Will this be version 2.0 of Mahindra Electric's journey? How will this time be different?
Mahindra acquired The Reva Electric Car Company in 2010 and since then has launched the e2o Electric Car in 2013. In 2016, Mahindra launched the e2o Plus Electric Car and the eVerito Electric Sedan.
The e2o Plus was aimed at personal mobility while eVerito was primarily aimed at fleets. The classic e2o electric car was discontinued in 2016 after only being in production for only 3 years.
The classic e2o 2 door electric car has a cult following for the ease and zippiness of its drive. The community was not happy that Mahindra stopped production of a fantastic car. The e2o Plus P8 model was sold at a whopping Rs 11+ Lakhs. This car was riddled with post production issues and customer dissatisfaction and was discontinued after around 1 year in production. The e2o Plus P6 and P2 models were also discontinued in 2019.
The Mahindra eSupro was an electric cargo loader van and was launched in 2015. But Mahindra priced it at 10+ Lakhs. I remember PluginIndia creating few videos on the eSupro and we were wondering if Mahindra even wanted to sell the thing!
Many technologies were created by the Reva Electric Car team like Sun2Car - Solar powered electric car, Car2Home - Power your home from your car, DC Quick Charging Equipment, SMS and email alerts. All of these technologies were shelved by the Mahindra team.
The one success story for Mahindra was the eVerito Electric Sedan launched for fleets and personal use. The eVerito has a range of 150 km, which was limiting for personal transport, but good enough for fleet and commercial use. This was an instant success with multiple Electric Car fleet startups picking up the eVerito and are happy about its performance and reliability. Also Mahindra launched an Electric Auto called the Treo Zor, which has performed decently in the market. Another success was that Mahindra was the first traditional Indian car OEM to offer electric mobility for India in a large scale. Their electric vehicles have completed 250 million km oil and emission fee transportation saving 25,000 metric tons of CO2 which is very impressive.
The Biggest Failure
So as you can see Mahindra Electric has had both failures and successes in it's decade old electric vehicle journey. According to me the biggest failure of Mahindra was not retaining the awesome people from Reva electric car company. Mr Chetan Maini - the pioneer of the Electric car in India was let go in 2014. Once he left, most senior management from Reva too left. Along with people from Reva, we felt many of the processes, systems and technologies that were pioneered at Reva Electric Car company were also ditched by Mahindra. At this point of time, many of us in the EV community wondered if this was another case of a large corporation buying a smaller corporation and killing its products, processes, technology and letting go of its people.
I personally, was disappointed at Mahindra, for i had visited the Reva factory in Bengaluru and met Chetan Maini and team back in 2014 and i was flabbergasted on why Mahindra would let go of such wonderful people at Reva who created something unique in India.
So during the launch of the Treo Zor Electric cargo loader in late October 2020, Dr Pawan Goenka, Managing Director and CEO of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited spoke about Mahindra Electric's renewed focus and investment in electric vehicles. So this piqued my interest and i did document what he had to say.
- Mahindra will develop Electric Vehicle Charging Ecosystem in India. Mahindra will launching their own Electric Vehicle Chargers for low voltage vehicles.
- Large scale adoption of EV's in shared and last mile connectivity is what India needs to clean up the air of Indian cities and Mahindra's focus is to launch affordable and connected last mile and shared mobility products.
- Central government's FAME incentives and many states have EV policies. thus, the onus is on vehicle OEMs to launch EV products.
- Mahindra will be investing Rs 500 Crores for India's first state of the art Electric Vehicle Technology and RnD Center, which will be at Bengaluru Airport.
- World class facility in Pune for manufacturing high voltage Battery Packs, Power Electronics, BMS, Controllers, Motors and more. Mahindra is open to license these components for other OEMs too.
- Treo Zor would be the product for last mile delivery. Treo Zor is built with the MESMA 48 platform which has been used by the Treo electric auto.
- Treo is fully Made In India product except for Lithium Ion cells
- The eKUV Electric Car will have a focus on shared mobility and will be India's most affordable Electric Car and will be launched in January 2021.
- Atom Electric Car is a new age urban mobility solution for first and last mile connectivity. This should be launched by March 2021.
This is just another example of how Indian EV industry are way ahead in terms of localization compared to other industries like Pharma, Consumer Electronics, Mobile Phones, Solar Industry which are dependent on China. We have showcased this in our Atmanirbhar Bharat, Electric Vehicles And China video. Also Kudos to team Mahindra Electric for also investing in RnD center in Bengaluru and a EV manufacturing center in Pune. While the eKUV might disappoint many people due to its estimated low range of 150 km, it has a lot of promise for employee pickup and as a fleet solution.
Another interesting point made by Dr Goenka was that ME will install charging stations for EVs. This is indeed refreshing to hear as generally traditional auto OEMs have shied away from installing charging infrastructure. I guess, Mahindra is seeing how Tata Power is helping Tata Motors with charging stations for Tata's electric cars and that has resulted in lot of publicity for Tata. Mahindra have realized that they cannot ignore this important facet if they want to promote electric mobility.
If Mahindra wants this decade to be better than the previous one, they will need to offer better service to their customers. They were horror stories of many e2o owners having their electric car for weeks in service centers. This has to improve. Compared to many years back, I feel Mahindra have improved their service regarding diagnosing battery pack and cell issues. They have good hardware for cell boosting and floor charging in most service centers. But the service is inconsistent as some dealers have good service personnel, while other dealers don't and this service quality consistency has to be improved.
Also Mahindra will need to ensure their vehicles are connected and monitor their electric vehicles and preemptively issue alerts to customers in case of drivetrain or battery issues. This would ensure there wont be stalling of electric vehicles due to bad health of the battery of drivetrain.
If they can improve the service consistency and also keep all their vehicles connected and remotely monitored, we feel Mahindra's service experience would be much better.
All in all, things are looking positive at Mahindra Electric. I do believe this to be a new Mahindra Electric, lets say a v2.0 journey. It's entirely upto them to learn from their mistakes and keep advancing in electric mobility. However there are skeptics from the EV Community who have had bad experiences with Mahindra Electric's service or are disappointed with how they treated the people at Reva Electric car company. And i do know such people in the community, who won't get another Mahindra anytime soon.
Can ME win them back? Can they offer better software driven drivetrains that are remotely monitored to offer better service to their customers? Will their dealers continue to promote their large oil guzzling SUVs and continue to ignore EV's?
These are the questions ME will need to answer in their new journey.