Instead of the 1-lakh car, what if …

… Tata thought of a Rs 10 lakh car that could do 100 kilometers per liter of petrol? While surfing around after reading X-prize foundation’s renewed challenge on 100 miles per gallon cars, I came to know of Aptera Motors. Look at their claims, rather, goals:

  • 0 to 60 in 10 seconds
  • 230 miles per gallon (~ 100 kmpl)
  • First version should cost around $20000 (~ Rs 10 lakhs)

About that mileage figure of 230 mpg, I am not sure if they are talking about a petrol-electric hybrid, or an all electric engine. (For electric engines, they have a formula to convert performance to equivalent fuel economy). But regardless, such a thing (sure looks unconventional – photo sourced from Aptera website) could be a great thing for fossil-fuel starved country of ours.

Aptera like project may be ambitious as well as expensive for Tata – hard for them to do two innovations at once, low-cost bottom-of-pyramid stuff as well as engineering (high fuel economy), isn’t it? But I wonder if it was possible for them to take the Reva concept forward.

That thing costs about 2.5 lakhs. What if Tata did this with Reva. Use their corporate might to extract huge government support and subsidies to pull down the price. Then make supply chain or metallurgical innovations (I am just guessing what they may be doing for their 1-lakh car) to pull it down further? Past the first version of such a car, build or buy technologies like Tesla Motors claims to have to make these electric cars more practical (Electric cars that do 250 miles per charge!).

Easy for me to say all this. But do you think Tata should have looked for measures to prevent our country from turning into another large petrol-thirsty economy like the US? If they do their 37 bhp petrol driven Rs 1 lakh car as they have been saying, that risk is pretty real and immediate.

PS: I know hybrid, or electric are not the only options, there is hydrogen, bio-diesel, ethanol etc etc. This is more to convey the concern about Tata’s car.


14 Responses

  1. i have a one track mind. how about a under 2 crore snake bus which could be really long but be able to make u turns over medians? ;)

  2. You are right, unless they make these fuel efficient cars affordable, common man will not buy it. 10 lakhs is simply too much! Even if a person can afford 10 lakhs he will go for some flashy car than the Reva kinds :-(

    But I think innovation has started and I hope to see a economical and fuel efficient car soon in the market :-)

  3. 06 April 2006

    Tata’s also have their Compressed air car with French collaboration.

  4. I am dreading the day the Tatas will make that car! Besides the concerns you have raised I have my own worries – Where will people drive them? Where will they park them? and more importantly where will the pedestrians go if the roads are filled with these cars? Because once this dream is realised all the people who can afford two-wheeler loans will shift to this car (and given the way they drive god save us) and all the ultra rich will buy these cars for their kids because “it is safer than a two-wheeler”

    I wish Tatas thought of making money in some other way…not this car for aam aadmi!!!

  5. car for the aam aadmi in india could make a mess of the big cities in india.

  6. What might help is a motorcycle like “car” with the engine in a enclosed bonnet/hatch, a “bubble”/door+window to enclose the riders, gearless drive and two tyres side by side at the back (a-la auto but spaced much closer together, for stability) and voila – you have a 2-seater “car” slightly longer and wider (at rear) than a motorcycle. Safer, private, less-road-hogger-than-car and cheaper(?) to boot. The mileage would be better than a car but worse than a motorcycle (maybe equal to scooter). Hmmm …. too radical, eh? Or, is it “lateral thinking”?? ;-) Repeat after me – a car is a 4 wheeler, it cannot be anything else. :-) Is Bajaj listening?

  7. My two cents on this one

    a. A company exists only to make profits. If the Tatas see a mountain of money in this project, it will happen. If the Tatas don’t do it someone else will. This is just Economics 101.

    b. It’s a bit unfair to the aam aadmi to deny him a car. After all he has the right to drive a car as much as any of us have. This is a bit like an IIT or IIM aspirant. Till he/she enters one, he/she wants as many seats as possible. Once he/she gets in, then he/she would like it to be an exclusive club. Not fair IMHO.

    c. There are many options to keep the car population down. Almost all will have to be led by the government. e.g. put an annual tax on cars that make them expensive. Or make parking expensive in big cities so that people use public transport.

    d. Which brings me to the other thing. The best antidote to this is good public transport. Why would I undergo the torture of driving in a city if I could use public transport. I live in Singapore and I don’t own a car even though owning one has become quite affordable over the years. The MRT and buses are so good that I prefer to use them vs driving. Taxis are cheap.

  8. wide roads. cheap reliable cars.


    (what a location to place a car ad)


    b’ aires


  9. bangalore circa 2011?

    all credits to the original fotografers.

  10. Tarle,

    Read this blog for more

    did you know about 7-8 years back drivers used to carry portable toilets to relieve themselves when stuck in traffic jams for 3-4 hrs.

    When I go now, I can escape the madness by taking the sky-train, which is an elevated not-quite-M-RT. Each train has 3 coaches and can probably carry 250 passengers. They cover a fair bit of the city. The Metro opened about 2-3 years back. Since then travelling on the roads has become marginally better. I for one take the sky-train wherever possible.

    What amazes me though, is how well people behave in traffic and the basic courtesy that is shown. A driver will not stop on an intersection. They will not press the horn. They will not break a red light. They drive in lanes. maybe we have some more suffering to go before salvation :)

  11. Nice links Sri and Tarle. Thanks for dropping by N, Subhash, Abhipraya, Shark, Santhanam.

    If Tata sees huge profits with 1-lakh project, let economics 101 rule. And, public transportation is one solution to control the soon-to-get-out of hand car madness. But these two projects have conflicts. Not saying that Tata and other car makers do any evil things, but wont they be better served by ill planned public transportation projects? If you let democracy (mob-style web 2.0 democracy that is) run the course here, aam-aadmi may prefer cars over metros and buses because not many realize the “social costs” of cars, especially in the cities.

    [Center for Science and Environment did a good study on “social costs of cars”, more on that later].

    Nissan announced their intentions to do $3000 cars (that is less that 1.5 Lakhs). And Mahindra-Renault just lower the affordability bar on three box sedans. I am all for Aam-Admi to own cars, but there should be some education and tax-structure to cover the social costs before it gets out of hand. I think we have about 4-5 years to tighten this up, not more.

  12. […] Instead of the 1-lakh car, what if … […]

  13. Pranav,

    What I meant was that appealing to any corporate will not help matters. if there is money to be made then they will enter and market cars. My intention was not to justify it. I have my own nightmares about this.

    If there are social costs of car ownership (and there are), then people ought to pay for these costs. That is fair enough. But one cannot ban manufacture of cars. Else it will be soon back to the good old days when we had to wait 7 years to get a phone connection.

    There are about 400,000-500,000 cars in Bangalore. Have an ad-valorem tax which is a percentage of the cost of the car to fund public transport. Rs.5000 per year per car on average gives about Rs.250 crores – enough to fund 5-6 km of Metro track each year. In 5 years there could potentially be another 30 km of track.

    The other line of thought is to make shared transport a profitable proposition a.k.a let private players offer public transport. This has it’s own hazards (the infamous Red Line buses in Delhi) and will have to be regulated. This could take the form of shuttle buses operating from condominiums to nearby shopping malls and downtown. They could compete with the BMTC to offer premium services to ITPL and E-City among others. Open up a few routes and test the waters. Learn and expand.

    I agree with you that this is disaster in the making. My approach is to have carrot,sticks and viable alternatives.

  14. Tesla’s electric car in the news. $92000 is expensive, but besides that the electric car is indeed ‘practical’ :)

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