Chinese Auto Makers Bet Big on Indian Hybrid Vehicles

By dancurranjr On December 19th, 2010

Increased investment by Chinese automobile manufacturers in the market here is likely to feature in Premier Wen Jiabao’s talks with industry bodies on his visit to India.

Sources indicate apart from BYD Auto, which is known as Build Your Dreams, a well-known electric and hybrid car maker, Beiqi Foton, a leading commercial vehicle maker and many small and medium sized auto ancillary companies will be looking at making investments in the country. China’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, Beiqi Foton, is understood to be considering setting up a greenfield facility in India shortly. Industry sources informed Foton Motors has already done a feasibility study for its foray into the Indian market.

The company has made enquiries regarding growth prospects in the Indian commercial vehicle industry and has also held talks with components manufacturers to determine the supplier base available for manufacturing vehicles locally. A final decision, however, has not been taken on whether the company would look at entering the country independently or through a joint venture.

Foton is likely to be the second Chinese automobile company to enter the Indian market after Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). SAIC, present through a partnership with General Motors in the Indian market, is working on introducing five new models in the country by 2013.

GM is jointly developing two light commercial vehicles of one tonne capacity with SAIC for the Indian market. Besides, on the cards are two mid-size sedans and a larger utility vehicle.

The commercial vehicle segment in the country grew nearly 41 per cent between April and November, to 460,482 units from the 326,641 units produced during the corresponding period last year. The segment is dominated by Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra, who together account for 47 per cent of the market.

Foton Motor, a subsidiary of Beijing Automobile Group Co Ltd, is the world’s second largest commercial vehicle manufacturer after Daimler. The company sold 602,021 vehicles in 2009, exceeding sales of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles for the first time since its inception in 1996.

Till October this year, the company had produced 558,000 vehicles, an increase of nine per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year. Its sales grew 15 per cent from a year earlier to 571,100 units during the period. The company is also working on developing a sedan, its first product offering in the passenger vehicle segment.

BYD Auto, on the other hand, has sold 440,000 passenger cars in China and is expected to make a major entry in the US market in 2011 with its plug in hybrid and electric cars. After coming into the limelight, BYD got the attention of maverick investor Warren Buffet who has forked out $230 million to pick up a 10 per cent stake in this company. The company is a subsidiary of a rechargegable battery maker.

SOURCE: Business Standard

UK Developer of Hybrid Car Engines Raises £500,000

By dancurranjr On December 17th, 2010

Bladon Jets, a British developer of micro gas turbine engines for cars and power generation, has raised £500,000 ($786,100) in a recent funding round led by the Oxford Investment Opportunity Network (OION), a European technology investment network.

Bladon Jets is working with car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover to develop a micro gas turbine engine to insert in plug-in hybrid cars.

In a statement Bladon explained that its batteries provide 50 plus miles (80 kilometers)  of electric range. Bladon jets-powered cars are also capable of travelling longer distances when using an on-board power generator that charges batteries when cars are moving.

Indian industrial group Tata recently made an undisclosed investment in Bladon Jets for a minority equity stake.

In a prepared statement Chairman of Bladon Jets, Paul Barrett, said: “We want to establish micro gas turbine engines as the range-extending power source of choice for hybrid car manufacturers,” he said. Barrett added:  “There is also significant potential for our micro gas turbines in combined heat and power units and other small-scale power generating units, not least in India.”

Will the SX4 Be India’s First Affordable Hybrid Car?

By dancurranjr On December 16th, 2010

Back in October we showed you the two green cars from Maruti Suzuki – the SX4 Hybrid and EECO charge. Both cars were not meant for commercial purposes and were being used for the display and demonstration during the Common Wealth Games. But it is not impossible to believe that MSIL is not considering both these cars for a commercial launch.

The SX4 Hybrid is something that generated a lot of interest, even when it was displayed at the 2010 Auto Expo. This car is powered by the 1.2 liter K Series engine (from the Maruti Ritz) as compared to the 1.6 liter engine on the normal SX4. It also gets a 50 KW electric motor that gets its juice from a 2.35 Kwh Lithium-Ion battery.

This car has a parallel hybrid system (like the Honda Civic Hybrid), though a plug-in version will be an attractive feature for India. The car features regenerative braking system in which braking power of the car is converted to electricity (kinetic energy into electric energy) and stored in the Lithium-Ion batteries which the electric motors can then use to propel the car over longer distances.

The car has a 5 speed Automated transmission. It also has a dual clutch system that features one clutch between the engine and the electric motor, and one between the electric motor and transmission.

The battery is located in the boot and the cooling system is also independent for the battery along with its electric compressor.

The car will initially use the power of the engine to start from standstill, but if you press the throttle very mildly, it will only use the electric motor. Above 40 kph, the petrol motor will smoothly take over, propelling the car forward.

When you step off from the pedal, the engine power will be sent to charge the battery. Also in case of quick acceleration, both the engine and the battery work together. So it can convert from a series to parallel hybrid or vice versa anytime.

The transmission too can be used in either of the two ways- fully auto mode or in +/- manual mode.

With all these changes made to the SX4 Hybrid it is 25 % more fuel efficient than a regular SX4. Also, it does not lose out on power. Combined output from the Hybrid version is 125 BHP as compared to 103 BHP of the regular SX4. The suspension remains the same and the top speed of the Hybrid SX4 is 160 kph.

It is quite an impressive car and with the government incentives kicking in for greener cars, we can sense that Maruti for sure, is going to launch this car sooner or later. But will the unforgiving Indian sedan buyer overlook the extra procuring cost and an occupied boot for a car that’s silent, needs lesser stops for fuel, and does a whole lot of good to the environment and air quality?

SOURCE: Indians AutoBlog

Honda Adds Brio to Eco-Car Market

By dancurranjr On December 1st, 2010

Honda has confirmed plans to sell an eco-car in Thailand early next year but plans for a hybrid remain unclear even though Japanese rival Toyota has two petrol-electric models available.

Honda yesterday introduced its Brio eco-car prototype, which will be featured at the Thailand International Motor Expo that runs from today to Dec 12 at Impact Muang Thong Thani.

The prototype is close to the mass-production model, which will go on sale in March at a starting price of around 400,000 baht, said Honda Motor chief executive Takanobu Ito.

That price would make the Brio 25,000 baht dearer than the Nissan March, the first eco-car launched locally in March this year.

The Brio five-door hatchback has a 1.2-litre gasoline engine, and a four-door sedan might be considered later.

Honda also aims to introduce the Brio in India next year with a starting price below 500,000 rupees. Brios made in Thailand and India might be exported to other markets in the region except Japan and China.

Mr Ito said the Brio, which is smaller than the City and Jazz, reflected worldwide demand for smaller cars as well as consumers’ concerns about fuel economy and impact on the environment.

He said the car had been developed based on Honda’s concept of local production including the use of locally produced tooling in addition to locally procured parts and materials.

To accomplish this, Honda has adopted specifications optimised for the Asian market and accelerated the use of local suppliers in Asia, said Mr Ito.

Fumihiko Ike, president of Asian Honda Motor, said Honda was in no hurry to market a hybrid in Thailand as it wanted to observe consumer reaction to the Toyota Camry and Prius models.

Both have been well received so far, with the receiving more than 1,000 presale orders even before the retail price was formally announced.

Honda has hybrid models in its lineup to respond to the needs of consumers and believes the hybrid market will grow in the future, said Mr Ike.

Honda is waiting for more details on Thai government support for hybrids.

Currently, hybrid cars enjoys a 10% excise tax, significantly lower than the normal rate of 30% and upward, and hybrid parts not available in Thailand can be imported duty-free.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

World’s First Hybrid Motorcycle Revealed: 280 mpg, 40 mph Top Speed, $850

By dancurranjr On December 29th, 2009

Between kleptomaniacs, zippy $900 Hondas, and VW’s unexpected Suzuki takeover, India has earned more than its usual share of two-wheeled headlines of late. And here’s another to add to the mix: Bangalore’s Eko Vehicles has unveiled what they’re claiming will be the world’s first hybrid motorcycle.

The Eko ET-120 (which is more of a scooter than a motocycle, really) runs on a 70cc gasoline-powered engine that works in conjunction with a battery system to produce the power and torque of a 120cc powerplant. The gas engine yields 100 mpg, while the hybrid system should produce a combined total of 280 mpg. Emissions are claimed to be reduced three-fold. And best of all, retail price is expected to be around $850 in India*.

While it’s easy to pooh pooh this ungainly looking ride for its Toyota Prius-like aspirations, considering its potential for smog reduction in places like India (or heck, even here in the States), I’m predicting the ET-120 might be one of the more significant (and controversial) two-wheeled offerings we’ll see in 2010.