India got its first electric SUV on Tuesday as Hyundai, country's second largest carmaker, took the cover off its first electric offering - the Kona SUV. At Rs 25.3 lakh, Kona is not mass market as most of Hyundai's other line ups and will be out of range for a majority of India's buyers but it is a bonafide electric SUV and does signal a beginning.
The launch comes barely days after the Narendra Modi led NDA government in its second stint presented its first full budget last Friday which, contrary to expectations, provided a bonanza for electric vehicles. The slew of incentives aimed at encouraging such vehicles included income tax deduction on the interest on any loan on electric vehicle, lower import duty on a host of components and investment-linked income tax exemption for setting up manufacturing for solar electric charging infrastructure and lithium storage batteries.
"India is ushering into a new era with clean and connected mobility. We are committed to government's clean connected and shared mobility vision," said S S Kim, managing director and CEO, Hyundai Motor India Ltd. "Hyundai is leading the future mobility solutions globally and will bring in the most relevant technology in the clean mobility space in the Indian market. The launch of India's first fully Electric SUV Kona in India will be revolutionary and a definitive forward move to change the perspective towards Electric cars altogether."
The five seater SUV that is being assembled at Hyundai's Chennai factory uses a 39.2 Kilowatt-hour battery in place of a combustion engine that develops a maximum power of 136 PS and a peak torque of 403 newton metres. It is capable of 0-100 kph in under 10 seconds. Globally, it is also available with one other battery option of 64 kwh that gives it a range of 449 kilometers (under EU driving cycle) on full charge.
Lack of charging infrastructure in India, there are fewer than 500 charging stations, has been a stumbling block in the growth of electric cars in the country. The Kona is capable of covering 452 kilometers on a full charge, as per ARAI standards, which Hyundai believes would assure buyers of range anxiety. As with any other test done under specific conditions, the range would have to be checked in real road conditions. In the EU test conditions for example, this battery achieved a range of 289 kilometers.
The battery can be charged in nine hours through a standard slow charger and in 57 minutes with a 50 Kilowatt DC fast charger. Hyundai is offering two chargers with every car--a portable and an AC wall box charger. The portable charger can be plugged into any normal 3 pin 15 ampere socket that can top up a 50 kilometer range in 3 hours. The wall mounted AC charger can do the same can do the same in an hour.
Hyundai has also tied up with India's largest oil marketing firm Indian Oil corporation to install high speed chargers capable of charging upto 80 percent in less than an hour, in select cities--Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. Hyundai's special electric selling dealerships will also be equipped with 7.2 kilowatt AC charger for customers while a special Kona Electric fleet, that is capable of charging other vehicles from its own battery, has also been set up to provide emergency charging.
The two existing electric cars in India-the Mahindra e2O plus and e-Verito have a range of 110-140 kilometers.
"The KONA Electric has been conceptualized with a unique and distinctive styling while maximizing Electric Range & having excellent driving performance. With the Longest Driving Range on a Single Charge (452* km) coupled with Electrifying Performance we can say that a KONA Electric owner can drive from Rohini in Delhi to Amritsar in a single charge, which has never been imagined by customers in Indian EV scenario" said Puneet Anand, Senior GM & Group Head - Marketing, Hyundai Motor India Ltd. "With India's First Fully Electric SUV, KONA Electric, our objective is to redefine the Electric Mobility Experience of every customer realizing our commitment of being lifetime partner in automobile and beyond for a sustainable and green future."
Electric mobility has been a major thrust area for the government that is keen to reduce the transport sector's dependence on imported fossil fuel. India imports nearly 84 per cent of its crude requirement every year. Still in its infancy globally, e-mobility in India has stuttered due to inconsistency in policy and a general lack of fiscal incentives. The decision to provide income tax exemption for loan on electric vehicles is expected to significantly reduce the gap between the price of a conventional petrol or diesel automobile and an electric vehicle. Further, government has already proposed reducing GST on electric vehicles from 12 to 5 per cent, which once accepted and implemented will bring down the price of electric cars further. GST on conventional cars in India right now ranges between 29-50 per cent.
Currently, the market share of electric cars is only 0.06 per cent when compared to 2 per cent in China and 39 per cent in Norway. Nearly 7,59,000 electric vehicles were sold in India in 2018-19 with electric three-wheelers accounting for a majority 6,30,000 of them followed by electric two-wheelers at 1,26,000 and electric cars at just 3,600. This translates to less than 3 per cent of the overall industry sales across categories.
The launch of Kona will be followed by other vehicles like the country's first luxury electric SUV Audi e-tron next month, MG Motor's eZS and world's largest selling electric car Nissan Leaf later this year. Next year, market Maruti Suzuki would also foray with the electric version of its tall boy hatchback WagonR. That could be country's first truly mass market and affordable electric car.
This may just be the earnest start of India's electric mobility journey.