With India focused on an electric vehicle future, some in the industry believe that hybrids are best ignored. Speaking at the EV Forum event organised by our sister publication, Autocar Professional, Suman Mishra, CEO, Mahindra Electric, and Anand Kulkarni, product line director, EV and Passenger Vehicle Unit, Tata Motors, both asserted their belief that India is ready to directly leapfrog into a pure-EV era. With traditional barriers of electric vehicles such as range, charging and cost gradually blurring out, hybrid vehicles will be increasingly less relevant, more so, from an environmental point of view.
- Government policies greatly favour pure EVs over hybrids
- EVs have closed the cost disadvantage to hybrid vehicles
- Range anxiety and charging infrastructure issues gradually being addressed
Government incentives greatly accelerating EV adoption
“In India, policies are not necessarily very conducive for hybrids and they [hybrids] are quite expensive. So, the government has given us a very clear ask with its EV-specific schemes. This is very clear from the government standpoint that lets us directly leapfrog into BEVs,” said Suman Mishra.
For its part, the Indian government has significantly been pushing the adoption of EVs. With the government’s recent PLI scheme, the FAME II scheme and several state EV policies all greatly incentivising both purchase and manufacturing of EVs, awareness among consumers has grown considerably. Consequently, EV sales have picked up significantly in the recent past.
“There is going to be an adequate period when all types of powertrains are going to coexist – petrol, diesel, CNG, hybrids and BEVs – it’s not going to switch overnight. However, my understanding of the macro behaviour of India and the policies is that we will probably directly leapfrog into BEVs,” added Mishra.
Hybrids no longer have convincing benefits over EVs
What made hybrid vehicles relevant, even a few years ago, were the traditional problems of range anxiety, charging infrastructure and high costs of EVs. However, with governments pushing for EVs and automakers across the world investing billions of dollars in developing fully electric portfolios, the tipping point is near to where battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will resolve the very problems that required hybrids in the first place. Furthermore, with the prices of batteries drastically reducing and incentives on EVs, the cost difference between hybrids and full electrics isn’t that much.
Speaking of costs, Kulkarni said, “Today, if you see, it’s almost come to a point where if you decide to package a reasonably sized and reasonably adequate hybrid power system, it will probably start to compete with an electric powertrain vehicle in terms of price.”
For reference, the Tata Nexon EV currently tops out at Rs 16.85 lakh (ex-showroom, excluding subsidies). Meanwhile, the upcoming Honda City Hybrid, which uses a strong or full-hybrid system, is expected to cost around Rs 16 lakh (ex-showroom). So that neither leaves hybrids with any significant cost advantage over EVs, nor are they completely emissions free.
Also speaking at the event was Chetan Maini, co-founder and vice-president, Sun Mobility, who is perhaps best known for building India’s first electric car, the Reva. He said, “It [hybrids] probably made sense 20 years ago. At this point, we need a solution from an energy and an environmental point of view, and for both perspectives, electrics make a lot more sense. In hybrids, you continue to keep the complexities of an engine, and add the complexities of electric. However, with range anxiety being addressed with pure EVs, we are finally giving the consumers a better experience.”
Other carmakers continue to push for hybrids
However, not all are aboard the EV train. While our homegrown manufacturers are clearly betting big here, in stark contrast, Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest automaker, has so far steered clear. While announcing Maruti Suzuki’s FY2021 annual report in August, the company’s chairman, RC Bhargava, had said that India is not ready for the mass adoption of EVs just yet. “Our strategy for moving towards net zero emission has to be consistent with the economic and infrastructure conditions prevailing in the country,” said Bhargava.
Instead, Maruti Suzuki has been reliant on CNG and mild-hybrid vehicles as stepping stones towards achieving net zero emissions. Even globally, Suzuki firmly believes that, at least in the near future, hybrids are the way to go. Among other carmakers echoing this sentiment are Toyota, which is globally renowned for its hybrid systems in models like the Corolla and Camry. Particularly in the Indian context, where charging stations and infrastructure are the main challenges, Toyota believes that hybrids are the most practical solution for reducing fuel consumption and curbing pollution.