By on August 19, 2010

In Europe, governments are ramping up their electric car programmes in order to usher in a new era of alternative propulsion vehicles. Some more successfully than others. And just as the countries are doing their part, the automakers are doing theirs. GM has an Ampera (or “Volt”, as our North American friends will know it as) in the offing while Nissan preps the Leaf. Much has been made of this fight, in part because it is playing out globally. But in Europe another contender is looking to steal the march on GM and Nissan: Indian upstart Tata Motors.

The Independent reports that Tata are aiming to launch 2 electric vehicles (EV) in the UK by September or October and in Scandinavia by March 31st 2011, thereby beating their competitors to market. Tata’s EV champion is the Tata Indica Vista EV, which was unveiled at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, and has a Lithium Ion battery and a range of 200km. American readers might remember the Indica Vista EV from the Automotive X-Prize, where it made the finals before mysteriously disappearing over “technical issues”. What those issues were is far from clear, but given that Ratan Tata sits on the X-Prize board, one might guess that his namesake team was allowed to make a graceful exit.

The second EV is a compact pick-up truck called the Ace EV, but that was declared as in an “advanced state of development” by Ravi Kant, Tata’s vice chairman. By which he possibly meant “development outside of a $10m efficiency competition contested by (among others) high school and college student teams.”

Tata also added that they will watching the Indian market for signs of EV readiness, but they’re not holding out much hope. The said that whilst Scandinavia has the infrastructure for EVs and the UK has charging stations under development, India’s is “practically absent”. And it could be that way for a while, unless the private sector get involved. India is 76% the size of the European Union. Of its 1.2 billion citizens, 128 million do not have access to water and 839 million have no sanitation. Building an EV infrastructure probably isn’t all that high on the Indian government’s priority list.

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2 Comments on “Tata’s “Big” EV Gamble...”

  • avatar

    TATA are actually investing a lot of money in what they call disruptive technologies. A disruptive technology is something which will give TATA a big push into the mainsteam high volume car market. These technologies range from EV’s to cars running on compressed air.

    TATA is developing many of these technologies through a technology center they have built at the Uni of Warwick in England, their R&D facilities in India and also the JLR who have a significant development programme of their own.

    TATA are also planning to use JLR production facilities to make these EV’s for the European market….. TATA have a plan!

  • avatar

    “Building an EV infrastructure probably isn’t all that high on the Indian government’s priority list.”

    Ya think? They can’t even get them to buy the world’s cheapest car… getting an EV infrastructure up is going to be problematic, to say the least.

    And yet, I respect Tata for at least daring to dream big, and going where most companies fear to tread. Whatever the eventual market penetration and success of the Nano, they’re forcing Maruti and others to take a look at that end of the market, to try to go lower. If the Indica works out, they may spur the Chinese or other budding manufacturers to get really serious about their electrics, instead of relying on the cobbled-together Chinese-kit-car stuff they’re peddling now.

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