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[NEWS] Radical UK-designed sports SUVs lead EV push for Mahindra

Radical UK-designed sports SUVs lead EV push for Mahindra

Mahindra BE05 2022 front quarter
Mahindra's new BE sub-brand exhibits an "audacious new design language"

Five striking new Indian EVs will sit on new platform using Volkswagen components; could come to UK

Indian automotive giant Mahindra has embarked on a landmark electrification drive with the reveal of five new electric SUVs – three of which have been designed at its new European design headquarters in the UK and all using a new platform derived from the Volkswagen Group's MEB architecture

As the spearheads of its new Born Electric strategy, the new EVs represent a step change in terms of styling and technology for Mahindra and symbolically have been revealed at an event marking the 75th anniversary of India's independence. 

Four of the five will go on sale between 2024 and 2026, and notably company bosses have expressed their desire to export the cars to Europe – including the UK – if market conditions are right.

The new SUVs are split into two distinct sub-brands: XUV and BE. The former – represented here by the XUV:e8 and XUV:e9 – has been described as a brand that "builds upon the Mahindra legacy, while embracing the future". Mahindra imagines cars sold under this banner (which will be based on ICE models in the Mahindra line-up) will appeal to "customers who have the passion to live life beyond boundaries while making a difference".

It's not yet confirmed if they will be built on the same production line as their fuel-burning siblings; Mahindra is currently considering the business case of parallel construction.

The BE brand, meanwhile, exhibits an "audacious new design language" with a view to letting "customers be who they want to be" - as demonstrated by the BE.05, BE.07 and BE.09. The former is the flagship and is described as a sports car that will "raise your heartrate".

All five showcase Mahindra's new Heartcore design philosophy, which it says aims to demonstrate presence, strength and attitude. Tellingly, the firm also suggests they will "create an electrifying presence, both on the road and off it" - suggesting that, despite their potential global focus, the cars have been designed with India's sometimes challenging road environments in mind.

The firm remains committed to SUVs, even in light of the flexibility of the MEB architecture, and says that Volkswagen's phasing out of MEB in favour of the new SSP platform from 2025 won't have any bearing on its product roll-out.

Rajesh Jejurikar, who heads up Mahindra's automotive and farming divisions, said localisation of production and component supply will be critical to Mahindra progressing with its own plans as Volkswagen changes direction.  

Even more significant is the use of Volkswagen Group components in the cars' make-up. The so-called Inglo platform, which has been developed in India while the cars were designed at Mahindra Advanced Design Europe in Banbury, Oxfordshire, will underpin all of Mahinda's EVs from now on. 

Mahindra's European design centre is based on the same site as its successful Formula E racing team, which the firm says promotes collaboration on the subjects of EV efficiency, aerodynamics and other technological aspects of electrification. 

The Inglo platform has been conceived with an equal focus on advanced battery hardware, computing power and human-machine interaction - with capacity for 'exhilarating' performance and "excellent range and efficiency", while simultaneously introducing a new virtual reality interface and 5G functionality to allow over-the-air software updates.

Details remain unclear on exactly how similar Inglo and MEB (as used by the Volkswagen ID 3, Audi Q4 E-tron and Cupra Born) are related, but certainly Mahindra's vision hinges similarly around the modularity of the new architecture, which will allow it to explore new segments and usher in a raft of new models, while minimising development costs and streamlining its aftersales operations.  

Mahindra claims the skateboard architecture is one of the world's lightest. It houses common-format LFP batteries with a cell-to-pack design, ranging in capacity from 60kWh to 80kWh and capable of charging at rates of up to 175kW. That's quicker than any MEB-based EV currently on sale, but Autocar understands that Volkswagen Group cars will be upgraded with the larger cells in due course. 

Meanwhile, a new battery-management system has been integrated to ensure that intense charge-discharge cycles don't have a severe impact on battery longevity, reducing waste and costs.

The Inglo-based cars will come with a semi-active suspension system aimed at enhancing rolling refinement and cornering response; Mahindra promises "an immersive sporty drive experience".

Also, a dual-pinion steering system will boost control while remaining "feather-light" to use and the integration of brake-by-wire technology means drivers can select how they want their brakes to perform depending on driving situation. 

The battery will charge drivetrains of either single-motor, rear-wheel-drive or dual-motor, four-wheel-drive formats. Mahindra remains tight-lipped on detailed performance figures but has said its EVs will offer "class-leading" range and "best-in-class" recuperation from their regenerative brakes. 

Power will range from 228bhp to 282bhp in the single-motor cars and from 335bhp to 389bhp in the 4WD options, and while final specifications are some way off, Mahindra has already promised a best 0-62mph time of between five and six seconds. 

The possibility of the Volkswagen Group using Inglo itself to launch affordable EVs in India – likely under the Skoda marque – hasn't yet been ruled out. Mahindra would be in favour of such a move, said Jejurikar,  because "that's how you get scale". 

Speaking at the unveiling, Jejurikar said: "Our vision of Born Electric is underpinned by the future-ready Inglo platform, two new exciting brands and the Heartcore design philosophy. The five electric SUVs provide a powerful glimpse of our strategic direction and hews to the Mahindra attitude of a racing spirit and the attitude of adventure.

"We aim to not only electrify the roads but also the hearts and minds of SUV aficionados in India and around the world."

Mahindra is already a comfortable market leader in the electric three-wheeler segment in India - resulting in learnings that it says it can carry through to this first tranche of four-wheeled EVs and all those that follow.

While it's not yet fully guaranteed that these EVs will come to the UK (India is the priority in the first instance), the Banbury design centre will play a fundamental role in the roll-out of this strategy.

Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra told reporters at the event that he recognises the UK as "an international industrial powerhouse" and says the Made facility will capitalise on that advantage by bringing together local expertise and emerging talent from the UK's automotive design university courses.

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