Hybrid scooters have no future: Hero Eco MD

Written by Ronojoy Banerjee | Ronojoy Banerjee | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 15 2012, 06:31am hrs
On January 6, when two-wheeler behemoth Hero MotoCorp unveiled a first of its kind petrol-electric hybrid scooter, Leap, it was hailed as a significant development in the company's automotive history. Many felt that it was a direct response to Hero's detractors who questioned the company's ability to introduce new state-of-the-art products sans its partner of 27 years, Honda. Hero not only roped in a foreign consultant to produce the model but it also claimed that it was showing the rest of the world that we have arrived.

Naveen Munjal, managing director of Hero Eco, which makes more than seven models of electric two-wheelers, told FE in an interview that he does not really believe in hybrid two-wheelers in the short-term. He said that the concept of hybrid two-wheelers have not worked anywhere in the world and he is not a great fan of it, hence his company would not be introducing such a model. He says hybrid scooters have no future in the country.

At this point in the current scenario we dont really believe in hybrid two-wheelers. It adds on a lot of weight and a lot of cost to a vehicle especially in a market like India which is a low cost vehicle market, Munjal quipped. He said that while the concept would work in cars, its hard for a similar idea to be replicated in the two-wheeler space because not only do scooter commuters travel less in a day, the product also has space constraints.

But why add complexities to a vehicle. In a two-wheeler there is a limited amount of space plus the weight. So, if you are going to gas station everyday to fill fuel, in a way, it defeats your purpose, he said. He added, We don't believe that its at least short-term way to go (whether to launch a hybrid two-wheeler or not) even for long-term, technology has to evolve rapidly.

Since showcasing the hybrid scooter, Hero MotoCorp has maintained that the product is only at a concept stage currently. They, however, made it clear that the company would start its production at a later date. At the showcasing of the product, managing director and CEO of Hero MotoCorp, Pawan Munjal, had said, We will definitely look at producing it in future. We have to work a lot for launching it commercially. So it will take sometime. He had also not revealed the name of the foreign consultant who had been roped in for this project.

According to a Delhi-based automobile consultant Deepak Dalal, development of hybrid two-wheelers would be very expensive for original equipment manufacturers in the first phase.

There is a question mark on whether OEMs can recover their cost after investing a lot of money into developing a new technology. Another dampener on sales is that a hybrid two-wheeler is expected to be more expensive than a petrol or an electric model.

Another Mumbai-based auto analyst with a brokerage house, said, As the market leaders ideally you are not supposed to be concerned only with volumes. When Maruti had launched the Swift there was no market for it, but today it is the fastest growing segment. Similarly, Hero as the market leaders should put out a product and create a market for it, he said. The analyst who did not wish to be quoted said that the new hybrid scooter has created a stir in the market.