India Drives it First Hybrid Car

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June 19 – India got its first hybrid car on Wednesday with Honda rolling out a petrol-electric version of its Civic sedan. The car will be more eco-friendly and fuel efficient (for its class) than any other in the market but will remain a niche product, the Times of India reported.

With a price tag of Rs 21.5 lakhs (approximately US$500,000) twice the price of the petrol Civic, it virtually makes the country’s search for green and fuel-efficient options a non-starter.

The hybrid will be imported, as it is in other countries like the US, thereby attracting the duty levied on completely built units. Interestingly, the Indian government had recently announced that any hybrid cars manufactured in India would attract only 14 percent excise duty, against the usual 24 percent, though no such cars are yet made in India. Nonetheless the Indian government does slap hefty duty on hybrid imports. In comparison, in the US, these vehicles not only have zero duty but often receive a government subsidy.

A hybrid vehicle is basically driven by a conventional petrol engine with an assisting electric motor that is powered by a battery. Due to the assisting electric motor the petrol engine is smaller but it delivers the same performance with lower emissions and higher fuel efficiency. The Civic hybrid for example has a smaller 1.3 litre gasoline engine (the normal Civic is powered by a 1.8 litre engine) but delivers around 50 per cent higher fuel efficiency.

The car uses regenerative braking as well which ensures that the energy lost when the vehicle is decelerated is used to recharge the batteries powering the electric motor. This also does away with restrictions of range and charging that need to be done in a conventional electric vehicle.

Despite the many advantages of hybrid technology, the pace of growth in India has been slow due to its high cost and lack of incentives. Though the government has reduced excise duties on hybrid cars to 14 per cent earlier this year, import duties remain steep. And Takedagawa said his company "will not be able to manufacture the car here due to technological reasons," reported the Hindustan Times.