Mahindra Reva’s e2o is a new-generation electric car that has had a long gestation period. It started life as the NXR concept designed by Dilip Chhabria (DC), benefited hugely by the experience of Mahindra when the Indian UV maker bought into the company and is today built in a futuristic, all-new state-of-the-art plant in Bangalore. Electric cars haven’t managed to penetrate into the mainstream and the company’s earlier car, the Reva i was pretty far off from being either practical or useable. The new e2o, however, promises to deliver more of both.
It achieves this partially. It is a two-door car, so access to the rear seats is poor, luggage space is limited, and then there’s the fact that you can’t roll the rear windows down. Generic electric car limitations reduce practicality as well. A full charge takes five hours and the car has a real-world range of 80-90 kilometres (Reva claims a range of 100km). Still, if these don’t bother you too much or if you can get around the said issues, Reva’s new electric car is a huge step forward.
Mahindra has done a decent job of translating DC’s NXR concept into the production e2o, but as often happens; a considerable amount has been lost in translation. Fit and finish of the multi-layer high-impact plastic body is improved, but some large gaps, like the one for the door, remain.
The big surprise, however, is that once you are sat in the back, the rear seat is actually quite roomy, comfortable and useable. The front seats are even more comfortable with plenty of thigh support from the wide seats. Even things like the roof lining and dashboard fit and finish don’t disappoint. A large touchscreen interface has been well integrated and the monochrome digital speedo-slash-information pod looks sufficiently high tech. There are still a few tacky bits like the gear selector and the power window switches, but overall, the insides really do work.
First impressions from the behind the wheel are pretty good too. The pedals are massively off-set and take getting used to, and the gearlever also is a bit fiddly. Squeeze the accelerator, however, and the e2o takes off from rest smoothly and in a jerk-free manner and it is quite easy to keep pace with traffic.
But ask for more power or a sudden burst of acceleration and the e2o disappoints. For improved performance you need to select ‘B’ or ‘boost’ via the gear selector. Once you do this, throttle reposes are slightly sharper and there’s a bit more tug in the mid-range. Acceleration till around 40kph is quite strong, but after that the power delivery soon tails off even in boost mode. And the e2o tops off around 80kph.
Mechanical refinement has also been improved vastly over the earlier car. The electric motor only whines at high speed and the suspension works in a near-silent manner. The e2o’s ride also comes as a pleasant surprise. It is silent and comfortable even over big bumps, which is great. The soft suspension means that there is a bit of body roll when you steer into corners and handling isn’t sharp. The non-powered steering also could get heavy at parking speeds with a full load.
The e2o’s mechanical layout is similar to earlier Revas. Its uses a tubular and box section chassis, the body is made of high-strength plastic and the electric motor sits behind the rear wheels. The all-important lithium-ion batteries are placed below the front seats. The new car has been crash-tested in Spain, it uses 10 on-board computers and Reva has come up with a number of innovative solutions for which it has filed 30-odd patents. You can plan your trip with the help of Google Maps, the software telling you how far you can go before having to turn back. You get an additional 10km of ‘limp home’ range before your battery completely dies and Reva can even ‘revive’ your dead battery and give you a further 10km still, all via a remote link to your car. A 15-minute quick charge can get you 25 additional kilometres, you are connected to the car via a phone app that can start your air-con for you, lock and unlock the Reva, and the company even sells a solar charger for the car for approximately Rs 1.5 lakh (The Sun2Car program can get you a free 50-60 percent charge every day, sunlight willing).
The e2o is not as practical as an everyday hatch. The two-door configuration means access to the rear is poor, the batteries have a limited range and build and construction aren’t really up there with most hatches from Hyundai or Maruti. Accept its limitations, however, and the e2o is a surprisingly usable city car. It is a bit underpowered, but it is smooth, silent, easy to drive, surprisingly high on tech, and at the end of the day, has what it takes to get the job done. Mahindra will launch the car in six cities in the first phase. Prices in Delhi start at Rs 5.96 lakh (on-road) after a subsidy from the state government to the tune of Rs 1.8 lakh. But even at this price, the car isn’t cheap. Look at prices outside Delhi (see table below) where very little subsidy exists and prices are well into saloon segment levels. This makes the e2o difficult to justify as a logical buy, even when you consider the negligible running costs. Like most electric cars around the world, this is a car you buy if you like the idea of owning and driving an electric vehicle; it’s as simple as that.