Mahindras to introduce electric, diesel 3-wheelers

Mumbai-based Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd is all set to enter the three-wheeler passenger transportation segment with its 'Bijlee' range of vehicles. Plans include the launch of a 10-seater electric vehicle run on batteries. There will be two diesel variants.

The company's foray into the electric vehicle sector is well timed. There is greater awareness of the hazards of pollution, especially in the bigger cities, and measures are being initiated to bring automobile pollution under control.

The government has already stipulated emission standards, and several state governments are introducing legislation for environmental protection.

Electric vehicles have not yet made an impact in the Indian automobile sector. Pasr efforts have focussed on special-purpose vehicles. Only one company, the Reva Electric Car Company, has plans to make electric cars for city travel. Reva plans to being marketing the car by the beginning of next year.

The Mahindras are entering a different segment -- three-wheelers, predominantly used in urban public transportation. The batteries powering the vehicle will have a range of 80 km, after which they will need to be recharged.

The company plans to create recharging facilities at select petrol pumps where used batteries can be exchanged for recharged ones. One snag, however, remains. The company is understood to be awaiting the incentives from the government.

Prototypes of an 8-seater diesel vehicle are undergoing road tests at the Zaheerabad, Uttar Pradesh, plant of the company. The vehicles are expected to be available in the market in eight to 10 months' time.

The diesel vehicle will be a totally indigenous product and will be priced lower than Bajaj Tempo's Minidoor model, which is priced at Rs 97,500. The key features include a single-cylinder direct injection engine, better driving comfort, improved gearshifts and low noise, vibration and harshness levels. Sales of Mahindra and Mahindra's automobile products have a north Indian and rural bias.

The company aims to play on this strength while introducing the three-wheelers. It aims to produce about 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles a month.

The major players in the three-wheeler segment are Bajaj Auto, which has a 87 per cent market share, Bajaj Tempo and Greaves Ltd.