Green cars and some red-hot action

The rich and the famous are making a style statement with energy-efficient vehicles

There is only one Shah Rukh Khan and one Sachin Tendulkar. Super stardom status is something that no amount of money can buy.

But there are some things that money can fetch — like the BMW i8 hybrid sports car that Shah Rukh and Sachin possess.

The Indian uber-rich are slowly warming up to the idea of green cars — be it electric cars or hybrid cars. If responsible luxury is your way of life, welcome to the world of luxurious cars — cars that radiate appeal while reducing carbon emission.

Many choices

The ₹2 crore plus BMW i8 is imported as a fully-built unit and sold through select dealerships across Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. When Volvo brought in the XC90 T8 hybrid last year to India at a fancy price tag of about ₹1.25 crore, this top-end SUV saw 50 pre-launch bookings.

Tesla, the maker of premium electric sedans and SUVs, too, has plans to come to India soon. When bookings for Tesla’s Model 3, with a starting price at about $35,000, were announced in April this year, several business heads went on to book it for a down-payment of $1,000.

Besides, many other luxury carmakers such as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) have thrown their hat in the ring. JLR currently has hybrid versions of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport and its all electric I-Pace is expected to be out in the second half of 2018.

By 2020, up to half of JLR’s line-up would consist of greener vehicles, going by what CEO Ralph Speth said during the unveiling of the I-Pace concept vehicle at the Los Angeles Motor Show in November 2016. With Tata Motors owning JLR, these cars may find their way to India too.

At a less fancy price than the i8 or the T8, but still well above the reach of the common man, are vehicles such as the Prius and Camry hybrid (₹35-40 lakh) from Toyota. While the Prius is imported as a fully-built unit, the Camry hybrid is manufactured by Toyota in India. There is a hybrid version of the Honda Accord sold in India as well, at a similar price range.

The rich and the famous, thus, have quite a few options to make a style statement with green cars.

Stand-out features

While electric cars use only an electric motor and battery, hybrids use two or more types of power. So, these cars typically have an internal combustion engine fuelled by petrol/diesel like the normal cars and at the same time, have an electric motor and battery, powered by electricity. There are plug-in hybrids as well.

These vehicles, apart from being a hybrid vehicle using a combination of fossil fuel and electric power, can also work like an all-electric vehicle for a limited range. The XC90 T8 and BMW i8, for example, are plug-in hybrids. The latter has an electric range of up to 37 km.

Nissan has also come out with the e-Power technology in which a petrol engine will charge the battery when necessary, eliminating the need for an external charger.

Even as they cut down or eliminate harmful emissions, many of these vehicles boast of good fuel efficiency, comparable with normal petrol/diesel powered cars in their segment. The Accord hybrid, for instance, claims a fuel economy of 23.1 km per litre.

What’s more interesting about green cars available today for the who’s who is that there is much more to them than the beneficial impact on the environment alone.

Toyota has equipped the latest Prius with a regenerative braking system that collects energy to charge the battery every time the brakes are applied. The Accord hybrid uses an automatic climate control system than not only creates independent left and right temperature zones but also judges the direction of the sun and its strength to adjust temperature and air volume automatically.

The true sports car that it is, the BMW i8 promises acceleration from 0 to 100 km in just 4.4 seconds.

The XC90 T8 boasts of a gear stick made from Orrefors crystal glass, which is hand-crafted using centuries-old glass-blowing and crystal-cutting techniques.

India gearing up

Under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan put out in 2013, the government has been extending sops for the manufacture of greener vehicles through the FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India) scheme.

This has encouraged Indian car manufacturers such as Mahindra & Mahindra, Maruti Suzuki, etc., to come up with mild hybrid technology for a few of their existing models. Mahindra Electric (Reva), the only electric car manufacturer, has also been a beneficiary of this scheme.

The ban on diesel cars/SUVs with engine capacity over 2000cc in Delhi and NCR last year by the National Green Tribunal, the Supreme Court decision to not extend the time-line for adoption of BS IV standard fuel across the country as also the decision to jump directly to BS VI norms by 2020, show that India is getting more and more serious about curbing vehicle pollution. The government has an ambitious plan to have all-electric vehicle fleet in India by 2030. This means that charging infrastructure for electric vehicles could be ramped up sooner than later.

Thus, if zipping along the city late into the night or a trip on the highway on your dream car is what gives you a high, it’s time you considered a green car for a guilt-free ride.

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