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India Gets First Hybrid Car,
But at Fancy Price

India got its first hybrid car on 18th June 2008 with Honda rolling out a petrol-electric version of its Civic sedan. The car will be more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient (for its class) than any other in the market but will remain a niche product.

The reason? The Civic hybrid has come with a prohibitive price tag of Rs 21.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), twice the price of the petrol Civic, thanks to accumulated duties, including customs, of 104%. This virtually makes the country's search for green and fuel-efficient options a non-starter.

The hybrid will be imported as it is in other countries like the US. Hence, it's attracting the duty that is levied on completely built units (CBUs). Interestingly, the government had recently announced that any hybrid cars manufactured in India would attract only 14% excise duty, against the usual 24%, though no such cars are made yet in the country. But it is simultaneously slapping hefty duty on hybrid imports. In comparison, in the US, these vehicles not only have zero duty but often receive a government subsidy.

The Civic hybrid promises nearly 47% enhanced fuel efficiency along with lower emissions. It sports a 1.3-litre engine, that combines with an electric motor which is powered from a battery. The lowest petrol Civic costs Rs 10.8 lakh in the 1.8-litre 'Executive' model.

The hybrid is likely to be owned by very rich people with a green consciousness. Honda India CEO Masahiro Takedagawa said 100-odd prominent people and a few corporates have already booked the car.

How hybrid cars work
Hype about hybrid car is fine, but how does it work? Take for instance Honda Civic, first hybrid car brought to India. Hybrids are powered by two different sources: an internal combustion engine that runs on petrol and an electric battery that powers an electric motor. Interestingly, the hybrid's battery system does not require an outlet for charging. It is charged automatically through a system known as regenerative braking, where the energy normally lost through braking or coasting goes to power the electric motor.

Also, to help save energy, the internal combustion engine is switched off when the car comes to a stop or is cruising at low speeds, that helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions, particularly in city traffic.

As the car gathers speed and picks up acceleration, the petrol engine kicks in automatically. And while running at these speeds, the battery is recharged as energy is recovered through regenerative braking.

Honda has so far sold about 2.6 lakh units of hybrid cars globally since it introduced the electric-petrol technology in 1999. The company plans to increase the share of hybrids in its total sales in the coming years. Honda said all its 80 dealerships across India have been trained to provide sales and service for the hybrids. "The Civic hybrid will have a service package that includes 14 free services, including labour costs and consumables, over a period of 4 years or 80,000 km,'' Honda India CEO Masahiro Takedagawa said.

Source: TNN