Speak to any automotive manufacturer candidly in India and they are likely to tell you the same thing, a truly scalable electric car for India without the range anxiety, initial cost of purchase and dependence on the almost non-existent charging infrastructure is still a while away. Brands like Tata, Maruti and Mahindra have the first mover advantage working on their electric cars which are expected to launch over the next few years. As a result, some manufacturers are hoping to see the first influx of electric vehicles in the upper end of the segments through conscientious buyers who are willing to pay the extra bucks to give back to the environment and be thought leaders in an evolving segment. Two manufacturers have already placed their bets on the upper end of the electric segment with Global Standard Cars that are expected to make it to India via the CKD/CBU route.
Nissan has announced that 2019 will be the year they bring the latest Leaf Electric Car to India, while Hyundai has put their money on the Kona Electric SUV. Both cars are expected to breach the Rs 25 lakh mark, have similar range and while they are very different in terms of body types, they will both jump into the struggle to be the poster boy for the transition to electric mobility. We compare the two cars in their latest iterations to see how they stack up.
We’ll start with the Nissan Leaf. India is likely to get the older version of the Nissan Leaf from 2018, instead of the updated Leaf E+ that was showcased at the 2019 CES. This means that from the leaf will now have an estimated range of about 400 kms that might drop to 300 kms in the real world and hotter Indian conditions. It's not likely to be boring either with 142 hp on tap and 320 Nm of torque. Even charging times are reasonable, the regular charge will take between 8 and 16 hours depending on the output of the vehicle, while a fast charge option will allow for 80% charge in 40 mins. Nissan will have every bean counter working on the best possible price for the Leaf, which will come to the CBU route exposing it to the highest of excise duties on an automobile. Even with their best effort we expect a price no less than Rs 30 lakh. For a hatchback like whose footprint is just a little larger than the Micra, this will be one of its Achilles heel. Although, there is a factor of the expectations of the demographic. Which we will get at the end of this article.
At the outset, the Hyundai Kona Electric Car seems like a downright bargain, for one its an SUV, with a crossover like a body shape which will mean its slightly more practical. To put that in perspective, it's significantly larger than the Active i20 but it's not as large as a Creta. It is likely to come with about 300 kms of real-world range, which might go down to 275-80 in the peak heat conditions. It also makes more than the Lead in terms of power with 204 hp and about 395 Nm of torque. However, the Kona which Hyundai plans to manufacture in India is likely to be much more affordable with a price no more (and possibly lower than) the Rs 25 lakh mark. Giving the upper hand to Hyundai straight off the bat.
Both these cars, will enter a very tricky end of the market and will have to appeal to the more discerning buyer with less on offer than their Fossil powered counterparts. Something like what the Prius did in America, appealed to the conscientious buyer in the hopes that it will gain the poster boy image that may translate to sales of future more mass-market Electric products that will undoubtedly follow over the course of the next few years!