Of all the major Indian industries, and this might sound a little strange, the automotive industry has the most character. Yes, Character. I say this because it is an industry with a pulse continuously churning headlines, and even more so in the form of unique innovations. From inexpensive mobility to the very cutting edge of technology, the Indian automotive industry cannot be left un-represented. Even future technology like Fuel Cell Commercial Vehicle have a place in our tremendous array of the auto-industry. Which is why this article, an ode to the innovation in the automotive industry. Its ever evolving spirit, that has dealt with every hurdle but only come out stronger. These are the most outstanding holistically Indian innovations from the Industry:
Tata Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus
Now Fuel Cell is definitely a future technology and manufacturers are counting on it’s success infrastructurally so that they can focus their R&D strength there. If you’re wondering how FCVs are different from EVs, it's like this. One, the motor in a FCV is an electric motors, however in place of batteries the vehicle uses Hydrogen and Oxygen to create water and electricity. The recently flagged off Tata Fuel Cell bus, a project that they have been working on with Indian Oil, shows that the Indian automotive industry cannot be left behind. It may be a few years before (like london’s already plying fleet of 100 FCV buses) we have our own Fuel Cell buses on the road, but the fact that the Bus is prepared to ply shows that our tech is in the right place. Our governance, on the other hand, needs a more future forward plan.
Mahindra E20/ Maini Reva
Year’s before the government announced any intention of switching to electric, or even had the foresight to consider tax benefits for electric cars as far back as 1994. A small company in Bangalore called Reva Electric Car Company (RECC) was founded by Chetan Maini, whose sole aim was to produce a practical electric car for the city. The Reva was a revolution for sure, later becoming the Mahindra Reva E20. While it didn’t quite catch on in India, it sold in more than appropriate numbers in the UK as the G-Wiz. As of 2018, the Reva which hit production almost 2 decades ago in 2001 is India’s first electric car for the masses. Thus earning it’s place on this list.
Ratan Tata had a vision for the car of the people, a car so affordable that it would make a reasonable alternative to the motorcycle. Which in rural India is the often a family carrier. The world laughed, the idea of a 1 lakh rupee car seemed unsafe and more likely improbable. A few years later, the world watched in silence as the most inexpensive car ever produced left the manufacturing hub in Gujarat. Over the years the Nano developed a cult like status with just as many people on it’s side as there are people who don’t like it. This year Jayem Auto have acquired the rights to produce the Jayem Neo, which is the electric version of the Nano concept. Ensuring that the world most iconic car lives on.
And we are back to the cutting edge, meet the Emflux One. An indigenous Indian electric superbike, capable of speeds of upto 200 kmph. What's more is that it can go from rest to 100 kmph in under three seconds. While range does remain an issue at almost 200 km on a single charge, the Rs 6 lakh price tag is more than tempting. For one, 6 lakh rupees might get you a 600cc sport bike if you’re not picky about the badge on the tank. The Emflux One however brings litre class performance on electrical machines at price that you would usually spend for a smaller slower ICE powered bike and if that doesn’t sound innovating to you. I doubt there’s a lot that will.
Mahindra XUV Tech
Before you go off on a rant about the Mahindra XUV 500, consider this, the present day XUV has as much electronics by volume as the previous generation of 5-series from BMW. Maybe not qualitatively but quantitatively it’s all there. The point is the XUV 500 is an SUV for the masses with a large number of variants under the 20 lakh mark. It is representative of the capabilities of the Indian Automotive industry. It success show that the Indian market is ready to receive the technology, if it’s priced right!
The reason this Vespa based scooter makes it to the list, is not because of the technology it had, this one makes it to the list for revolutionizing the way India looked at personal mobility. We all had someone if not everyone in the family riding about on a Bajaj Scooter. And that change in paradigm is what provided the seeds for the intrinsic growth of the automotive industry that we are seeing today. What they did was change the mindsets of the people who rode around in them
The first car to be produced in the confines of India started in life as a Morris Oxford III. When Hindustan motors started producing the car, in 1957 they christened it the Ambassador. The Ambassador went on to sell longer than any other car in the world, to this date you can buy one at any HM showroom across India. Over these past years, the Ambassador has played practically every role in the book. A Taxi, a minister chariot, a family conveyance, the ambassador has even seen some track and rally action. On the downside, HM’s strategy of keeping the original design may have been the cause for the downfall of the car in the private car market. The ambassador has earned its place on this list, despite its archaic styling, squinty looking headlamps and crooked gear handle.