They’re not the M&M we’re used to hearing about in North America, but Mahindra & Mahindra, the largest utility vehicle maker in India, is developing hybrid technology that could be a global game-changer.
The company is currently working on creating machinery that can be deployed in vehicles with manual transmissions, and are capable of improving fuel efficiency by almost 20%.
Having made their hybrid debut at February’s Indian Motor Show, M&M has created a place for itself in the eco friendly car market with four Iakh “micro-hybrid” vehicles on Indian roads and through owning the world’s largest electric car company by production capacity, Mahindra Reva, which sells the world’s most affordable, battery powered four-seater hatchback.
With recent success at the top of their minds, it made sense of M&M to move on to the next level of sustainable mobility and focus on hybrids and improving their technologies.
Rajan Wadhera, the company’s chief executive of technology and product development, told the Economic Times that, “We have signed up with Samsung SDI, which is the global leader in lithium ion batteries for development and supply of these batteries for our hybrid range of vehicles. We are perfecting the hybrid technology to deploy it in various platforms and vehicles across the Mahindra range.”
Most hybrids built now are made with automatic transmissions (like the Toyota Prius). However, the idea is for technology developed by M&M to make a manual transmission mode that is more compatible with hybrid technologies. In a standard hybrid, when the car stops, the engine shuts off to reduce fuel wastage. With a manual transmission, that wouldn’t be possible without some kind of change to the way the transmission functions. That’s where M&M comes in.
“We are keen to develop a manual transmission mode compatible with the hybrid technology,” Wadhera told ET. “It is expected to be more efficient and also more adaptable to the range of vehicles sold across various markets.”
Should they be successful in their endeavor, the technology would likely be available on top-end variants of sport utility vehicles like the XUV500 and Scorpio, which are micro-hybrid variant models from Mahindra’s already existing line of cars. The hybrid versions can enhance mileage by up to 5% by switching off the engine when it’s not in use.
Given the huge desirability of manual cars over automatic in India (they cost less and use less fuel), it’s not surprising M&M are leading the charge in trying to turn the manual transmission into a more eco-friendly choice. And according to Mahindra officials, the initial success of the technology will establish a new yardstick for fuel efficiency in the Indian market.