This week in Auto: Maruti raises prices; Bajaj opens and shuts bookings of Chetak; Govt clears development of hydrogen fuel and many more

A hydrogen fuel pump nozzle is pictured at a factory of German industrial gases maker Linde in Vienna (Representative Image)

A hydrogen fuel pump nozzle is pictured at a factory of German industrial gases maker Linde in Vienna (Representative Image)

Twenty-two of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India. But the central government is moving steadfastly to change that. Besides the push for electric vehicles (EVs) the government is looking to push hydrogen as clean-fuel alternative to petrol and diesel. A small but important step was announced this week in this regard. More on this later in the copy, but first here is the complete look at what made headlines in the auto space during the week.

Auto companies reduce output across Maharashtra plants

Amid curfew-like curbs imposed under section 144 by the Maharashtra government to contain the spread of the coronavirus, automotive companies have been allowed to continue vehicle production, but with a limited workforce.

Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), Tata Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had kept their vehicle and engine making plants operational on April 15 which marked the first of the 15-day lockdown period.

Bajaj Chetak bookings opened and closed

Within 48 hours of re-opening bookings for its electric scooter Chetak, Bajaj Auto on Thursday put the brakes as it stopped taking bookings due to supply chain uncertainties.

The company had received an overwhelming response after the bookings were opened at 900 hours on April 13, which was also the auspicious day of Gudi Padwa, and customers were able to book Chetak online on a first come first serve basis.

Wholesale March volume up 115%

Upbeat demand and a low base of same month last year saw the passenger vehicle (PV) market post a growth of 115 percent during March, as per data shared by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

March saw 290,939 sales of PV comprising cars, sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and vans, whereas the same month last year witnessed sales of 135,196 sales units. The numbers do not include sales of Tata Motors as the company stopped sharing data with SIAM.

Bajaj Auto launches CT110X

Bajaj has widened its commuter portfolio with the launch of the new CT110X priced at Rs 55,494. The CT110X gets a host of changes from the standard CT110 making it all the more rugged.

The Bajaj CT110X stands at the top-end of the CT series of commuter bikes and Bajaj Auto says the new changes have been made keeping in mind the challenging roads and riding conditions.

Honda to recall nearly 78,000 units

Honda Cars India (HCIL) announced on April 16 that it has expanded its campaign to voluntarily replace fuel pump in 77,954 units of select models in India.

“The fuel pumps installed in these vehicles may contain defective impellers, which could, over time result in engine stopping or not starting,” HCIL said in a statement.

Maruti to hike prices

India’s largest carmaker firm Maruti Suzuki on April 16 announced a hike in its select models by up to Rs 22,500 with immediate effect to partially offset the impact of the rise in input costs.

The automotive major stated that they increased the price on select models owing to increase in various input costs. However, details of select models were not included in the regulatory filing.

India’s plans with hydrogen

India has committed to spend $ 200 million over the next 5-7 years to promote use of hydrogen. A top bureaucrat from the ministry of new and renewable energy said at an event this week.

This is the first major and concrete announcement by the government after it placed the Union Budget 2021 where the finance ministry spoke about plans to set up a National Hydrogen Mission.

Hydrogen is considered to be the cleanest form of energy worldwide as its only by-product is water. When used for powering mobility needs hydrogen has far greater benefits than other fuels like petrol and diesel.

Hydrogen can be a practical option for long-distance vehicles, thanks to its lesser weight and high energy. Hydrogen-powered vehicles have higher drive range, besides a 50 percent reduction in fuel consumption compared to conventional fuels.

Last year the automotive industry moved a step closer to the commercial launch of hydrogen-powered vehicles in India with the government-instituted automotive industry standards committee (AISC) submitting a final draft on its regulations.

This is the second time the government is considering a new type of fuel. Similar guidelines for EVs were finalised earlier. In India, currently no company sells hydrogen-powered vehicles. But this did not stop the government to show that it was in favour of hydrogen-powered cars.

In 2018, the government slashed the goods and services tax (GST) on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles by more than half — to 12 percent as compared 28 percent on petrol, diesel and CNG vehicles.

While developing a long-range, fully electric vehicle has its limitations, hydrogen-powered vehicles can be developed instead to fulfil the needs. Countries like the United States, Germany, Japan, South Korea and China are already running hydrogen-fueled cars and buses.