Strong hybrids need to replace ICE models and not EVs: Maruti Suzuki executive – ET Auto


Citing an instance of Maruti Suzuki’s vehicles, he said the strong hybrid variant of Grand Vitara gives a 26% reduction in CO2 and 36% increase in fuel efficiency compared with the ICE model.

Strong hybrid vehicles should replace models powered by fossil fuels and not be seen as an alternative to pure electric vehicles (EVs), a senior executive at Maruti Suzuki India said.

Even if India’s auto industry pushes for pure EVs, their share in sales will not reach 80% or 100% of the automobile market even in the next 10-15 years, Rahul Bharti, executive officer – corporate affairs at Maruti Suzuki, said Saturday at the automaker’s monthly media call.

For the balance, ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, there will still be a need for a technology solution to improve CO2 and energy efficiency and hybrids can play an important role there, Bharti said. Strong hybrid vehicles can run either on the electric mode or on fossil fuels, or both.

Bharti’s statement comes as carmakers in India spar over the merits of EVs and hybrids.

“We are seeing some wrong comparisons going on in the market. The debate is not between EV and strong hybrids. Both are excellent technologies. Both need to be encouraged. The debate is between strong hybrids and internal combustion engines. I cannot imagine a situation, and nobody can justify why ICE should be preferred over a strong hybrid,” Bharti said.

While India’s auto industry has been divisive on the matter for many years, the differences are getting starker amid the murmurs in the policy corridors of strong hybrids likely getting a cess reduction in the upcoming GST Council meeting. This was preceded by the comment by Nitin Gadkari, minister of road transport and highways, in April that he has proposed reducing GST on strong hybrid vehicles to 5% and flex engines to 12% to the finance ministry. India levies GST at 5% on EVs and between 28-43% on hybrids.

PB Balaji, chief financial officer at Tata Motors Group, said last month that hybrids were being used for lower tax breaks rather than lower emission levels. For this he cited a report by Brussels-based think tank Transport & Environment, which said plug-in hybrids did not reduce emission but made it worse. “The report said that most people who brought hybrids drove on petrol only because hybrids were used more for tax breaks rather than for zero carbon,” he said during an earnings media call on 12 May.

Hybrids reduce CO2 and improve energy efficiency, Bharti said. “It was reported incorrectly that in a strong hybrid, the driver or the user has the option to run in pure IC engine mode. That is not true. In a strong hybrid electric vehicle, it is the computer that optimises both the drive trains, the IC engine and the battery motor combination and there is no option given to the driver to run in pure ICE mode,” he said. “And the technology is so powerful that it delivers a strong increase in energy efficiency.”

Citing an instance of Maruti Suzuki’s vehicles, he said the strong hybrid variant of Grand Vitara gives a 26% reduction in CO2 and 36% increase in fuel efficiency compared with the ICE model. In the case of the Invicto, energy efficiency is up by 44% while CO2 reduction is 30%.

While Japanese carmakers led by Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar and Honda Cars believe that strong hybrids — which is not dependent on the charging infrastructure — is a good solution till the country is fully prepared to embrace EVs, homegrown automakers such as Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra have chosen to focus only on EVs to meet their carbon-reduction goals. The share of non-fossil power in India has to reach 44% for EV emissions to break even with hybrids and this may take 7-10 years. Hybrids therefore remain a practical medium-term solution (5-10 years) for India’s decarbonisation strategy, according to a recent research report by HSBC Global Research.

Mahindra is watching the developments. It is closely examining hybrid technology for the Indian market, Mahindra Group managing director and CEO Anish Shah said in an earnings press meet last month. “From a consumer demand standpoint, if they (hybrids) become a bigger factor, we would be ready for that. We view hybrids as an extension of ICE. If there are significant changes in hybrid technology that make it much more like an EV, then that’s something we would go with much faster. At this point in time, we feel good about the focus on EVs, we are ready for hybrids, and are looking at hybrid technologies closely,” he said.

  • Published On Jun 3, 2024 at 10:15 AM IST

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Strong hybrids need to replace ICE models and not EVs: Maruti Suzuki executive - ET Auto



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