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Maruti looking at Hybrids and CNG instead of EVs

Most of the Automajors have launched and indicated a strong focus on EV’s in the immediate short term and medium-term period. Maruti Suzuki, the country's leading car marker, too would have launched its EV in 2020 as per its original plan. However, this has not happened.

The Wagon R-based EV was supposed to be the one that was being discussed very keenly. However, now, as per Mr.Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director – Marketing and Sales, the company doesn’t see a case for introducing an EV yet because, “you can’t make a definitive change to the environment without actually having the volume, without a practical, sustainable large-scale project of EVs. And I think that’s where the situation is at the moment in India.”.

Srivastava was speaking in a panel discussion to take stock of the Indian auto industry’s current status. However, he believes that the industry shift to EV’s will happen, eventually. It will be driven by the development in Battery Technology; and how fast it happens.

Maruti Suzuki is betting on “Smart Hybrids and CNG” till the transition to EVs happens. Mr.Shrivastava expressed that before EV’s happen in a big way, there will be a transition through the Hybrid platform. A lot of powertrain components are common between Hybrids and EV’s, and the Government needs to support this transition. The government support to hybridization would help in developing localization for EV technologies too, and develop as a base for EVs.

A fast shift to the EV platform, from the ICE platform, would happen when parity is reached; and fast, on the cost of the Powertrains of EV and ICE platforms.In Europe and USA, the ICE platform powertrain costs USD 8,000-9,000 (about Rs 5.8-6.5 lakh) while it is USD 16,000 (about Rs 11.6 lakh) for an EV powertrain.

Once parity is achieved; and with running costs of EVs being comparatively lower, the shift to EVs’ will happen very rapidly. The challenges on this journey, shift to EV’s, including the time set to reach parity in 2023 is, possibly, another 5-6 years away.

And there are challenges in developing charging infrastructure rapidly, especially for compact cars, which are more substantial in numbers in India. Srivastava says, once the parity is achieved, “then there will be no real economic logic (to not shift to EVs) because the running cost of EVs is lesser”.

The rising fuel prices are also driving the shift to CNG-run vehicles meanwhile. During the Apr – Ded period, the PV market dipped by 17% but the CNG Vehicle segment grew by a healthy 25%. Maruti has a bigger challenge to grow more than the others due to it withdrawing from the Diesel Segment since 01 April 2020. Diesel Vehicle made up about 25% of its sales volumes just 2 years back.

The CNG variants have almost covered the void now, as per Mr.Srivastava. During the period Apr 20 – Jan 21, CNG vehicles contributed about 11% to total Maruti Vehicle sales. CNG sales in FY2021 are expected to touch 1,40,000 units. He also pointed out that from a peak level of 70% contribution six years back, Diesel Vehicles now contribute about 17% to total volumes now. We had also shared a report previously on the increasing sales of Maruti's CNG models (here).

However, Maruti is watching the developments closely. Especially in the SUV; and within that compact SUV segment, where Diesel Vehicles contribute about 30% of the total volumes. In the other segments, Diesel Vehicles are hardly 0.5 to 2% of total sales in that segment.

Maruti Suzuki has initiated processes to upgrading its Manesar plan to develop BS6 Diesel engines for its Vitara Brezza SUV and Ertiga MPV for the festive period. This is on the lines of the statement of Mr.R.C.Bhargava, Chairman, when the company exited Diesel Engines on 31 March 2020, that if the customer so demands, the company will again market and sell diesel engines.

On the above, Mr.Srivastava expressed that the customers in the SUV segment are not totally keyed in on the concept of economic operation; and the segment would continue to see traction in Diesel Engine technology.

In 2030, the industry volume is expected to be around 70 million, of which ICE platform would be around 63-65 million. And it would be more feasible to look at hybrid and CNG. The Green Vehicle mission of Maruti Suzuki would be hence driven by Hybrid and CNG technology, clearly.

Source: Autocar India


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