Tata eMO: India’s $20,000 concept electric car

Tata Technologies, a part of the Tata conglomerate, has displayed a concept electric car at the Detroit Expo. The car is called Tata eMO, where eMO stands for electric Mobility. As per Tata, eMO would cost $20,000 to make, has a range of 100 miles per charge and a top speed of 65 mph. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is.

Tata eMO will never make it to the production line, as per Tata’s Nigel Giddons. Tata showed it at the expo to tell the world that such a thing is possible. That’s what concepts are about. From bendable touch screens to hydrogen powered 3-wheelers, concepts are concepts. The folks at Engadget should know better.

The Tata eMO is a culmination of several concepts Tata has been working on. Tata already has expertise in electric vehicles through its Nano EV and Indica Vista EV. As we all know, Tata has expertise in frugal engineering as demonstrated with its cheapest car, Nano. Putting all this together Tata came up with a concept car called eMO.

eMO is based on frugal engineering to reduce costs. If Nano saved costs by using plastic and ditching one windshield wiper, eMO goes on further to ditch at least one additional door, depending on how you look at it. Tata eMO has just two doors,. These doors are to be used for the passengers (Tata prescribes 4 adults) to get in and get out. There’s no rear door. And there is no dedicated trunk.

eMO also incorporated several design advantages like smoother aerodynamic surfaces and shorter overhangs. Tata Technologies also eliminated traditional body shop and paint pro­cess, and utilized many green product materials in eMO.

No trunk. No problem.

Come to think of it, lack of trunk isn’t all that big a deal. Maruti Ritz, a car from India’s top car maker, has a similar shape as Tata eMO. It has a trunk but you can’t put much in it. People still bought it anyway. Which brings me this conclusion: People don’t care much about the trunk. If they have too much stuff, they will drop a person. Many drop their shopping bags on to the rear seats anyway.

Why not produce it?
Now that we have partially established that the design principles adopted in producing a concept eMO aren’t much of a problem for usability, why isn’t Tata producing it? This is extremely puzzling because for a range of 100 miles and for a cost of $20,000, Tata could be minting money in overseas markets. Maybe the apprehensions are coming from the lessons they learned from Nano.

Not sure how true this is, but there is folklore about how Tata Nano came out to be. A reporter was questioning Ratan Tata and in conversation Mr Tata said that a car for one lakh rupees is possible. The reporter took it out of context and claimed that Tata is making the cheapest car. Ratan Tata had to keep a promise which he never made. Or so the story goes.

Maybe the pressure of producing the impossible is keeping Tata away from making any statements. Maybe, Tata is being highly secretive, like Apple.  Or maybe, Tata doesn’t really have any intention to make a cheap electric car. Whatever it is, that is one good looking car.