ZigWheels takes an exclusive first drive of the revolutionary Mahindra e2o in and around the Mahindra Reva plant in Bengaluru, Karnataka where it is being manufactured
Electric cars are still a thing of the future. Despite all the advancements in technology over the years, they seem like they belong to a different world – or at least they have seemed so till now. More than anything else, it has just been the rather distrusting perception of the masses that vehicles powered by electricity have no place in conventional transportation. Thankfully, cars like the Tesla Model S, Fisker Karma and the Nissan Leaf are doing their bit across the globe to change that perception. Chetan Maini, Founder and Chief of Technology and Strategy at Mahindra Reva has been doing it for years too – with what everyone in India knows as the cute little Reva. The Reva and the Reva i though, were crude compared to what Mahindra Reva has on offer now – the e2o.
The car’s name itself is in fact derived from three very different and apt analogies. The ‘e’ represents the energy from the sun, the ‘2’ (to) represents the car’s connected technologies and the ‘o’ represents oxygen – the life force that sustains all life on earth – according to how Mahindra likes to describe it. As far as we’re concerned, e2o quite simply represents a product that is as clean as H2O or water not only in its manufacture, but also in its operation and by replacing the chemical symbol for hydrogen with ‘e’, it just emphasises on its electric propulsion.
But the e2o is not an evolution of the Reva i, it is a revolution, based on all the learnings from that car – from 200 million kilometers of real world data. The e2o pushes the boundaries of what we think cars can be, and how much they can be a part of our daily lives and not just commutes to work. The ingenuity begins from the design stage itself and then continues on to the manufacturing, operation and even the after sales phases of the car’s life cycle (Mahindra e2o : Special Coverage).
When the concept for the e2o was first talked about, Mahindra turned to one of India’s leading automotive designers for the car’s exterior styling – Dilip Chhabria. DC Design churned out a car that isn’t as radical as most other electric cars are. The e2o is more like a conventional hatchback but has enough quirks in it to bring to notice that is indeed out of the ordinary. It isn’t exactly boxy either with enough kinks and curves on it to give it a decent balance. But more than anything else, it is economical to make as well. The flared wheel arches add a whole lot of character to the entire stance and the wraparound headlights give a slightly futuristic visual as well.
At the rear, the e2o is characterised by its swooping windows that also help make the rear occupants feel a lot less claustrophobic as compared to similarly styled cars. The tail lamp clusters are all-LED and flank a large grey panel with the branding emblazoned on it. The bumper is tall but gets broken up well by a black cladding at the bottom and of course, there’s no tail pipe either. All in all, we’d say the e2o is a cute looking car and one that will appeal to female buyers more than men. Then there’s that really muscular bulge along the e2o’s side profile that will really take up the attention of the male mind too!
While the exterior was penned by DC Design and taken forward by the in-house design team at Mahindra, the interiors were completely left to the manufacturer to come up with. That said, it has a rather clean layout and incorporates some very high-quality bits. The dash is dominated by the huge rectangular touch-screen infotainment system that has two micro-sd card slots – one for the navigation system and one for anything else you might want to load up on it (Read : Mahindra e2o how it is made).
The steering wheel is nice and chunky and just beyond it is the big circular digital console lit up in a nice electric blue that tells your speed, state of charge, vehicle status, cabin temperature, etc. The seats are a nice sporty design with immaculate stitching on the leather that comes standard on the top variant. Air con vents are surrounded by mock-aluminum rings and all-in-all, the e2o looks very nicely kitted from the inside as well.
The way the e2o is built is quite a departure from convention as well. With the chassis more like a rally-car spaceframe that gives high levels of protection while keeping things light, the body panels are then resin-bonded onto it. The panels themselves are made of a multi-layer colour-impregnated composite, which means they are not externally painted. Each body panel is extremely light weight and we could pick up the front doors with literally one hand! These panels are dent-resistant and in case you end up scratching your e2o lightly in traffic, all you need is a quick polish to get it back to being spanking new.
Contrary to what many might expect, the cabin is quite comfortable as well. The seats offer great support, and there’s enough room on the rear bench to seat two adults comfortably, with the provision of child seat anchor points as standard fitment as well. Of course, the e2o is a two-door hatch and that means the front seats have to be folded front to gain access to the rear, but ingress and egress is relatively easier than most high-end 2+2 sedans that we’ve encountered in the past (Mahindra e2o : Special Coverage).
As far as the driver’s side is concerned, the big steering wheel is great to hold, and the shift lever for the automatic drive system is well within reach. There’s lots of visibility all around, the cluster is easily legible, all controls are handy and the only quirk we could find with the car was that the throttle and brake pedals were slightly offset to the left, with a dead pedal to the far left. This is again a purely functional consequence owing to the front wheels mad ability to steer to an angle of 45 degrees, giving the e2o a tiny turning radius of just 3.9 metres making it one of the most maneuverable cars you can buy.
At the heart of the e2o is its rather unique battery pack that powers the single electric motor connected to the rear wheels. While the Reva i’s battery pack was all of 250kg, the e2o’s unit weighs in at just 100kg! Each of the 16 Li-ion cells in fact is as powerful as 200 smartphone batteries. The 48V battery stack is thus four times lighter and has three times the life of a conventional set of Li-ion batteries of the same ratings. These are all neatly stacked in a composite tub which is placed under the front seats. All the other electronics get placed in another tub that sits under the rear bench and the boot with just the various components’ heat sinks peeking out underneath that are cooled by a duct running from the front grille to the rear. All the electronics are thus completely water tight even under the heaviest of rains.
All of that is used to power a 15kW, 53Nm electric motor that gives its drive through a set of reduction gears straight to the rear wheels. With full power available on electric motors right from standstill, the e2o makes for one extremely peppy vehicle. Overtaking in traffic is a breeze and with the shift lever slotted in ‘B’ mode, it can easily keep up with traffic around you. In fact, at traffic light GPs, you could even be ahead of everyone else! That ‘B’ definitely stands for ‘boost’ then! Of course, you’ll end up draining the e2o of its charge slightly quicker in ‘B’ mode and for stop-n-go city traffic, there’s always ‘F’ mode. Unlike most electric vehicles that we see today, the e2o’s batteries run at full power till 98 percent of its charge, so the car stays peppy all the way to the end.
The first charge out of the factory is via the facility’s solar power system and an e2o typically has a 100km range on full juice. This may vary in real world driving conditions, depending on ambient temperatures, as well as individual driving styles, but the best part is that Mahindra has ensured that the infrastructure is in place to have charging stations all around big cities to charge on the go. 1 hour of charge will give the e2o a 25km range while a full charge takes about 5 hours. But the e2o does offer a fail safe in case you choose to ignore the countless warnings sent by the car to your mobile device or even turn a blind eye to the rather large information cluster as well. When the e2o is under 10 percent of charge, you could choose to use the REVive function which will give it another 8km of range so you can make it to the next charging station.
While out on the road, the e2o feels like any other hatchback to drive, but with a peppier engine. All the power from the electric motor combined with the low 830kg kerb weight makes for a fun and convenient commute. Kudos to the entire team at Mahindra to have come up with an electric car that makes you feel as comfortable as a conventional car. The slightly offset pedals do take a little getting used to, but isn’t as bad as you may think it is. Probably the biggest thing that you’ll need to get used to though, is that the e2o doesn’t have even the faintest hum at idle. All you can hear is the air conditioning running, and the motor’s whine when accelerating hard. Great work has been done to damp out noises from the outside as well, since in the absence of a conventional engine’s note, those tend to be far more audible.
The suspension does a great job of ironing out most undulations in the tarmac and the e2o has pretty good road manners as well. The 155/70 R13 Hankook Optimo tyres have adequate grip and are pretty silent too. The car turns in neatly and owing to that tiny turning radius, city drives are no stress at all. The other feature on the e2o that takes a little getting used to is the way the car brakes – with the initial force of braking coming through the electric motor itself, that helps charge the batteries in return, braking feel is definitely a little different, till the time the hydraulic brakes kick in. The electric motor also regenerates charge to the batteries under coasting and helps give the e2o a very handy hill-hold function too.
There’s so much technology in the Mahindra e2o that it’s a little tough grasping onto everything in one go. But as far as real world driving conditions are concerned, the car does every bit to bust myths about electric vehicles. The Mahindra e2o is more than just the next generation of the Reva – Chetan Maini’s electric car. It is a revolution in the way we look at personal mobility in a future that is more environmentally conscious than ever before. Combining modern solar, electric and electronic technology with the flexibility of mobile apps and computer technology as well as the most environment friendly manufacturing processes in a package that looks, feels and drives like a conventional automobile, the e2o expands the horizons of motoring possibilities.