8 out of 10 Indians buy Maruti Suzuki cars for the high fuel efficiency cars with the Maruti badge on the bonnet bring to the table. India’s obsession with high fuel economy even prompted Maruti Suzuki to run an ad campaign called “Kitni Deti Hai”, an Hindi phrase literally meaning, “what mileage does this vehicle deliver?”. Future Maruti Suzuki small cars could jump on to the hybrid bandwagon even as engineers explore every possibility of stretching that liter of the golden stuff. Currently, Maruti Suzuki is said to be mulling the viability of launching a hybrid small car in India.
Now, a hybrid small car will include an electric motor and a petrol/diesel engine, to make for a more fuel efficient option than cars that are powered solely by petrol of diesel engines. For shorter distance, the hybrid car can be powered by the electric motor while the petrol engine could be used for longer distances. In fact, Maruti Suzuki does offer an option similar to this through its LPG-Petrol and CNG-Petrol dual fuel cars. Drivers of dual fuel Maruti cars usually use LPG/CNG for city use and switch to petrol for longer distances.
Given that Maruti Suzuki makes small cars that spend majority of their time traversing short distance in city traffic, a hybrid car makes eminent sense for the brand. However, the biggest challenge surrounding hybrid cars is the higher cost factor that this technology is priced at. Lithium Ion batteries, used to power the electric motor on hybrid cars, continue to be an expensive proposition, pushing up the cost of building hybrid cars. Currently, the only hybrid car that’s sold in India is the Toyota Prius, a car that’s imported directly from Japan. The Prius costs about INR 30 lakhs in India, mainly due to the high import duties.
However, the hybrid car Maruti Suzuki could produce is expected to cost well under INR 10 lakhs, given Maruti cars’ traditional positioning. The Indian government has come up with a National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, a plan that subsidizes the development of electric and hybrid car technology to encourage production of fuel efficient cars in the country. With this development, Maruti Suzuki might be looking at the NEMMP 2020 for building the new hybrid small car. As of now, Maruti Suzuki is yet to announce concrete plans regarding its hybrid small car.