Keeping up with the global developments in the electric mobility segment, India too is keeping pace with the momentum. However, the long jump straight to EVs essentially means that the hybrid phase has not been taken seriously and therefore, regulations have not been accommodated well.
Nevertheless, Japanese automotive players like Honda and Toyota have taken the lead, introducing the Indian buyers to the hybrid technology, which they believe will pave the way for the electrically driven future.
In the recent years, Maruti Suzuki India has been placing the mild-hybrid badge on its models. This means there is a small, low-voltage starter-generator technology that accelerates efficiency during initial propulsion and offers some torque support as well. This mild-hybrid tech however is not a long-term step in terms of cleaner mobility.
Next comes the plug-in hybrid technology that faces similar infrastructural challenges in order to utilise the electric components to the best productivity. This is why some companies believe self-charging hybrid is the apt technology that best fits the Indian market. This is where Japanese OEMs – Honda, Toyota and Suzuki, come into picture, bringing the self-hybrid tech into the 2022 arena.
The basic principle of the self-hybrid technology is that it uses the petrol-powered engine to generate electricity. This powers the electric drive motor and changes the battery, allowing the engine to run at peak efficiency – lowering the emissions and maximising the fuel economy.
Why self-hybrids are the best option is because they leave no reasons that bothers the user about charging related anxiety or refuelling, it’s as easy as an ICE vehicle. These self-hybrid vehicles are capable of running completely in the EV mode, unlike the other hybrid versions and the plus point is they can even run in the zero-emission mode.
It is not that India has been introduced to this technology for the very first time. There have been the premium modals before – like the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. The price range made these vehicles unaffordable for most of the buyers. And this is why the need to introduce affordable yet effective tech-enabled vehicles has been a long due.
Marking the presence, as the first mass market hybrid in the country, Honda City e:HEV entered with a Rs 19.5 lakh (ex-showroom price). Offered in a single, fully-loaded variant with added features. Practically, this can be worked upon and made more affordable, compromising with some comforts and conveniences.
Toyota is nowhere behind and plans to bring a new compact SUV, codenamed D22. The automaker believes in localising the process and making the hybrids more affordable. In view of this, Toyota has already announced its investment plan for setting up a local electrified manufacturing powertrain. The D22 will additionally be sold as a Maruti Suzuki model, expecting promising sales which will ultimately lead to reduced final prices.
Undoubtedly, EVs are the future of mobility. But as far as the current scenario in the country is concerned, carmakers will take some time to bring the best range forth. At present, the EVs are unlikely to deliver a real-world driving range, despite all the claims. And this situation is not going to change anytime soon.
At present, Tata Motors is the only carmaker that offers a range of affordable EVs – Tiago, Tigor, and Nexon – with the claimed range going above 300km on a single charge under the Rs 20 lakh budget. But these EV variants are 50 percent costlier than their ICE counterparts.
Therefore, it won’t be wrong if we move on with the hybrids for now till the cost of EVs comes down and the charging infrastructure is readily available. Since in all practicality, hybrids are just a step forward while the supporting infrastructure for EVs is ready in every way.
Japanese OEMs have been pushing for reducing the taxes otherwise but the government does not seem to be in the mood to reduce the same. At present, hybrid vehicles are amongst the highest taxed in the GST bracket.