Indian electric car powers up

Newly unveiled Mahindra E20 electric cars displayed near India Gate in New Delhi.  (Manan Vatsyayana, AFP)
Newly unveiled Mahindra E20 electric cars displayed near India Gate in New Delhi. (Manan Vatsyayana, AFP)

New Delhi - Top Indian utility vehicle maker M&M on Monday launched the most advanced home-grown electric car, pricing it at $11,000 and saying it expects to be ready to sell them abroad next year.

The four-seater, two-door e2O - pronounced "ee-too-oh" - has zero emissions, a top speed of 80km/h, is fully automatic and can run for a 100km on a single charge.

"This is our vision of the future of mobility" in the country of 1.2 billion where pollution from an explosion in the number of cars on roads is creating increasingly grave health problems, M&M chair Anand Mahindra said.

"We need to make a clean energy future," he told reporters, warning the nation "is at a tipping point" in terms of road congestion, urban congestion and the environment with "eco-friendly transport the need of the hour".

The hatchback is the fruit of the $16bn M&M's group's 2010 acquisition of a controlling stake in Indian electric vehicle maker Reva, pioneered by mechanical engineer Chetan Maini, as part of a push to invest in green technology.

Maini, who stayed with the company, told AFP the e2O was a "game-changing" vehicle from the tiny, boxy two-seater Reva which was derided by critics as a "golf cart".

The hatchback boasts 10 on-board computers analysing its core functions and sending alerts if anything needs fixing - features usually found on far more expensive cars - and can be fully charged in five hours from a 15A power socket.

The car can also be charged through a solar "Sun2Car" shield, a detachable canopy fitted with solar panels.

Energy-hungry India's endemic power outages have raised concerns owners might not be able to get fill their batteries when they want but M&M says such fears are overblown with plans for a network of charging units around major cities.

India's government has also chalked out an ambitious $4bn plan to support an electric vehicle network and hopes to have six million electric vehicles on roads by 2020.

M&M said it is targeting urban affluent families who want a vehicle for city jaunts or as a second automobile and is looking at selling the car abroad starting next year in Europe and Africa.

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