As Hyundai Kona is set to begin the second electric car revolution in India, the sparks of the change were ignited here in Kerala. A Chalakudy-based company, Eddy Electric, is credited with developing the country's first indigenously built electric car - the Lovebird.
The car went into commercial production in 1993, a frontrunner for Reva Electric that is currently owned by Mahindra.
Eddy Current Controls is a Chalakudy-based company established in 1971. Though it doesn't make cars now, it produces components for electric cars and has a global presence.
The two-seater Loverbird was built on a lightweight high-tensile steel chassis and fiberglass reinforced polyester body. Designed for city driving, the small car could cover 60 km in a single charge. Like the modern electric vehicles, it took six to eight hours to fully charge the battery. The Lovebird was powerful enough to negotiate any incline easily. The lead acid battery in Lovebird was the same used in other cars since nobody then had heard about lithium ion batteries.
The Lovebird was powered by a DC electric motor. The car had an electronic chopper controller that facilitated smooth speed control – it had four forward speeds and a reverse. The USP of the car was its practicality, compactness and low cost. People who had driven the car vouch for its driveability too. However, the manufacturer had to stop the production of Lovebird once it became clear that it was no longer viable commercially, probably because the concept was ahead of its time.
Reva is the success story of electric cars in India. It took birth in India and is seen on roads in 26 countries across the world, including European countries. The company set up in Bangalore by Chetan Maini was bought by Mahindra. The Reva is available in Mahindra showrooms across India, including Kerala. It is now known as Mahindra e2o.
The Reva took birth 10 years after the Lovebird in 2001. Reva is an acronym for revolutionary electric vehicle alternative. Using a standard car battery and tech from the US, the Reva did 70 km in a single charge. The new e2o could run 100 km if it is charged for five hours. The maximum speed limit is 90 kmph.
The Hyundai Kona will be India's first electric SUV. Several vehicles could take the path paved by the Kona. MG Motors is set to be the next. Later, all other car makers, including Tesla from the US, could launch their electric SUVs here.
Electric technology is developing. Tesla's new sports model has a range of 1,000 km. The price tag too could come down considerably in future. That is because the technology is simple; it just needs a motor and a battery. Don't be surprised if you see only electric vehicles on the road in the next 10 years.