Mahindra and Ford’s secret EV

A close look at an early prototype springs up some pleasant surprises

While many eyes will be looking at the upcoming Ford-Mahindra co-developed SUV — next-gen Mahindra XUV500/Ford’s C-segment SUV — the first co-developed product to come out of this partnership is an all-electric car. Based on the Ford Aspire, this new EV is due to arrive by the end of next year and we got an up-close look at an early mule.

The first thing that struck us about the EV is that it isn’t the sub-four-metre version that’s on sale in the Indian market; but is, instead, a full-sized sedan with a bigger boot. It’s the same 4.2-m-long Aspire that Ford exports to markets like South Africa from its Sanand plant, where it is manufactured alongside the domestic Aspire compact sedan.

Mahindra and Ford’s secret EV

The lower tax rate for cars under 4m doesn’t apply to EVs, all of which pay a flat 12%, irrespective of length. So why not offer a bigger version of the Aspire at no extra cost? No extra cost to the company that is. “The material cost differences between the two body lengths are negligible,” says a source in Ford India. However, in the eyes of the Indian customer, the perceived value of a car increases with size. This mindset would allow a premium to be attached to the price of the Aspire EV, which given the high cost of batteries, won’t be cheap.

Mahindra and Ford’s secret EV

The arrangement between Mahindra and Ford to manufacture and sell the Aspire-based EV is fairly straightforward. Ford will provide just the ‘glider’ (or body shell) without the engine and transmission to Mahindra Electric, which plonk in its in-house-developed electric powertrain. The mule we drove was fitted with the eVerito’s basic 72V system, but this was doneto demonstrate the ‘proof of concept’ or the feasibility of packaging a battery back, electric motor and controllers into the Aspire.

The specs for this electric, mid-size sedan, that Mahindra Electric has exclusively shared with us, are pretty impressive. A high-voltage 380V system is being developed to match a larger battery back and a more powerful motor, so as to give this electric sedan a level of range and performance that won’t let its owners feel short-changed. Mahindra is developing a 60kW (81.5hp) motor, which is twice more powerful than that of the eVerito. A bigger 25kWh battery packis being developed, and according to Mahesh Babu, CEO of Mahindra Electric, it will be good for “a real-world range of 150km.” In the official drive cycle, Mahindra is targeting a range of close to 200km. “The top speed will be 110kph, so this will be an electric car with proper performance,” says Babu.

Mahindra and Ford’s secret EV

This EV will be sold as both Mahindra and Ford by the respective companies, and hence there will be some level of ‘badge engineering’ to differentiate between the brands. The low volumes won’t justify investment in expensive sheet metal changes and will be limited to softer parts likebumpers and grilles.

There’s no word on pricing yet, but what’s for sure is that this electric sedan will be under ₹15 lakh so it qualifies for subsidies under the FAME II scheme.

Initially, this new EV sedan will be targeted at corporate companies as a fleet vehicle for their employees’ commute from home to work and back; but the aim is to eventually find private customers. That, however, could take some time, as the asking price (almost twice that of a petrol Aspire) and lack of charging infrastructure, are both still big hurdles to overcome.

For Mahindra, the Aspire EV is a proud moment, as it’s the first time an Indian car company has taken the lead in developing a product for a global automaker.

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2020 10:21:44 PM |

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