Prius in India was only delayed due to the lack of governmental benefits the hybrid car manufacturers will receive. The case is the same with Ford, which sees the potential of hybrid cars in the Indian market but seems to be waiting for the perfect opportunity. In any case, these cleaner cars are seen as premium cars, and the majority of Indians won’t be able to afford them any time soon.
Mahindra & Mahindra Limited
Mahindra Hybrid Scorpio side view.
Photo courtesy www.motortrend.com.
Mahindra and Mahindra has come a long way and has already planned to introduce the Hybrid Scorpio, a diesel-electric hybrid version of their Scorpio SUV. It has also set up a center outside of Mumbai especially dedicated to advanced clean car discoveries such as diesel-hybrids. This, in itself, is a sign that the Indian car makers are dabbling in hybrid car technologies and concepts. However, as expected, the hybrid models will be sold at higher prices than the regular models, though they are designed to be more affordable in terms of usage.
The Hybrid Scorpio is quite promising, and is now held as the gauge as to how far India has come in the clean car market. The diesel-electric hybrid comes with four functions, a start-stop, an electric launch, a torque augmentation, and regenerative braking. It has a 2.2L 4-cylinder common rail diesel engine (CRDe) that provides 115 hp and 198 foot-pounds when it comes to torque. This is complemented by a 288-volt NiMH battery. The Scorpio’s powertrain even required the assistance of powertrain experts Robert Bosch, AVL, and FEV.
Hybrid Scorpios were also planned for a release to United States buyers by the year 2010. It does not take a car expert to tell you that this is one of the greatest challenge in the clean car industry since the U.S. has the highest emission standards in the world. For this reason, the plans for the United States release seem to be undergoing reconsideration.
The Indian Hybrid Car Market Challenge
Car manufacturers are also not launching full releases of their hybrid cars because of the high prices they need to charge for them. Indian hybrids are still priced quite high because they are not heavily supplied. Car manufacturers think that the clean car industry needs more time to grow, and with sufficient growth, the prices will be brought down. However, it seems that the Indian government is not pushing the clean car campaign far enough. Excise and custom taxes are also getting in the way of the hybrid cars finding their full growth in India.
This is in stark contrast to the full support that the government in China provides to its clean car industry, which includes tax benefits and subsidies to public transport fleets when clean cars are used. Infrastructure necessary for the maintenance and usage of clean cars such as clean fuels and electric charging stations are also part of the plan in China. It seems that the Indian consumers and carmakers alike can use a little push from the Indian government. Only then will India’s clean car industry be ready to welcome the hybrids with welcoming arms.
To be fair, affordability and infrastructure issues are still huge challenges for many Indian consumers. The recently available Tata Motors’ Tata Nano at between US$ 2,000 to US$ 2,500 price points will help bringing more indian citizens into car ownership. So the indian auto consumer base is still being established. Cleaner cars including the hybrid models will come eventually.
India and Hydrogen Vehicles
On the other hand, the Indian government seems to be paying more attention to hydrogen vehicles. In fact, the government has structured a plan including millions of vehicles that are all hydrogen-powered to be released by 2020. As of now, no hydrogen-powered cars have been fully introduced into the Indian market, but plans are underway. This move is quite surprising, though, since taking the full leap to hydrogen-powered cars without using hybrid cars as stepping stone seem more challenging than allowing hybrid cars the freedom to thrive in India. However, India has long held its position at the cutting edge of hydrogen energy technologies, which may be the reason why the hydrogen-powered cars are preferred over the hybrids.
Hydrogen will certain allow India to head off the expected worsening environmental issues. It’s a very aggressive plan and we’ll see how it plays out in the net few years.
India and Electric Cars
Aside from the hydrogen-powered cars, another alternative is the electric car. One of India’s best car makers now focus on the development of electric cars. Reva, an Indian carmaker, incorporated the Reva Electric Car Company back in 1994. It was set up as a joint venture with Maini Group of Bangalore and AEV LLC of California. Some years back, Reva created an eco-friendly battery electric vehicle called Reva or Reva G-Wiz that also offers good cost-efficiency aside from fuel-efficiency.
The REVAi, a light two-door sedan with lead-acid batteries, is quite small, with maximum speeds of 50 mph (80 km/h.) A newer model, the REVA L-ion, has lithium-ion batteries and a roof solar panel. It has a curb weight of just 1,250 lbs (565 kg,) charging time of 6 hours, and a nominal range of 75 miles (120 km.) It is known as one of the start up development toward the growth of the electric car industry. The original REVA (called REVA G-Wiz in the UK) does not offer much space, so it is not ideal for families. It also does not offer impressive mileage, but works quite well in light city driving.
The REVA car itself is a breakthrough. It is one of the most affordable cars to buy and to use, and even the United Kingdom’s PowerShift has recognized that it is the most energy-efficient vehicle in the industry. It has also passed extensive tests and high national standards successfully. The Reva G-Wiz is still out in the market and has been for some years now. It has not managed to wound its way to the United States, but has won acclaims from all over the UK, as well as from Germany, Switzerland, Nepal, Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Malta, Spain, Ireland, Japan, Sri Lanka, and Norway, among some others. The car has not yet received a thumbs up to enter the United States market and may never will.
Indian Car Ownership and Future Outlook
So far, the development of clean cars with hybrid and electric drive trains in India are quite limited to just some of the country’s car manufacturers. It is clear that in India, automobile ownership is still a struggling matter for many consumers. With only 0.7 to 0.8 % of Indian population owning a car, India has a long way to go, and the market for cleaner but more expensive cars are not currently sustainable.
India has a good technology and manufacturing base, which means that the country’s carmakers will continue to push their capabilities to manufacture their own clean cars. For now, India’s top priorities seem to evolve around affordability and environmentally-friendly considerations, that of putting affordable cars into the citizens’ hands, and planning for explosive growth in the future.
Cuong Huynh is a marketing communications consultant working in the San Diego area. Cuong is dedicated to helping individuals and companies maximize their presence on the Internet and efficiently take products and services to market through SEO and network marketing. Cuong also maintains a blog on Marketing at marketingautopsyblog.com. You can also find Cuong Huynh's profile on LinkedIn. For fun he maintains a blog on Vietnamese pho, soccer and do storyboards for movie and film projects. Follow Cuong on Twitter @CuongHuynh, @LovingPho, @CleanCarTalk, @BlockbusterFilm, @SoccerUSA.
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