India's largest car maker Maruti Suzuki has recently launched its midsize SUV, the Grand Vitara. The SUV comes with strong hybrid technology that increases fuel efficiency by 35 per cent and also comes with an all-wheel drive (AWD). In a freewheeling interview, CV Raman, Chief Technology Officer, Maruti Suzuki India shared the details about the strong hybrid that is used in the Grand Vitara and the company's focus on cleaner fuel engines with Motor Vikatan.
How is Maruti Suzuki working to reduce carbon emissions in its entire segment? Is it a strategic move to bring a strong hybrid in that direction?
We have been looking at various alternate technologies to complement our internal combustion engine technology. One side, we have started the electrification process and on the other side, we already have our intelligent or smart hybrid or mild hybrid technology on the 1.5-litre engine. Now we also have the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) strong hybrid system, which has been incorporated and integrated into the Grand Vitara. At Maruti Suzuki we always look at cleaner technologies for our entire segment, starting from lower-end to higher-end cars. All of them have to improve fuel efficiency as well as improve the carbon footprint to reduce CO2. As already announced we will be having our first electric vehicle in 2024-25 but apart from that, we are also working on ethanol, flex-fuel, CNG and bio engines. So all of this development is to ensure that we enable India to reduce the carbon footprint going forward and also offer the right kind of optimised solutions to the customers right from the lower to top end. So that's our basic thought process to use the strong hybrid in Grand Vitara. Till the time the charging infrastructure grows at both home and in public, we will continue with this hybrid model. So it's our step forward for the electrification process.
Take us through the technology behind this strong hybrid system and how it is efficient?
The strong hybrid technology that we have used in the Grand Vitara has two motors. One motor is only for charging and another one is for traction. So whatever energy is lost during regeneration or braking or deceleration, we're able to recoup that and charge the battery. Once the battery is charged, that gives that energy to the traction and it then works in tandem with the IC engine. So it keeps switching between petrol mode and electric mode seamlessly. This gives a 35 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency, so the CO2 for this is about 85 grams per kilometre, which is about 27.97 kilometres per litre from a fuel efficiency perspective. And the other thing is that it is self-charging and you don't need any external charging. So you can able to drive in the EV mode for about 30 to 40 per cent of the time and especially if the charge is full in the battery you can start the engine in the EV mode. So this switching happens then and there.
Since you have an additional battery, is that add more weight to the car?
It is a very small battery. This power battery doesn't hold energy. Its main function is to charge and discharge in a very fast cycle and that’s the main technology of this battery. The battery pack sits behind the rear seat and it might look big but from the kilowatt perspective, it is only 0.78 kWh. So there is no big weight due to the battery.
It clearly says strong hybrids give better fuel efficiency so is there an intent for Maruti Suzuki to come up with more hybrid variants?
We are studying all the possibilities. We have just launched this strong hybrid system and we have to see how this evolves over a period of time. As I said, improvement in fuel efficiency and also a look at what is the right optimised solution for each of our segments. And this means we have to develop more strong hybrids.
Will this strong hybrid suit only for the SUVs or will it also cater to other segments?
It can cater to any segment, but today the cost of the hybrid system is a little high compared to the ICE. The GST is also not favouring hybrids when compared to electric. So localisation is one option that would help to reduce the cost. Till now no one has introduced a hybrid technology in the mass market. So with the help of Grand Vitara, we want to showcase the capabilities of strong hybrid technology and see how people look at this and how the perception changes in the near future.
Since Toyota Hyryder and Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara share the same platform and both are identical, how Maruti Suzuki is geared to compete with it?
We have to compete on pricing and bank on our service network, which is our biggest USP. There is a difference between the two products and we are very confident in our product.