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Global Economics

Indian Carmakers' Hybrid Plans

Tata and Mahindra & Mahindra are jumping onto the hybrid bandwagon, introducing vehicles at a fraction of the cost of Honda's Civic Hybrid

The auto industry seems to be high on hybrids. First, Honda rolled out its Civic Hybrid in India and now homegrown hybrids are due from Tata and Mahindra in the next three years. Taking their frugal engineering capabilities to a new level, Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) are developing affordable hybrid vehicles.

Jumping onto the hybrid bandwagon with their low-cost technologies, the two local majors are looking to roll out models that will cost a fraction of the Rs 21.5 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) that Honda's Civic sedan does. The Civic hybrid, India's first hybrid car, was launched on Wednesday. It is fully imported from Japan and thus attracts a high duty of over 100%.

The domestic majors are developing indigenous technology at a much lower tax burden. Hence the homegrown hybrids will come at a much lower price. According to sources, the Tata and M&M hybrid models will come at an additional cost of less than Rs 1 lakh to the existing range. Tata Motors has set a benchmark price of Rs 45,000 for the hybrid car technology while M&M's cost target is of around Rs 80,000 for its utility vehicle range.

Tata Motor is expected to launch a diesel and petrol-fired hybrid technology on its flagship model Indica. The smaller version of the same technology is also expected in its small car Nano. A Tata Motors executive said: "We are still in the research phase and it will take some time to roll out hybrid vehicles. We have already launched our electric technology in the mini-truck ACE and its improved version will follow in the Indica and Indigo range of cars."

M&M is also developing an affordable hybrid version primarily for its diesel vehicles, which will hit the market in the next two years. M&M senior vice-president R&D Arun Jaura told ET: "We are taking a totally different approach to developing the mechanical and electric hybrid technology. We are working on a new format of blending electronics, powerdrive, battery and software to develop an indigenised hybrid technology, ideal for Indian conditions.

It is currently under trial and I cannot reveal its price. We plan to provide seamless alternative mobility solution to the customers at very competitive prices." The company had already showcased a hyrbid Scorpio at the Auto Expo 2008 in New Delhi in January and is further improving the technology for commercial application.

Launching the new hybrid will also help these companies meet future emission norms in domestic and overseas markets. They can reduce the average CO2 emissions to meet stringent norms applicable in developed markets like Europe and North America.

"The hybrid technology will help these companies meet the advanced euro IV and V norms, which will come into force in the next decade. These companies are developing hybrid systems based on their new line of petrol and diesel engines that mate an electic motor with different automated and manual transmissions," said a source. These vehicles are expected to hit the Indian market early 2010.

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