Low-cost Hyundai electric cars in India to have 90% localisation [Update]

Update: A report from The Times of India says that Hyundai will invest INR 1,000 crore in the development of a low-cost electric car. The company is considering partnering with Kia to make its low-end electric cars affordable and competitive. In total, the South Korean automaker plans to invest more than INR 3,200 crore in the country in four years to launch new models.

Insiders have told the newspaper that the first Hyundai electric car made in India “should be a mini-SUV in all probability.” Citing S.S. Kim, MD, Hyundai (India), mint has reported that the low-cost EV project is the company’s “no.1 priority.” The continuing hikes in fossil fuel prices should lead to more customers considering the switch to low-cost electric cars like the Citroen eCC21, Tata HBX EV and the Mahindra eKUV100 when they become available, particularly buyers on the market for the second car.

The EV-ready Hyundai micro-SUV is intended for production also in South Korea, it is reported. Soongjung816 says that Hyundai’s Gwangju factory will manufacture the AX where it could become the smallest SUV on sale.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Hyundai foresees an EV wave in India in the near future and remains committed to the development of low-cost Hyundai electric car models. Seon Seob Kim, MD & CEO, Hyundai (India), told PTI in November 2020 that the company continued to invest in new affordable electric vehicles during the pandemic period, as reported by news18.com. Adding that there could be changes in timelines (of production and/or launch), he said that the company will continue the development of low-cost Hyundai electric cars for India.

Design

First spy pictures of Hyundai’s A-SUV (codename: Hyundai AX) emerged from South Korea courtesy of Sihngeun of Naver.com. & AutoSpy.net last year. The micro SUV is likely the base of the affordable Hyundai electric car, as India’s No.2 car company traces the approach of Tata, Renault & Citroen of repurposing an ICE platform to derive an EV to make a feasible business plan for electric variants.

The photographs provide a fair idea of the design and styling of the micro SUV. Notice the triangular mesh grille (that would be ‘shut’ on the EV) and the two-tier headamps, similar to recently launched SUVs Venue and Kona. The size is similar to the Hyundai Santro, but it sits a little higher. The alloy wheel design is new and the spokes are shaped like an asterisk which makes the wheels look larger.

The smallest ‘SUV’ ever that Hyundai has would send into production is designed with an airy greenhouse (notice the curved front window frame on the trailing edge), hidden rear door handles, flat side structures, tight overhangs and what looks like a steeply sloping rear windshield.

An interesting addition to the rear of the car are circular secondary lamps in the bumper where reflector strips would be placed. Adjustable headrests, rear parking sensors and pole antenna are the features that can also be observed.

Hyundai AX micro SUV (electric car base) rear
Hyundai may look to price what could be the smallest SUV it has ever made to give the Tata HBX and the Maruti Ignis a tough challenge.

Inspired by these spy shots, ElectricVehicleWeb decided to give the final production car a go on a digital photo editor. The rendering incorporates all design elements that are visible, while the front is modified to have a closed grille and charging port. We’d like to thank Sihngeun for making this render possible.

Business Strategy

At a price of INR 23.76 lakh (ex-showroom New Delhi), the Hyundai Kona Electric isn’t affordable to most and has no ascertainable effect on increasing the adoption of EVs in India. However, the Kona is only the beginning as new and cheaper Hyundai electric cars are all but coming. Hyundai India’s management said in multiple media interactions that the company’s EV ambitions do not end with the Kona and that an affordable model, competing in the mass-market segment, would launch by 2023.

Unlike the Kona, imported from South Korea as a kit, the zero-emissions electric crossover model would be manufactured in India. Hyundai knows that it cannot dominate a segment without proper localisation, and so, even for its EVs, it plans to use Made in India parts.

The low-cost Hyundai electric cars for India, the first of which would be a micro-SUV, are likely to have 90% localisation, as per a recent report from auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com. This indicates that the plan includes manufacturing the battery pack in India, although the Lithium-ion cells will probably need to be imported and they may come from South Korea instead of China. The company is in talks with EV component suppliers like LG Chem to develop a new ecosystem for the vehicles. Other reports have gone as far as stating that an elaborate export plan and a platform car for Kia Motors are in the plans.

Hyundai-Venue-front-sketch
The first affordable Hyundai electric car for India would turn out as a compact SUV akin to a Maruti Ignis. Sketch of the Hyundai Venue used for representation. Image Source: Hyundai

Speaking to Autocar Professional last year, Tarun Garg, Director – Sales, Marketing & Service, Hyundai (India), had said that the company will introduce high-volume Hyundai electric cars “in three years.” The COVID-19 pandemic could create delays, though.

In 2019, Hyundai confirmed that it was developing an electric car for India in the ‘affordable’ category under the ‘Smart EV’ project. Gleaning from subsequent interactions, the vehicle would cost under INR 10 lakh and that the company was planning to present a concept at the Auto Expo 2022.

When we spoke to Garg at the Auto Expo 2020, we got a sense that the electric car would have to be a compact SUV, and later, we revealed the Hyundai electric car for India featuring on the official product roadmap of the company. In this presentation, the Hyundai electric car in question is the ‘A-CUV’, ascertained as an electric micro-SUV rivaling the Tata HBX EV and the Citroen electric car codenamed the eCC21.

Hyundai electric car India Hyundai QI
The official roadmap for Hyundai electric cars places the electric micro SUV’s launch in 2022. Image Source: Hyundai

Unlike the Kona, imported from South Korea as a kit, the zero-emissions electric crossover model would be manufactured in India. Reports have gone as far as stating that an elaborate export plan and a platform car for Kia Motors are in the plans.

Unlikely to use the ‘Ioniq’ brand

In August last year, Hyundai introduced a new dedicated global sub-brand for EVs that is unlikely to be related to the Hyundai electric car for India. The ‘Ioniq’ range will include three new EVs initially – Ioniq 5 (Hyundai 45)Ioniq 6 (Hyundai Prophecy), and Ioniq 7 (large SUV) to emerge this year, next year and in 2024 respectively.

The Ioniq nomenclature is odd numbers designated to crossovers and even numbers going to sedans. The announcement has not a hint of a 4th model and nothing on a budget Hyundai electric car. In October 2020, it emerged on the regional media that the fourth Ioniq model could be a Ioniq 3 to be produced in Singapore from around 2025, but the mini car is not related to the high volume Hyundai EV for Indian market.

The Hyundai electric car India launch could be followed by exports to emerging markets where electrification is in the nascent stage. The new electric SUV, unlike the ‘Ioniq’ brand cars, may have none of the advanced 500 km driving range and sub-20 minute high-speed charging time of the e-GMP architecture. It may instead adopt a low-cost platform developed for budget EVs or a repurposed one that supports both electric and ICE powertrains. Before the pandemic hit, Hyundai was in talks with several suppliers and partners for the new ecosystem.

As per a PTI report on 5 November 2020 (via Economictimes.indiatimes.com), Hyundai’s Seon Seob Kim has confirmed that it has entered negotiations with a potential partner and is studying multiple options for battery manufacturing for upcoming Hyundai electric vehicles. Kim said that a conclusion is likely to be arrived in the following quarters.

Hyundai Electric Car Range & Price

The e-SUV should ideally have a real-world driving range of 200-250 km. A battery manufacturing plant in India could maximise the localisation of EV products, or it could be that Hyundai would source the complete battery from a local supplier. Thanks to local sourcing, the Hyundai AX electric price in India should start well under under INR 10 lakh (ex-showroom).

Maruti, Mahindra & MG making crossover-type e-SUVs

MESMA 350V platform side
Mahindra Electric reportedly is in talks with OEMs including Hyundai and Renault to supply electric powertrains. The high-voltage & high-performance electric powertrain ‘MESMA’ is to feature in Mahindra and Ssangyong products.

Hyundai launching an affordable electric car will be good news for those who wish to wean off fossil fuel-based vehicles or convert their second car to an EV. The government plans to install 10,000 electric vehicle charging stations across India by 2023 even as private players like Tata Power promise 700 charging stations by March this year. These measures combined with the advancement in battery technology would curb range anxiety and improve EV demand in the country.

MG Motor India, which witnessed a pleasing response to the ZS EV, plans an affordable electric car launch by 2023. MG intends to build a battery assembly plant in India as well as localise other components to bring down the cost of its electric vehicles. Lastly, Mahindra’s long-range electric SUV, the Mahindra eXUV300 with a range of 375 km, comes out late this year, targeting the personal car segment.

Hyundai Electric Car FAQs

When will the Rs. 10 lakh Hyundai electric car launch?

HMIL will launch the first ‘affordable’ Hyundai electric car, which it will manufacture locally, by 2023.

Which are the Rs 10 lakh Hyundai electric car rivals?

The Hyundai electric car rivals would include the Tata HBX EV, Citroen eCC21, Renault XBA EV & the Mahindra eKUV100.