New Indian-made electric car to hit the roads


Top Indian utility vehicle maker M&M yesterday launched the most advanced home-grown electric car yet seen, pricing it at US$11,000 (RM34,100) 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 80kmh 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 US$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 (RM34,100), 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 US$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.

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