Former senior principal correspondent at Forbes (India). Since 2008, I have been writing on corporate strategy in the automobiles, clean technology and supply chain space. Before I got onto this assignment, I was part of the team that covered feature articles at The Economic Times. I actually started out as a trainee journalist on the ET desk in 2006. I graduated in commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi and now live in Mumbai. I love automobiles and spend hours reading up on them and then devote painfully long hours to work on old cars that attract my fancy. Right now I own four cars (my colleagues call them fancy, junk or whatever) and a bicycle which outside my work hours get most of my attention.
Earlier yesterday, I had a long chat with Chetan Maini, the chief technology & strategy officer at Mahindra Reva. Mr. Maini has been the electric vehicle (EV) evangelist in India for a long, long time. His first attempt at cracking the EV market (way back in 2001) was with the Revai, produced and sold by the Reva Electric Car Company. The Revai didn’t do well. For several reasons: the car was too small even by small car standards (seating of 2 adults and 2 children), practical problems of where to charge the battery, cost of replacing the lead acid battery every 3 odd years, a limited range of 80 kms and poor speed.
In 2010, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) bought a controlling stake in Reva. Now over the last two years, Mr. Maini has been busy putting all the technology bits together to launch the second generation of the Revai called the ‘e2o’. The car is ready and should be launched in the next month or two. But the question is; will you buy it? Mahindra Reva is confident that you will. A good way to look at this might be to understand, what has changed in the last decade.
Here’s what I have picked up from my conversation with Mr. Maini.
-99 percent of the customers of the e2o will charge the car at home or work. So the first level of infrastructure to charge the car is already there. Coming home and plugging in the car could be second nature for users
-You care about global warming
-You care about your rising petrol/diesel bills
-Government policy is changing. It recognizes the fact that EVs need to be promoted so it may soon incentivize usage by tax breaks and investments in R&D. The government is working on a policy document called electric mobility 2020
-5 percent of all cars sold in Norway were electric cars in 2012
-Compared to the lead acid battery in the Revai, the e2o has a lithium ion battery. This is about four times lighter, about 250 kg in absolute terms. This is a significant reduction in weight which will translate into better power.
-Life span of the lithium ion battery is about three times longer. So earlier if you had issues of replacing the lead acid battery every 3 odd years, in the e2o the battery will last more than five years. Mr. Maini adds, “significantly longer depending on usage”.
-The lithium ion battery is maintenance free.
-Thanks to the development in battery technology, the e2o will give full power right till the end.
-A full charge for e2o shall consume about 10 units compared to 8 of the Revai. The cost depends on the tariffs in different states in India. It could range from Rs 3 to Rs 7 per unit. Or we could say that the electricity bill for a 1000 km usage may be Rs 400 to Rs 700 due different tariffs in different states.
-It will take five hours to completely charge the e2o. The Revai would take eight hours or more.
-Now you can opt for a fast charging station. The total charging time gets reduced to an hour. Currently, no such public charging station exists in the country.
-Mr. Maini claims that the e2o will have a range of 160 km. The earlier Revai had a range of 80 km.
-Mahindra Reva will work towards building the second level of charging infrastructure. “In malls or where you have seen a lot of communities put it up. Here the policy of the government has a big role.
-The e2o will seat 4 full-grown adults
So will this EV be India's Prius, what do you think?