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Maruti Suzuki is planning to launch hybrid cars in 3 to 5 years

India’s largest car company, Maruti Suzuki,  is working on an ambitious plan to launch electric cars and compressed natural gas (CNG) variants for three or four models in the domestic market. The plan is part of the company’s broad strategy to develop small cars that run on alternative fuel technology.

“We are developing electric car technology for India. But it might take us up to the next five years or more to manufacture and sell electric cars in the domestic market,” said Maruti Suzuki Managing Director Shinzo Nakanishi.

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Maruti Suzuki Chairman R C Bhargava, added, “We are working on multi-fuel variants and some models have been identified for CNG. A CNG kit currently costs over Rs 40,000 and that is expensive. Also, these cars can only be launched in 2010 or 2011, when there is a pan-India CNG filling system from companies like Reliance.”

Bhargava pointed out that even Delhi lacked sufficient CNG filling systems for commercial vehicles. The company has already launched LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) variants of the Maruti 800 and Wagon R.

Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan, which holds 54.2 per cent in Maruti Suzuki, has already taken some major R& D initiatives in alternative fuels, including developing fuel cell technology in partnership with General Motors of the US. The company is using the mid-sized SX4 to conduct R&D in Japan for hybrid technology. The fuel combination being tested is a mix of fuel cells and high-pressure hydrogen. Nakanishi did not specify if this technology was being considered for India. Earlier vehicles tested by Suzuki Japan for hybrid technology include small cars like the Wagon R for the Japanese market.

Nakanishi said the R&D unit in Japan is currently addressing two key challenges in developing electric cars for India — mileage per charge and price.

“Cars available in the domestic market can give, say, 120 km per charge. What they are implying is 120 km for a single passenger — which means the power is sufficient for the driver of the car alone,” said Nakanishi.

“If another passenger joins, the travel range per charge drops to 60 km. If a third persons sits behind the range drops to 30 km. We are trying to address the longer range of driving in our R&D work,” he explained.

On pricing, Nakanishi said, “You have Honda and Toyota, which have proven, commercially viable hybrid technology cars. But internationally, they sell in small volumes. Globally, Suzuki is known as a low-cost car manufacturer selling in large volumes. We would like to achieve that for electric cars in India.”

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source : business standard

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