Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) is taking a lead among all other Indian OEMs when it comes to investing in the development of new mobility solutions.
The company has, in the past few days, made key product and strategy announcements including the reveal of India’s first autonomous tractor, its three-year strategic alliance with Ford Motor Company to drive vehicle electrification, connected vehicle, new mobility, product development, sourcing and distribution programs, and the launch of its all-electric e-Alfa Mini three-wheeler.
Now, Mahindra Two Wheelers (MTWL), the two-wheeler business vertical of the US$ 19 billion Mahindra Group, is learnt to be working on electrification of existing models along with other concurrent projects. Anand Mahindra, chairman, Mahindra Group, who visited his company’s Pune-based two-wheeler R&D facility on September 15, had tweeted, “A peek at the electric variant under development.”
Anand Mahindra at the two-wheeler R&D facility (Photo: Twitter)
Sources, who are aware of the ongoing electric vehicle project at Mahindra Two-Wheelers, tell Autocar Professional that the team of engineers at the company is working on electrification of an existing scooter, understood be on the Gusto model’s platform. It can be recalled that the Gusto scooter models (110cc and 125cc) were the most successful when compared to the market acceptance of other scooters (Duro and Rodeo) manufactured and retailed by Mahindra Two Wheelers in the domestic market.
The very active-on-Twitter Anand Mahindra, who encourages innovation and progressive technologies across the Group operations, had also tweeted: “Always uplifting to witness Indian ingenuity at work,” during his visit to the two-wheeler facility, which is understood to be working on new motorcycle projects for the recently inducted Jawa brand.
M&M’s electric moves
In the light of the NITI Aayog draft report, which foresees electric mobility taking centre-stage in line with the government of India’s plan to pursue rapid adoption of EVs for private and public shared utility by the year 2030, the Mahindra Group’s aims to make the most of the electrification drive.
M&M, which is the sole automaker in the country with commercially available electric passenger vehicles (e20 Plus and eVerito), commercial vans (eSupro) and a three-wheeler (e-Alfa Mini) has a first-mover advantage on EVs. It also market a premium electric scooter, the Genze in the US.
In May 2017, the company revealed a comprehensive technology and product roadmap ‘EV 2.0’ under which it plans to invest in next-generation EV technology solutions that will deliver longer range, higher speeds and also utilise connected car technology. Speaking on EV 2.0, Dr Pawan Goenka, MD, and chairman, Mahindra Electric, had said: “The time has now arrived for EVs to become mainstream and Mahindra has the right technology and products for India. We will actively engage with the government both at the centre and the state, municipal bodies and other private players for setting up robust EV ecosystem. We are also ramping up our investments towards developing next-generation EV technologies and products that will cater to the smart cities of tomorrow.”
Indicating the company’s bullishness on electric mobility, on the sidelines of the SIAM and ACMA conventions in New Delhi earlier this month, Dr Goenka, had remarked, “I am a big proponent of EVs and they will definitely happen but I would like to say that we tend to move in extremes. If EVs penetrate the domestic market by 20-30 percent by 2030 in India, that will be a big achievement.”
Mahindra’s two-wheeler plans
M&M’s two-wheeler plans saw major restructuring in October 2016 wherein it announced that Peugeot Motorcycles (PMTC), Classic Legends and Mahindra Two Wheelers (MTWL) will be the three key pillars driving the business forward. While the company had acquired 51 percent stake in PMTC, a key player in urban mobility in Europe, it had also inducted the BSA and Jawa brands under its Classic Legends vertical.
The top management had clarified that the premium brands including BSA, Jawa and PMTC will bear no association with the Mahindra brand on the front end. The development of new motorcycles positioned under the Jawa brand, however, will have synergies with the existing Mahindra Two Wheelers’ Pune-based R&D and Pithampur-based manufacturing facilities. The company management had given a two-year time frame for the new products to uncover. This was a year ago.
The electric vehicle program involving the Gusto scooter model is understood to be positioned under the MTWL vertical within the overall two-wheeler business.
Other two-wheeler OEMs also gunning for electrification
Given the government's heightened focus on electric mobility, many two-wheeler OEMs now appear to be gunning to get the first mover advantage.
The Bangalore-based start-up, Ather Energy, which is readying what it calls India’s first smart electric scooter the S340, is planning to begin production by December-January later in this financial year. The start-up, which has been developing the S340 for the last three years, received strategic investments worth Rs 205 crore by India’s largest two-wheeler company, Hero MotoCorp in October 2016.
Hero MotoCorp officials have maintained that the company is following a two-pronged strategy on the potential of its electric two-wheeler business. “While on one side we remain invested in Ather Energy, on the other we are developing our in-house capabilities for developing electric vehicles for the future,” a senior company official told Autocar Professional recently. The official though remained tight-lipped on the prospects of Hero MotoCorp borrowing technology from Ather Energy.
Bajaj Auto is another major two-wheeler player that has commenced development of electric vehicles. It can be recalled that Autocar Professional on July 4 broke news on Bajaj Auto looking to foray into the EV space with its battery-powered three-wheeler.
The company, which is the largest player in the domestic three-wheeler segment with a market share of almost 50 percent in FY2016-17, is well placed to explore new technologies around the electric vehicles, the report quoted. Sources say that Bajaj Auto has a tentative roadmap of rolling out its electric three-wheeler in the domestic market in another 12-18 months from now.
Pune-based Tork Motorcycles is another start-up, which is looking to venture into the electric two-wheeler space with its battery-powered motorcycle called T6X. The firm is fast working to bring the product to the domestic market.
More recently, TVS Motor Co's under-development electric scooter was snapped by Autocar India while being charged at an apartment complex in Bangalore.
Given the level of investment from OEMs and suppliers and importantly, consumer acceptance of EVs, it is expected sales of electric two-wheelers will take off faster than four-wheeled proponents of electro-mobility. Expect other players like Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, Yamaha and Suzuki to also make electric moves on two wheels. Stay tuned.