If you think about it, the e2o is the first ‘car’ that Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) has developed in-house and it’s an electric one. The Verito doesn’t really count as it’s been handed down by Renault and the rest of M&M’s products are all UVs, SUVs, trucks and even bikes. Call it a leap of faith or an attempt to gain the first-mover advantage, but M&M has just launched the only electric car on sale in India, putting it first in line to cash in on an Electric Vehicle (EV) revolution that’s yet to happen. In fact, the world has far from embraced EVs. The reasons are well known – EVs are not a viable proposition due to their high price, limited range and an overall lack of practicality, and India may take a generation more than the developed world to see an en masse shift towards them. However, with the e2o, M&M is hopeful that it can kickstart the EV movement. So will the e2o find early adopters?
As a pure EV, the e2o has a lot going for it. For starters, it feels like a proper car, unlike the toy-like Reva-i that it’s replaced. It’s a pukka four seater, it’s fairly well equipped and it comes across as a car that you can live with. Huge hurdles still remain, like the limited range and the lack of practicality. But the biggest one is the on-road price, which is Rs 6.24 lakh for the T2 variant in Delhi (despite a Rs 1.8 lakh subsidy) and soars to Rs 7.67 lakh (on-road) in non-subsidised Bangalore.
Is the e2o worth making a shift to green motoring? We’ve put this car through a rigorous test to see if it’s worth the extra money and how easy it is to live with.
The first thing that strikes you when you drive the e2o out of a tight parking spot is the lack of power steering. It’s not quite as heavy as the Nano’s, but for such a small car, it calls for undue effort. As you pick up speed, the steering lightens up, but it’s not very precise and, sadly, doesn’t play to the car’s agile nature (the turning circle diameter is a dime-sized 7.8m) and diminutive dimensions.
The e2o is great for darting in and out of traffic, but there is a fair amount of body roll. What’s more, beyond 60kph, crosswinds affect the e2o, and it rocks from side to side, especially more so when a large vehicle overtakes at speed. However, the amount the car leans looks more alarming than it actually is. That’s because the hefty battery pack keeps the centre of gravity quite low, and once you get used to the unusual dynamics of the car, it gives you a certain confidence, even at top speed.
The ride quality is quite decent for a car with such a small wheelbase and on gentler imperfections, the soft suspension works impressively. However, sharp edges and deeper ruts crash through with the suspension using up all its travel and transmitting the shock to the cabin.
Mahindra claims a range between recharges of 100km but the fine print says that this is ‘under test conditions’. In the real world (we put the e2o through our urban cycle test with the aircon on constantly), the range is a function of how you use the e2o. Sticking to F mode and driving gently, we could safely cover 88km. Driving in Boost mode only (until the car automatically switches to power saving mode when there is less than 20 percent charge left), saw the range drop to 62km.
It would be easy to view this as a very limiting factor, but considering that the vast majority of e2os will be second cars and used for limited commutes, you can quite easily live with this range.
The long five hours it takes to charge is not very practical and you have to plan things in advance if you are going to use the car regularly. Another drawback is the 15 amp socket required, which is not easy to find.
It’s hard to calculate the running costs of the e2o, but for all practical purposes, the cost of electricity is negligible. However, each full charge should cost Rs. 50 and for a comfortable range of 75km that should work out to 66 paise per kilometre, which is nearly Rs 3 lower than the most fuel efficient diesel car today.
A bigger cost is that of the battery, which can cost upwards of Rs 2 lakh and is likely to need replacement after 4-5 years. Unlike an internal combustion engine however, the regular maintainance costs for the e2o are likely to be negligible.