A fuel-cell / battery-powered Tata Nano

by rohit on January 24, 2008

In my long post on the Tata Nano of Jan 14, I had said there are three things required to be done before we all “bless” the otherwise well-intentioned Nano . Here is the “framework” I proposed :

(1) Introduction of incentives and disincentives to confine the sales of the Nano and other cars to rural and semi-urban areas, rather than to the severely congested urban areas of India
(2) Introduction by the Tatas of an electric powered Nano, even if this be at a significant added cost, as an imperative owing to the climate change problem
(3) JVs between Tatas and world auto makers to co-produce electric Nanos for the global market so as to replace the 600 million cars already in existence (and which contribute to over half the world’s global warming today, if I remember my numbers right )

It looks like the Tatas have already been at work for some time now on (2) and (3) above. I didn’t quite know that. My soothsaying in my above post of Jan 14th seems to be in the right direction 🙂

Thus, on (2) viz. electric vehicles :

Fuel cells (liquid hydrogen powered), electric vehicles, hybrid (petrol + electric) engines and also biofuels have been under consideration or development by the Tatas for some time now.

Much of the work has been for the Tata Motors buses and some on their mini-trucks and the Indica car.

In Nov 2007, it was announced (here is one report and here is another) that in 2008 we can expect to get fuel-cell powered Tata buses.The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is partnering with Tatas in developing the capability to handle the liquid hydrogen (they know how to handle liquid oxygen already, for their rockets). Liquid hydrogen and air are put through a fuel cell installed the vehicle, resulting in electric energy and water vapour.

If this launch goes through as scheduled, it will be nicely timed (from the business sentiment point of view) for the Tatas indeed, what with the Nano’s commercial introduction scheduled for October 2008.

Of course, there will obviously be a lot of things (stations to handle the liquid hydrogen, for one) required to make this initiative succeed commercially.

On (3) above :
Yesterday came the announcement that the Tatas have signed an agreement with Chrysler to produce for them up to 50,000 Ace mini-trucks for the U.S. market, that will be (electric) battery operated.

What we now also need are appropriate signals or measures by the regulatory authorities to make the Nano and other cars more of a semi-urban and rural transport – see (1) above and my post of Jan 14th below.

Now let’s see when the Nano goes electric…

These are all-long haul measures, btw. But it’s important to have a framework like the above measures (1), (2) & (3) in place that takes us all in the right direction.

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