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Auto Expo 2018: 50 Electric and hybrid vehicles to be unveiled

 Nearly 50 electric and hybrid vehicles will be unveiled at Auto Expo 2018 that starts in Greater Noida this week, in what will be an affirmation of automakers' commitment to India's ambitious goal on electric mobility.

Most of these vehicles will be working models that are two or three years away from making their way on to the road, unlike in other auto shows where electric vehicles are seen largely in concept forms. These products will also be relevant to India, with a majority of them positioned in the affordable segment.

The automobile industry is now seriously concerned with the government’s decision to have a majority of new vehicles on the roads should be electric-powered by 2030 to cut down both the vehicular pollution and crude oil imports.
 
Automakers from Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai Motor to Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, Toyota Motor, Renault, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are showcasing electric-automotive technologies at the Auto Expo. Electric mobility specialists like Sweden's Uniti and two-wheeler makers such as Honda Motorcycle & Scooter will also bring their products to the exposition.

Maruti Suzuki, which is working on a 2020 launch of its first affordable electric car, will showcase the futuristic concept e-Survivor at the show. It will also display a working model of its next-generation hybrid technology, which powers the Suzuki Solio in Japan.

Maruti Suzuki managing director Kenichi Ayukawa  has said "What is of foremost importance is it has to be acceptable to our customers."

The company has commenced market surveys and is engaging with partners to set up an ecosystem for electric vehicles in India, he said.

Hyundai Motor's Indian unit will display vehicles from the Ioniq range — both pure electric and hybrid vehicles and it is likely to introduce an electric vehicle in India in 2019, a year ahead of Maruti Suzuki.

"We want to test the acceptance of electric vehicles in the Indian market," Hyundai Motor India managing director YK Koo said. "We will start with imports of completely knocked down units in 2019. We will look at local manufacturing as the market matures."

Home-grown Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Motors have announced plans to showcase half a dozen electric vehicles each at the expo. Toyota Kirloskar Motors will display a pure electric vehicle, two hybrids and a plug-in-hybrid, while Kia is bringing a pure electric vehicle and two plug-inhybrid vehicles. French carmaker Renault will have its Zoe e-Sport on display, while BMW will have the i8 and the i3s and Mercedes-Benz, the concept EQ.


No automobile manufacturer who has a sizeable business can afford to miss out on this wave, said Mahindra managing director Pawan Goenka.

"I presume that vehicles that will be showcased at the Auto Expo will be vehicles that are right for India, which are different from the vehicles for the rest of the world," he said.

The Western world talks about the range of 300 kms and above, which is not relevant for India, Goenka said. The vehicle range can be extended, but that will make them expensive, he said.

What makes it extremely challenging to sell electric cars in India is the price, he said. Fleet and government purchases are likely to gain pace before personal buyers come to market, he added.

"Electric vehicles are inevitable," said Renault India managing director Sumit Sawhney. "Once the policy roadmap is in place, we can get an estimate of volumes and work on bringing an electric car quickly to India."
 
Globally, the Renault-Nissan alliance has plans to introduce a dozen EVs by 2022. Work is also on for an electric variant of the small car Kwid, which will first be introduced in China.

Among others, Sweden's Uniti has formed a strategic alliance with the Bird Group for its India entry.

Bird Group executive director Ankur Bhatia said they would display a two-seater electric car at the exhibition to gauge consumer sentiment. "We plan to bring on road a product customised to market requirements here in the next 2-3 years", he said.

Companies like Aftek Motors, Desmoto Electric, Goldstone Infratech, Greenrick, Hero Electric and Tuk Factory would also be displaying their prowess in the field of electric vehicles at Auto Expo 2018.

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