New Delhi is blanketed in thick fog. This is not the usual mist seen during winters in December but a mix of fog or haze intensified by smoke and other atmospheric pollutants. It is in the backdrop of this thick blanket of smog, a grim reminder of increasing pollution, that Morris Garage's latest product, its electric SUV ZS EV, gets ready for test drive.
Rajeev Chaba, president and managing director of MG Motor India, was present to flag off the test drive of the 15 ZS EVs.
Even before completing a kilometre, you fall in love with the car. A test drive will encourage you to upgrade to an EV when you plan to change your car next time. That's because of its unparalleled simplicity and boundless power. There was only one change seen from the car that was driven at the test track of Saic Motor in Shanghai - no autonomous driving. The tech will take time to reach India.
Will it work here?
Should India go for electric vehicles? Besides the thick smog induced by heavy pollution, another reason why we should embrace EVs is pure economics. India has miniscule petroleum production. So, should we bet on vehicles that do not use fossil fuels? For a country that imports oil and gas, going electric makes perfect sense. Besides huge savings in foreign exchange, we can also save the atmosphere which is fast becoming unliveable due to various forms of pollution.
British car maker Morris Garage does not have the first mover advantage here. That goes to Hyundai that launched the full-electric Kona SUV some time earlier. Next turn could be Tata Motors that is planning to launch the electric Nexon. With Nexon too set to be launched in January, the three are set to battle it out soon.
Simple and beautiful
Electric vehicles are essentially simpler than the internal combustion engines that use petrol or diesel as fuel. They just have a motor and battery compared to the thousands of components and moving parts of internal combustion engines. The battery is the only costly component in the EV. In future, batteries too would become cheaper, along with an increase in their range.
Is it cheap?
No, not at all. Mainly because the technology is new, the costs are high. Besides, there are interests of vehicle manufacturers. The most expensive component of the EV is the battery that has imported cells that are assembled here. A battery could amount to half the cost of the EV. Higher taxes are the culprit here. This could change in the future though.
Indians, who could ask how much a Rolls-Royce could deliver in terms of mileage, could pose a similar question here. On a single charge, what range does it offer? The average range offered by electric vehicles in India currently is 400 km. In the US, some models of Tesla are offering a range of 1,000 km. They could reach India too. The issue of lack of charging stations could be over when more electric vehicles hit the street. Besides, since all the electric vehicles are providing a portable charging cable that can be plugged into any 15-ampere electrical socket, charging should not be a problem under any situation.
Everything is battery
The battery is at the heart of an electric car, and like any other power supplier there are chances of heating up, and other issues. If the battery goes dead, you are stuck. However, the battery won't fail. Check the ZS offers and you will know why. MG offers a five years/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Besides, the battery gets eight years' warranty.
Electric, internet inside
The ZS EV could have done away with the 'Internet inside' and 'electric' chrome badges on the rear and the sides. The entire difference is in the 'electric' sticker. If that is taken off, the ZS looks like a normal SUV, without the exhaust pipe, fuel lid and the engine sound.
The ZS is the first electric internet car. Like the Hector, you can control everything with the mobile app. It has an inbuilt Airtel SIM. The infotainment system features pre-installed apps like Accuweather, Gaana, and TomTom map.
The ZS EV meets the European E-Mark, a safety certification mark; the European REACH, a EU regulation adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals; the UL2580 battery safety certification and the European E-NCAP regulation.
A glimpse is enough to fall for the ZS EV. It looks every bit like a conventional compact SUV. The ZS comes with LED daytime running lights and 'lion eye' headlamps, alloy wheels inspired by windmills, a shoulder line that runs strongly across the body and racing tail lamp. The charging port is placed in the front grille which can be accessed by pressing the grille. The car is available in currant red, ferris white, copenhagen blue.
The upper section of the dashboard gets soft-touch materials. The steering wheel is also covered in leather. The AC vents offer 360-degree rotation. The legroom is ample and since the seat is flat in the back, three passengers are an easy fit. The car also gets a panoramic sunroof, premium PU leather sears, PM 2.5 filters to ensure air quality inside the cabin and a spacious boot.
The ZS is also equipped with six airbags, EPS ABS, hill descent control with hill start assist, pedestrian alert system, emergency stop signal, and rear seat belt reminder, among others.
8 years' warranty
MG offers to replace your battery within eight years or 1.5 lakh kilometres in case of any issues. The 44.5 kW lithium-ion battery generates 142.7 ps power and 353 Nm torque. The company claims a range of 340 km in a single charge. If a DC fast charger is used, the battery can be recharged 80% in 50 minutes. The AC charger will take six to nine hours for a full charge. You also get a portable charger. From zero to 100 kmph, the car takes only 8.5 seconds.
Electric vehicles offer a different driving experience. You never know if the motor is on or not. Switch to the drive mode and press the accelerator and the car zooms. The motor offers better performance than any petrol or diesel engine. It offers a sports car experience, minus the engine growl. There is no gear lever. Instead, you get a knob which helps you select between park, reverse, neutral and drive, much like an automatic transmission. It also has three levels of kinetic energy recovery system - moderate, light and heavy. The light system is for the highways, moderate for city use and heavy for the hills.
MG offers five-way charging infrastructure, five years' unlimited warranty, five years' road side assistance and five labour free services.