2013 Mahindra e2o in India first drive
The e2o is an electric car developed by the Mahindra Reva Electric Car Company. It's the successor to the Reva India's first electric car. The big question is if India is prepared for a car of its kind. Nearly a decade ago it wasn't but how far have things progressed with the E2O.
The e2o looks a bit out of the ordinary, the design is unconventional since its been drawn up by DC Design known for their quirky body shapes and lines. Does it look good? I will let you draw your own conclusions though it is not a design that appeals to me. The front end is striking and draws attention to it thanks to the large grill and bumpers complemented by a slim projector headlamp assembly. This car continues its two door philosophy but viewed from the side the
profile does look odd and ill proportioned. The oddly shaped rear window which does not roll down provides a large glass area that allows enough light to enter the cabin and give it a sense of room.
At the rear the body looks its narrowest. The rear hatch to access the boot is small and looks and feels flimsy. The hatch also covers the charging point which is the only smartest and practical design feature I have seen on the entire car. This was done in the interest of preventing anyone from tampering with the conventional external charge point when the car is left to charge.
Dimensions of this car aren't very generous on paper, its 3.5 meters long and 1.5 meters tall and wide. The front and rear track is narrow just around 1.2 meters wide but it provides a super 3.9 metre turning radius.
Inside the cabin the width isn't an issue if you need to seat just four passengers and that's the best you should attempt. The narrow track also means the wheel well protrudes into the cabin and this can be an issue for front passengers as it forces the driver's pedals to be positioned too close to each other.
Interior design was drawn up internally by Mahindra Reva and I must say its a fair sight better to look at than the exteriors. The design is simple yet very functional in addition to being neat and clean. A non fussy dashboard is dominated by the audio system which also doubles up as a sat nav system and systems information display. It indicates the state of charger of the battery, predicts the range and also combines with the navigation system to help you choose the best
route given the state of charge of the battery.
The motor is a 3 phase induction motor with a max power output of 19kW and 53Nm of max torque driving the rear wheels. The principal advantage this motor offers is refinement. It's 100 per cent noiseless and vibration free. It's also quite peppy since max torque is available right from 0rpm. That's another advantage of electric motors, there is absolutely no lag in power delivery. The motor is fed by lithium-ion battery stacks, which are placed under the front seats.
The motor is mated to a 4-stage automatic transmission. There are three basic driving modes offered, a forward and reverse and a boost mode. In forward the e2o drives economically, so while power delivery is linear you get a sense that something is lacking. That lack is covered up by the boost mode where all the torque is made available and gives you a quick getaway from traffic lights or comfortable overtaking speed.
Charging and range efficiencies are thus. A five hour charge will replenish the batteries a 100 percent and the best time to get this done will be at night. On a full charge the range provided is around 90-95 kilometers though if driven carefully it can extend to 120km. In an emergency you can quick the charge the battery to recover around 90 per cent charge though this will still give you a very limited range. Regenerative braking continues to charge the battery and this should
extend range but not very significantly. In an emergency the e2o also gives you a reserve charge that is unlocked by a command centre in Bangalore. The reserve acts as a buffer to extend the life of the battery as complete depletion can harm battery life.
Battery life nonetheless should be around 150K kilometers plus and since these are lithium ion they can be easily recycled. The batteries constitute around 25 per cent of the entire cost of the car and while it may seem like an expensive affair, you have to still realise that electricity as a fuel is still significantly cheaper than petrol or diesel and that there aren't any conventional servicing costs since there is no need for consumables.
The e2o isn't a monocoque it's a sort of body on frame chassis made of tubular beams. The panels are all made of plastic reinforced fibre that are impregnated with paint. These panels are also impact resistant but has limitations. So collisions of 15-20kmph will allow the panels to bounce back to form without any disfiguration. The entire car weighs just 830 kilos.
Front and rear suspension uses gas charged shock absorbers so ride quality is good. As for its approach towards corners you really shouldn't be pushing this car hard around them. In urban areas at cruising speeds the e2o is stable and confident but the narrow track and tallish stance results in a fair amount of body roll. The offset is the batteries that are stacked very low to the ground reducing the cars centre of gravity.
The steering is entirely mechanical without any assistance. At speeds this is comfortable but parking the car does require some effort. Brakes are a combination of front discs and rear drums with enough stopping power. Top of the line variants will get ABS and airbags for safety purposes. The 155/70 13" tyres have been specially developed along with Apollo Tyres to provide lower rolling resistance in the interest of enhancing efficiency.
The e2o presents a very strong case as a second or third car choice for a family. Due to its limited range it's best used within urban areas. One innovative feature is that through telematics the car communicates with its owner on a specially designed app for smartphones. Through this app several functions of the car can be accessed. For instance you can remotely lock or unlock the car by sending it an SMS to do so. You can also instruct the car to switch on the air conditioning before you even leave your house to regulate the temperature. In addition the app allows you to prepare a route by downloading google maps and indicating a safe driving range depending on the state of charge of the battery.
Unfortunately the price for all this technology is steep. At nearly 6 lakh rupees ex-showroom Delhi the e2o will find it extremely hard to make a viable case for itself. At that price it clearly competes against the likes of conventional hatchbacks such as the Swift, Polo, Micra and its ilk. And without the available range or the ability to do the long distance trips like a conventional hatch could, the e2o will be swimming against the tide, without a life jacket!