Tata Nano a hit with middle class even before launch
As the world awaits the formal rollout of Tata Nano from the Singur factory in West Bengal, car buying dynamics in India seem to be undergoing a subtle change.
Most believe Nanoâs price is very attractive and affordable. People who own entry-level cars are now thinking of going in for either one Nano â in view of its fuel efficiency â or maybe two, which will cost the same as their existing car. So, there would be one car for the head of the family and another for the family.
Take the case of Sudarshana Sarkar. The school teacher has already enquired about Nano at a city-based Tata dealer. âI particularly liked the yellow Nano. It has a style of its own. Itâs affordable and looks quite comfortable. Itâs good for a small family. I am keen to know when bookings will kick off,â she said.
Tata dealers are flooded with queries from prospective buyers. âNano will be a runaway hit. People, mainly the middle-class, are anxiously waiting for it. After it was unveiled on Thursday, we have started receiving thousands of calls from potential buyers,â said Binod Agarwal of Lexus Motors. Not surprising, considering the countryâs middle-class numbers several million.
Small car owners are upbeat too. âItâs not a bad option to have a Nano for the family. After all, Ratan Tata did assert the car meets all safety standards. So my children can go to school and my wife for her shopping in Nano,â said small-time businessman Apurv Shah.
Prodyut Mitra, an employee with United Bank of India, seconded the emotion: âI commute by a motorcycle and am keen to buy a Nano. I hope banks will come up with soft financing options for the car.â
Sahana Ganguly, a home maker, is, however, more cautious. âItâs an affordable car, no doubt. But I would rather wait a year before buying it, just to see what the experience is like,â she said. Itâs a different matter though that after a year, the carâs price may be revised, if the company wants to mark it to the market vis-a-vis raw material input prices.
The carâs nano space requirement for parking is believed to be yet another purchase point trigger. âThree Nanos can easily fit into the space occupied by two Ambassadors,â an auto analyst quipped.
âTwo Nanos can be effortlessly parked in a typical Scorpio parking slot. So, in metros, where parking is a huge problem, Nano could be a hit,â he added.
Designer Girish Wagh: The whizkid who shaped Tata Nano
NEW DELHI: When he first joined Tata Motors 16 years ago, Girish Wagh had no idea he would one day head the companyâs now-legendary Rs 1-lakh car project. Although he was part of the Indica vendor development team in 1997, Wagh was actually reluctant to get into full-scale product design with the Ace.
He remembers how Tata Motors MD Ravi Kant hand-picked him for the job and convinced him that it was as important as the work he was doing with the companyâs excellence group. That was December 2000. The Ace rolled out in May 2005 and almost singlehandedly helped beat a recession in the commercial vehicle space.
Impressed by his ability to deliver under tight deadlines, chairman Ratan Tata and Ravi Kant decided to move Wagh to the small car project in August that year. Almost painfully media shy, the Nanoâs strobe-steroidal launch this week was one of Waghâs few public appearances.
A mechanical engineer from the Maharashtra Institute of Technology, which was followed by a post-graduate programme in manufacturing from Mumbai B-school SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, the 37-year-old Wagh has had a pretty dramatic career at Tata Motors.
But nothing comes near the Nano experience. Heading a 500-strong team, Waghâs biggest challenge was to define the productâs specifications as they went along.
âUnlike the Ace where we knew what the necessary specs were, in this project all we had was a cost target,â he says. âThat and the fact that it had to be a real car which met all the regulatory requirements.â
The small car team had already put in about 18 monthsâ work by the time Wagh came on board. The R&D team was in place and work was on to get a fix on the styling, packaging, engine and transmission. Because there were no guidelines, the team used the M-800 for comparison. âThe idea was that we had to achieve at least this much and more,â says Wagh.
âAs we went ahead, we redefined performance specs. As recently as nine months ago, we tweaked the engine to increase the power.â The team also decided to launch the car with a manual transmission instead of the earlier-announced continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The CVT will come but the first variants will have a four-speed manual. Widely known as one of Tata Motorsâ new bunch of engineering whiz kids, Wagh enjoys a formidable reputation in the company. A stickler for perfection and a hard taskmaster, Wagh is the first to admit that the Nano experiment had its own share of hiccups. Part of the problem was the constantly evolving design. His solution was to âleverage the collective knowledgeâ in the company.
In a somewhat hidebound company like Tata Motors thatâs never be easy. But then folks inside knew that this was no hypothetical project, the chairman had made it amply clear that he wanted it done. Ravi Kant also made sure the team was insulated from all these pressures. So by the time the project hit top-gear, âthe R&D team, vendor development team and manufacturing team were all working together,â says Wagh.
Design would come up with a concept and the rest of the teams pitched in with components and aggregates. âIt was a melting pot of ideas,â he says. To bring some homogeneity of ideas to what Wagh calls âconcurrent engineering in real time,â the company top brass decided to involve the vendors very early on.
But convincing the vendors was only part of the challenge. The bigger issue was to constantly face the technical challenges that the project threw up. Wagh rattles off several instances when the team had to pick everyoneâs brain to come up with âsmart engineering solutions.â
For instance, putting the engine in the rear meant more spacious insides but it also meant the rear axle weight was more than the front. Result: handling issues. The team sorted that out by moving some aggregates to the front, tuning the McPherson strut in the front axle and tweaking the tyres developed by MRF.
That innovation is crucial, says another local auto CEO. The tall boy design also has higher centre of gravity which needs to be balanced. The Nano team did that by placing the battery and spare wheel in the bonnet. Wagh says at every step, things had to be done by trial and error because the project was challenging all traditional auto engineering concepts. âWe were using smart engineering to cut both cost and vehicle weight,â he says. âBut a smaller displacement engine and two cylinders meant not enough power so we had to reconfigure the engine capacity.â
Even the Nanoâs now widely-admired looks went through some evolution. At the prototype stage, the design and style did not pass muster with Ratan Tata. The team responded by increasing the length by 100 mm in the front. âThat also improved crash performance,â says Wagh.
And it got a thumbs up from RNT. Because all experiments were âphysicalâ, nearly everything went through continuous nip and tucks. The floor panel changed 10 times to meet noise, vibration and stiffness requirements. The dashboard and seats too went through an equal number of modifications. Wagh credits his team with both passion and resilience, two qualities that helped cut the mental fatigue of redoing something over and over again. âNo design engineer likes alterations because they are painful,â he admits.
The reason the Nano team managed so well was because itâs a nice mix of people, some passionate about cars, others non-auto engineers, of all age groups. That diversity helped. The auto requirements were the boundaries and were set by the gasoline geeks.
The others challenged everything within that parametre. Wagh himself wanted varied inputs. So the team involved people from other lines and projects, including the operatives who make prototypes. âThey gave some excellent inputs to reduce parts and complexity,â he adds.
In the end, though, it was Tataâs dream that fired everyone on, including him. RNT was personally involved with the project, would spend time with the engineers and check the prototypes minutely. That meant the whole team was firing on all cylinders. âThey knew they were doing it for him,â says Wagh.
That may sound easy but the ability to take inclusive decisions without losing the way is a tough call. No wonder, Tata himself is more than generous in his praise for Wagh. âGirish is a terrific guy and has displayed enormous leadership qualities,â he said, just after the Nano launch.
âHe takes over a responsibility and sees it through.â Of course, âno one is indispensible and Telco did go through many years of innovation without a Girish Wagh. Thereâs a terrific spirit in the company and we try to identify, motivate and empower that spirit. Girish is part of that process,â he said.
Now that the peopleâs car has been unveiled, Waghâs challenges are hardly over. Tata Motors must prove that the seemingly incredible design specs hold up at the manufacturing stage too. Product quality needs to be consistent too, something the firm isnât well known for. Although Wagh wouldnât say, insiders say enough quality assurance systems have to be put in place at the upcoming Singur plant.
But Thursdayâs high-voltage launch at the AutoExpo will no doubt ensure that Waghâs career gets another turbo-charge. If the Nano manages a similar product record, it could make the self-effacing Wagh one of Indiaâs most sought after auto engineering brains.
Indiaâs growing importance as an ultra low-cost auto engineering hub means people like him will call the shots in the next phase of growth. For Wagh, the future is here and now.
2008 Tata Nano Is the $2500 Car That Might Change the World: Live First Look From India
NEW DELHI â Fireworks blossomed on giant video screens, the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme reached its brassy peak, and the worldâs most affordable carâthe $2500 Tata Nanoârolled out onto the stage. Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, parked and got out as hundreds of camera flashes speckled the darkened convention hall. If the pageantry seemed excessive, this wasnât the time to complain. Here at the 2008 AutoExpo in India, the Nanoâs debut was about much more than a car. The Nano, many tradeshow attendees seemed to believe, would transform the country and then, maybe, the world.
From where I stood, crushed between an elbow-throwing television reporter and three teenagers, also jockeying for position and armed with cellphone cameras, the Nano looked underwhelming. Automotive journalists had traveled from the four corners of the globe too see a<b> golf cart crossed with a jelly bean</b>. Its journey onto the stage and into history was powered by a 2-cylinder, 33-hp engine, and the spec sheet is best given as what the car has not: no air conditioning, no radio, no power steering, no sun visors. But it carries four people, gets 50 mpg, and costs less than a trendy motor scooter. All of these facts had been leaked before the official presentation. What the public didnât know until now was that the Nano, without needing to be, was designed cuteâsleek, simple and glassy, a pleasant pod car straight out of 1960s sci-fi.
Ratan Tata answered questions later at a press conference for foreign journalists. Here was an exceptionally powerful manââto us, he is a king,â one attendee told meâcheerfully fielding inanities. Most of them were variants on the same theme:
âWill you be releasing the Nano in the U.K?â âNo we donât have any plans for that at this time.â
âWhen you release the Nano in the U.K., how much will you charge?â âBut I just said that we wouldnât. Next question.â
âWill you be releasing the Nano in Japan?â
And so on. (For the record, the car will be released in India only; in a few years it may be sold in other developing markets such as Latin America or Africa.)
I wandered back to the display halls. Fiat, Ford, Volkswagen. Bright stage lights; gleaming car bodies buffed by men with white shammies; the obligatory car show babes with toned legs and smiles frozen in faces of waxâthis land of automotive fantasy was a jarring break from the city outside the convention hall. The world may be flat, but Indiaâs roads are bumpy. They are often dirty with trash and sodden with human waste, gridlock-crammed with bicycles, motorcycles, rickshaws, cars, cows, busses, men towing carts and women carrying runny-nosed infants between the lanes and begging for rupees. The press has rightly touted the astonishing growth of the Indian middle class to more than 300 million people, but sometimes overlooks the 700 million who still live on $2 or less per day.
The Nano is no solution to the traffic problem in big cities; a prominent Indian environmentalist called the prospect of these ultra-affordable vehicles flooding the roads a ânightmare.â But the Nano represents both national pride about Indiaâs ingenuity and the promise that the benefits of middle-class life will reach more people. âWhat can you get for $2500 in the U.S.?â a young man named Hemant Chagh asked me. âYou canât carry your family for $2500 in a car. But in India we have done this.â His friend, Rajesh Relia, agreed. He makes 6000 rupees a month, about $150, working in a factory that makes cassette tapes. He doesnât own a car, and carries his family of four, dangerously and cumbersomely, on a motor scooter. The Nano is a car he can actually afford, and he said he will buy one as soon as it becomes available in late 2008. âThis is my dream,â he said, beaming toward the stage. âI am very happy today.â
<b>Ratan Tata, the ugly duckling</b>
Lot of coverage in US, a $2500 car, good for environment, low mileage, no AC, no power steering, no ABS, no airbags.
Why some US scribes slammed Tata Nano
Tata Nano is the Model-T of India. It represents 'Rang De Basanti,' a freedom no different from what Ford brought to the American consumer about a 100 years ago. And yet, it is already being challenged, not so much on price or on technology. It is considered a polluter, a source of global warming, in short, a threat to humanity.
Among its notable critics are columnists from the New York Times, Newsweek, and several media outlets. Only a few years ago, author and NYT columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that the world was divided into those who want a Toyota Lexus and those who are searching for an olive tree (in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree).
Today, the answer has arrived for the former audience in the form of the Tata Nano. Yet the former author of articles like, 'Two for the price of one' was quick to call the Nano, a 'cheap copy of our worst habits.'
Newsweek, in an article headlined 'A Billion New Tailpipes' was far more critical. 'It turned out to be a four-seater, a bit more than three meters long, with a 642cc engine and made of plastic and glue instead of welded steel,' is how the article put it.
The article quotes a Yale environmentalist, Daniel Esty, as saying: "This car promises to be an environmental disaster of substantial proportions."
The reasons why American journalism is against the Tata Nano are obvious. The Nano was 'not invented here (in the United States).'
Dan Esty has a typical American mindset. Esty, who was quick to praise the Prius (in Green to Gold) to the skies and promote aircraft manufacturer GE, oil-giant BP, does not use the same yardstick that the second law of thermodynamics does.
The Prius gives about the same mileage as the Nano and seats just as many. Yet, at over $25,000, the Prius is the rich man's answer to the environment. I believe that for the rest, there is the Nano.
In the years to come, the Nano might come in a flex-fuel version, or might use ethanol or electric cells. . . but you have to give Tata time to gain marketshare AND innovate at the low price point. Which is why I must ask: "Why the double fuel-efficiency standards, Mr Esty?"
As relations between India and the US started to blossom recently, a 'fair trade' agreement was aimed at heralding a new era of cooperation, namely mangoes and motorcycles. The mango was previously seen as endangering the environment. In a compromise aimed at going easy on the mango, Harley Davidson was to enter the Indian market with a motorcycle that gives less mileage than the Nano and costs Rs 4 to 14 lakh (Rs 400,000 to Rs 1.4 millon). There was little comment from Tom Friedman then, saying, 'No, no, no, don't follow us. Drive your own scooters.'
And finally I must end with the Golden Arches. In a recent report, published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the livestock sector was reported as generating more 18 percent greenhouse gas emissions -- as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent -- than the transport sector.
Tom Friedman, who once seemed to believe that McDonald's was the answer to world peace, might next call for a moratorium on the burger -- when there is an Indian fast food company that sells burgers and chicken nuggets a little cheaper.
Srinivas Bharadwaj is an engineer and author of a novel, Kurukshetra.
Government mulls lower taxes for hybrid cars
8 Feb, 2008, 1440 hrs IST,Nitin Sethi, TNN
NEW DELHI: You may soon have to pay less to have a "green" car. And more to drive fuel-guzzling SUVs. Vehicles not meeting upcoming fuel efficiency standards could face increasing excise duties â besides higher parking fees â while those which adhere to norms could enjoy much lower rates.
The government is considering a set of "reward and punishment" measures as part of a new public transport policy. The draft policy is being finalized by the Planning Commission and is expected to be ready by next week so that it can be shared with various ministries. The push for the policy came from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The policy, when formulated, could align India with several developed and highoctane economies like China, which are trying to delink their transport systems from the growth of inefficient private vehicles.
With the sale of SUVs and other fuel guzzlers rising by 60% between 2000 and 2004, and expected to jump much higher if unchecked, one of the proposals before the government is to levy the highest amount of entry tax, parking and congestion charges on inefficient vehicles.
At the other end of the efficiency spectrum, the much cleaner hybrid and hydrogenbased cars and buses could be rewarded with reduced customs duty. Domestic manufacturers of electric and hydrogen vehicles could also benefit from lowered excise duty if the proposals are accepted.
The government is seriously considering the carrotand-stick approach once fuel efficiency norms are in place. Some quarters within the government are also proposing financial disincentives in the form of continuous increase in excise duties for fuel inefficient and high greenhouse gas producing vehicles. The most fuel efficient vehicles in each category could enjoy duty rebates.
In order to correct an imbalance and provide fiscal support to public transport, the policy could also recommend reworking excise rates at the central level and registration fees and road taxes at the state level in favour of buses and other forms of efficient public transport systems.
While the bus crisis in Delhi drew attention for a while, the Planning Commission estimates a demand of 9.97-10 .87 lakh buses across the country in the 11th Plan period.
State transport undertakings today run 1.13 lakh buses but carry more than six crore passengers per day. The buses are, however, crowded out by private vehicles which constitute 81% of the total registered vehicles on road and yet carry out only 50% of the journeys performed every year.
Caparo to build body structure of Tata Nano
8 Feb, 2008, 1041 hrs IST, PTI
LONDON: The body structure of the new Rs one lakh Tata Nano car will be built by NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul-owned Caparo Group.
Selected inner structural panels will be pressed and assembled by Caparo at a new facility in Singur, adjacent to the Tata Nano manufacturing plant in West Bengal.
Caparo, the manufacturer of the world's highest performance road-capable hyper car, the Caparo T1, will supply 60 per cent of these assemblies, with the rest being manufactured in-house by Tata.
To meet Tata's ambitious cost targets, Caparo has installed a new semi-automated production line with zero fault forward quality control systems.
"The body technology is relatively conventional, but the manufacturing technology is the result of very sophisticated analysis to ensure high-quality, low-cost production," Caparo Group CEO Angad Paul said today.
"We completed this extremely quickly to meet our customer's deadline, with start of production just six months after the contract was confirmed."
The Tata Nano was launched at the India Auto Expo in Delhi last month.
Car sales up 9% in January, bike sales fall 14%
8 Feb, 2008, 1016 hrs IST, PTI
NEW DELHI: Domestic passenger car sales rose by 8.99 per cent in January to 1,13,899 units from 1,04,501 units in the same month last year.
According to figures released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), motorcycle sales in the country during the month was down by 14.07 per cent at 4,81,267 units as against 5,60,056 units a year ago.
Total two-wheeler sales in January also slipped by 10.96 per cent at 6,05,455 units as compared to 6,80,014 units in the same month last year.
Commercial vehicle sales during the month fell by 0.98 per cent at 46,788 units from 47,251 units for the year-ago period, SIAM said.
Tatas to talk jobs, pension with Jaguar-Land Rover union on Friday
8 Feb, 2008, 0830 hrs IST,Sudeshna Sen & Nandini Sen Gupta, TNN
LONDON/NEW DELHI: As the Jaguar-Land Rover negotiations enter the final lap, top Tata Motors officials are meeting JLR union Unite on Friday to discuss âpensions, job securityâ and other concerns.
When contacted a Unite spokesperson said: âYes, we are meeting with the Tatas on Friday, and we have been in close touch with all parties, concerned - Tatas, Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover. The details are sensitive at the moment, and we cannot comment further. Our earlier concerns about pensions, job security and terms and conditions remain the same.â
Although there are no officials confirmations available, the JLR deal is expected to be a complex one, thanks to the concerns of the union, the engine supply and component sourcing arrangements and the pension liabilities. These agreements will cover everything from staff-retention to sourcing deals.
Sources say the agreements are crucial because Ford is likely to go against its union mandate and not retain any stake in the two companies. However, Ford is likely to sign a long-term engine supply agreement with the Tatas to ensure smooth transition. Also, the final bid amount would include the pension deficit for the two companies. In 2006, the combined pension deficit for the two carmakers was around 200 million pounds.
The nearly 19,000 employees of the two companies have prompted Ford to officially say that it will take into account âobligation to the employees of the two companies and the local community as wellâ.
Unite, which backed the Tatas and were responsible in some measure in swinging the deal in their favour, had earlier said that once the winning bidder is announced it would have further negotiations to add to the charter of demands that were put out earlier by Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley.
These would pertain to components and suppliers and âwe will ensure sourcing agreements are assured and UK jobs in the components industry are secure. We want to have five-yearly agreements on jobs,â a Unite spokesperson had earlier said.
Tata to ride Nano to Geneva Motor Show
7 Feb, 2008, 2055 hrs IST, PTI
NEW DELHI: Tata Motors' Nano, easily the world's most talked-about car these days, will make its international debut at the 78th Geneva Motor Show in the first week of March.
The five-door hatchback that costs just Rs 100,000 ($2,500), making it the world's cheapest, was unveiled in January this year at the Auto Expo here.
Nano would be among Tata Motors' exhibits at the show, a company spokesperson said here.
Sales of Nano, nicknamed the people's car for its affordable pricing that will make four-wheelers available to millions of middle-class people who hitherto rode two-wheelers, is expected to start in the second half of this year.
Although the car has its share of critics, it has undeniably put India on the global automotive map and has triggered a race among leading car makers to match the Nano price-point. Already, car manufacturers Renault and Nissan are eyeing a $3000 car.
The Nano, which Tata Motors has said meets all safety and emission norms, will share the limelight with top marques from around the world that are expected at the show. This year's edition of the Geneva Motor Show will mark the 11th year of participation for Tata Motors.
General Motors mulls ultra-cheap car with motorbike parts to compete with Nano
<b>Berlin - US automaker General Motors may produce an ultra- cheap car using inexpensive motorcycle parts to meet demand in emerging markets, a senior European executive was quoted as saying Saturday. Carmakers have been shaken by the challenge from the Tata Nano, a bargain car recently unveiled in India.</b>
Hans Demant, chief executive of GM's German unit Opel, told the German weekly Auto Motor und Sport that Opel was studying an 8,000- euro (11,600-dollar) rear-engined car that might be built in cooperation with a motor-cycle or motor-scooter manufacturer.
"We are trying something new in the city-car field. The conventional development approach won't work. So we are looking at the capabilities of advanced motor-cycle-style drive trains in connection with a rear engine," he told the magazine.
"Thereafter the question would be, who could we cooperate with? Maybe with a scooter or motor-bike maker. Or perhaps with an Asian supplier to such two-wheeler manufacturers," he said.
Demant said the ideas were just at the discussion and review stage, with no decision likely till next year.
<b>Tata to bring Nano to Europe in 4 years
FRANKFURT, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Tata Motors plans to introduce its ultra-cheap Nano car to the European market in four years' time, the head of compact car projects at Tata Motors told German magazine Focus.
"We will develop a successor model in four years time, which will meet the Euro 5 emission regulations and the crash standards in Europe," Girish Wagh was quoted as saying by Focus in an advance abstract on Sunday.
The main target was to reduce the car's fuel consumption to three from currently five litres per 100 kilometres (62.5 miles), Wagh told the magazine.
Tata Motors unveiled the $2,500 Nano, the world's cheapest car, in January and said the new four-seater would roll out later in the year from its factory in the eastern state of West Bengal. Tata has said it will initially produce about 250,000 Nanos and expects eventual annual demand of 1 million units.
Tata has said it would focus on the home market for two to three years before considering exporting the Nano to countries in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Global car makers, initially sceptical that Tata could produce such a low-cost car, are now scurrying to make their own versions to meet the needs of cost-conscious consumers in emerging economies such as China, India and Russia.
General Motor's Opel unit plans to develop a small car for 8,000 euros ($11,590), the head of Opel, Hans Demant, told Germany's auto, motor und sport magazine in an advanced copy on Saturday. A decision could be made next year, he said.
"The Opel citycar is a vehicle for the coming decade," he said.
Ford said in January it would build a small car in India within two years, and the alliance of Nissan Motor and Renault, which has made a big success of its no-frills Logan sedan, plans a $3,000 car with Bajaj Auto.
Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda Motor and Fiat have also said they are looking at small cars for emerging markets, where strong economic growth has for the first time made car ownership an option for millions.
<b>Mahindra Plans to Assemble Light Pickups at Ohio Plant
SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. distributor for Indian auto maker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. told dealers Monday that it plans to assemble tens of thousands of light pickup trucks annually in Ohio starting in 2009, and to start selling a range of hybrid vehicles in the U.S. by 2010.
Mahindra has been working on a plan to enter the U.S. market next year by offering three products -- two pickup trucks and one SUV expected to come with a base price in the mid-$20,000 range -- that use diesel engines built by a major German auto supplier as the propulsion ...
02-13-2008, 04:59 PM
(This post was last modified: 02-13-2008, 05:00 PM by Husky.)
It wasn't mere talk. It's finally going to be here. The air car - runs on compressed air. Tata motors backing it and plans to introduce this in India. Tataastu.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>New engine runs on fresh air</b>
5:00AM Saturday January 12, 2008
By Pierre Thebault
<b>[Photo caption:] Guy Negre's compressed air engine has the backing of India's Tata Motors. Photo / Reuters</b>
A car that runs on air? What seemed like a pipe dream may soon become reality, as Frenchman Guy Negre hopes versions of his compressed air car will be produced in India this year by Tata Motors.
It follows a 15-year quest for backers for his invention.
Negre believes the time is right for his design with oil prices at record highs and pressure on carmakers to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles.
"It is clear that with oil at US$100 ($130) a barrel this will force people to change their use of fuel and pollute less," Negre said at his firm Motor Development International (MDI), near Nice in the south of France.
<b>"My car is zero pollution in town and almost no pollution on the highways," he added, saying the vehicle could travel 100km at a cost of â¬1 ($1.88) in fuel.</b>
The former Formula One motor racing engineer's invention depends on pressurised air to move the pistons, which in turn help to compress the air again in a reservoir.
The engine also has an electric motor, which needs to be periodically recharged, to top up the air pressure.
The bottles of compressed air - similar to those used by divers - can be filled up at service stations in several minutes.
The latest versions of the cars - MDI made an entire series of prototypes of engines and vehicles - also include a fuel engine option to extend the car's range when not in reach of a special power plug or service station.
<b>Tata, India's largest carmaker with revenue of US$7.2 billion in its last financial year, concluded a deal last year investing â¬20 million.
Pre-production in India is set for this year, Negre said.
The vehicle, protected by some 50 patents, will cost â¬3500 to â¬4000. Using composite materials, it will weigh no more than 330kg and its maximum speed is 241km/h.
"The lighter the vehicle, the less it consumes and the less it pollutes and the cheaper it is. It's simple," Negre said.</b>
He aimed to set up mini factories in regions where the car is used.
"No transport, no parts suppliers. Everything will be made at the place of sale in production units that can make one car per half hour," said Negre.
"That is more profitable, more ecological than the big factories of the large carmakers."
<b>Negre is not the only inventor working on compressed air engines, but he has the backing of Tata</b>, whose global ambitions were last week underscored when it was named preferred buyer of Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford
Older news (June 2007):
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>World's First Air-Powered Car: Zero Emissions by Next Summer</b>
This six-seater tax, which should be available in India next year, is powered entirely by a tank filled with compressed air.
<img src='http://media.popularmechanics.com/images/air-car-0607.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />
[Photo caption to air-taxi]This six-seater tax, which should be available in India next year, is powered entirely by a tank filled with compressed air.
By Matt SullivanPublished in the June 2007 issue.
<b>Indiaâs largest automaker is set to start producing the worldâs first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy NÃ¨gre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engineâs pistons. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008.</b>
Barring any last-minute design changes on the way to production, the Air Car should be surprisingly practical. The $12,700 CityCAT, one of a handful of planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units; MDI says it should cost around $2 to fill the carâs carbon-fiber tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi. Drivers also will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the carâs built-in compressor to refill the tanks in about 4 hours.
<b>Of course, the Air Car will likely never hit American shores, especially considering its all-glue construction. But that doesnât mean the major automakers can write it off as a bizarre Indian experiment â MDI has signed deals to bring its design to 12 more countries, including Germany, Israel and South Africa.</b><!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
News - audio at link
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>The car that runs on compressed air</b>
A French inventor has backing from a massive Indian car maker to make a car that runs on compressed air.
Itâs called the ONEcat hasÂ five-seats, a fibre-glass body,weighs just 350kg and will cost less than NZ$10,000.
The project is years in the making but could already have a competitor.
RadioLIVEâs Marcus Lush talks to Eunai Vicente â executive assistant to the CEO of Air Car âa company MDI technologies worked with on the project.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>World's first air-powered car</b>
13 February 2008
â¢ French-designed engine
â¢ No emissions, 67mph top speed, 125-mile range
â¢ Being put into production by Tata Motors
The world's first air-powered car could be on sale by the end of this year.
The French-designed engine is powered by compressed air. It has a range of 125 miles on a Â£1 charge, and a top speed of 67mph.
It is being put into a fibreglass-bodied car called the Mini-CAT or City Cat by Tata Motors company, and will be sold in India and around Europe later this year.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Rest at link
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Wednesday, 13 February 2008
<b>India's Tata backs air-power car</b>Â
By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC NewsÂ
[Image caption] The Aircar can be filled with air in just three minutes
An engineer has promised that within a year he will start selling a car in India that runs on compressed air, producing no emissions at all in towns.
The OneCAT will be a five-seater with a glass fibre body, weighing just 350kg and could cost just over Â£2,500.
<b>The project is being backed by the Indian conglomerate, Tata for an undisclosed sum. It says the technology may also be used for power generation. </b>
The car will be driven by compressed air stored in carbon-fibre tanks.
<b>The tanks, built into the chassis, can be filled with air from a compressor in just three minutes - much quicker than a battery car.
Alternatively, it can be plugged into the mains for four hours and an on-board compressor will do the job.</b><!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->Rest at link
<b>Alto crosses million mark
Statesman News Service
<b>NEW DELHI, Feb. 14: Indiaâs most popular car Maruti Suzuki Alto crossed the one million production mark yesterday. A silky silver, Alto Lxi bearing chassis no 1126046 rolled off the production line as the millionth Alto, late last evening at the companyâs Gurgaon plant.</b>
The Alto has crossed the million units mark in just seven years and five months since its launch. Of this, the last 5 lakh units (half a million) have come in a record 25 months. Alto has been Indiaâs largest selling car, every month, for the past 37 months.
The Alto was launched in September 2000, and customers accorded a rousing reception to the âhottest little thingâ. Its popularity has continued to grow, with customers attracted to its unmatched combination of fuel efficiency, contemporary design and looks and features including electronic power steering and air-conditioning.
Besides its huge success in India, over 1.5 lakh units of Alto have been exported. With this Alto becomes the third car in Maruti Suzukiâs stable to cross the million units mark. Previously, Maruti 800 and Omni have crossed the million units mark.
<b>TVS Motor Company launches electric scooter, Scooty Teenz Electric in Gujarat
Aimed at teenage girls, Scooty Teenz Electric is easy to use and maneuver. ``It is an ideal choice for young women, who need mobility and whose daily travel is limited to around 15-25 km per day,'' says a release from the company.
Scooty Teenz Electric, the release says, can generate an average range of 40 km per nine hours of charge. This can increase by fifty per cent if the rider opts for lower speeds by using a unique feature of this electric bike, the range selector. The range selector allows the rider to select a preferred range, either high or low.
The scooter is available in rich colours of red, black and lilac, which come with vibrant contemporary graphics. It is equipped with large utility spaces. Prominent features of the Scooty Teenz Electric include a low charge indicator, puncture-resistant tyres, a mobile charger and a range selector.
The low charge indicator starts glowing around two-to-five kilometers before charge runs out in low range mode and around six-to-ten kilometers before charge runs out in high range mode.
TVS Motor Company will leverage its extensive dealer network to provide service back-ups at all dealerships, the release adds.
This vehicle falls under the L1 category. Therefore, as per the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR) and the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), one can get a learner's licence for this bike at 16 years of age as against 18 for motorcycles, the release says.
The company plans to launch the scooter across the country during the course of the next three months. The price ex-showroom Gujarat is Rs. 32,500.
<b>How Nano was built
At the south-western corner of the 160-acre facility, home to the Engineering Research Centre, where a young chief engineer and his team of 500-odd engineers have slogged over the last four years, putting in 12-14 hours a day, six days a week. Girish A. Wagh, barely 37 years old, is thinking five years aheadâhe's already got some designs ready for the small car, Nano, variants that Tata Motors could offer in the years ahead.
The man in charge of the small car project is Girish A. Wagh, who was also very closely involved with the design of the Ace, a four-wheeler that serves as a load carrier. Wagh, whose father was on the Indica R&D team, was very closely involved with the design of the Ace as well. E. Balasubramoniam is the Head of Sourcing for the project. The graduate from IIT Madras is 45 years old and was earlier with Maruti Udyog (now Maruti Suzuki). Nikhil Jadhav, 29, is possibly the youngest member of the team. Jadhav, an alumnus of IIT Bombay, is the designer on the small car project.
The entire body was designed twice while the engine was designed thrice," points out Wagh. If that sounds surprising, the floor was designed 10 times and the seats too an equal number of times. Wagh recalls that the car's dashboard had two concepts running simultaneously. Both had detailed designs with respective cost estimates. The one that was eventually chosen was what the Nano team thought would look more attractive to the customer. "There were two concepts and we thought the second one added more utility. We went for it since it was also more contemporary" says Tata Technologies' Industrial Designer, Nikhil A. Jadhav.
The car had three concepts to begin with. "We picked the one that we thought looked the best, and from that we made a full-scale model," says Jadhav. In mid-2005, one model was completed, which then went through a stage of refinement. This was where the initial volume of the car was defined. "It was here where we got into details like lamps and doors. From that point onwards, we actually did another model, which was a second stage model. Eventually, a final refined model was done by design house, I.D.E.A., which was brought here." adds Jadhav. The style for the Nano was frozen in mid-2006-exactly a year after the first model was completed. Understandably, this stage was important since it had to be in line with the cost targets. From then, the story was about engineering development.
Tata Group and Tata Motors Chairman, Ratan Tata, felt that a slight change in the front part of the car was required. "Finally, we ended up increasing the length of the car by 100 mm," says Wagh. It is not as if there is no room for further change in styling or design. By Wagh's own admission, there will not be any change in the Nano's exterior although there could be a few changes in the interior of the car.
While the bit about design and styling took a while, the decision with respect to having a rear engine was less complicated. "We had decided on a rear engine four years ago. This was with the objective of getting the best, optimal layout," states the Jai Bolar, Senior Manager (Development), ERC. If there was one thing from which the focus could not be taken away, it was obviously cost. That was often easier said than done, since the rising input costs were beyond the company's control. "Rising input costs made our engineering targets difficult. For example, if steel prices went up, we had no choice but to reduce the amount of steel in the car," says Wagh. Again, it was important to look beyond costs as well. "The price of the car is what the customer pays in the beginning. Later on, what matters is the performance of the car," he adds.
Ideas for the Nano came from unexpected quarters and they were looked at closely before a decision was taken. For instance, in addition to the vendors, a small group of mechanics was part of the development phase. This was really a part of the serviceability and accessibility workshop. Wagh recalls that one of the suggestions was to have an additional opening on the rear floor which would provide access to the intake manifold and starter. "We were trying to avoid this for cost reasons but the mechanics were vehement," he says.
The importance of balancing design changes with their respective cost implications cannot be overstated. Every design, therefore, had to cater to three key requirementsâcost, regulatory requirements and acceptable performance standards. As Wagh puts it, "We did not want to make something that was an embarrassment of a car." Clearly, while the cost was hugely critical, the company was unwilling to make any kind of compromise on other areas. Fuel economy, according to Narendra Kumar Jain, Deputy General Manager (Engines), ERC, is a major driver for selling a vehicle in India. "It was important, for instance, to ensure that the car could be manoeuvred in the city. If your car requires less parking, then the material required is also less," he adds.
85 per cent of the vehicle will come from outside vendors. Tier-I ancillary manufacturers, based in and around the small car plant at Singur will manufacture complete sub-assemblies.
"This car is not over-engineered like, say, German cars are, this is a great example of frugal cost-effective and relevant engineering," says Surinder Kapur, Managing Director, Sona Group, which has made the steering column and the transmission. Lumax Industries too was heavily involved in the project. The company made and designed the head and tail light fixtures on the car. "The opportunity to work on this car also gave our engineers a chance to showcase their skills, because most other car products are designed abroad and we just have to manufacture components to a specific blueprint. In this project we designed light fixtures that meet all regulatory needs, fit the car and are low-cost", says Deepak Jain, Executive Chairman, Lumax Industries. The company got involved in the project at a very early stage and Jain thinks that was on major reason by which costs were reduced.
Nano caters to safety norms at two levels. "The Nano meets all regulations in the Indian market. The package protected car also meets all future regulations in Europe as well, which includes offset frontal and side impact," says Wagh. Environment too has been another area that has been a bit of a controversy, though the company points out that all norms have been met. "Currently, the car meets Bharat III norms, which are applicable in 11 cities while it meets the Bharat Stage II norms in the rest of the country. We will meet the Bharat Stage IV and Euro IV requirements as well," says R. G. Rajhans, Project Manager (Body Systems), Tata Technologies.
"There are alternate fuel technologies under development such as CNG and LPG", he says and he even hints that a future model "could have a diesel engine". If that is not enough, Wagh is also working on technologies that Ratan Tata mentioned in an interview to this publication that the car "in the future might well have continuously variable or automatic transmission." Wagh adds that the roadmap will be to have a second generation of the vehicle in the next 5-7 years.
<b>Tara Tiny snaps at Nano wheels
Feb 16, 2008
Kolkata : If Nano sent jingles across the world automobile platform, its sister christened as Tara Tiny is poised to give the elder some sleepless nights...
A battery-operated electric car that can gain a maximum speed of 60 kms per hour and requires a re-charge every alternate 100 kms, Tara Tiny is nearly ready for its commercial debut in July; and at a price of just Rs 99,999. The on-road price of this four seater will be around Rs 1.2 lakh. âGiven a running cost between 50 and 60 paise per km, Tiny will be the worldâs cheapest car,â Tara International CEO Tara S Ganguly told Deccan Herald here on Friday.
For technology back-up and sourcing of components, the company has tied up with Chinaâs Aucma which is in the business of electrical appliances and vehicles besides solar energy having a total turnover in excess of US $1.5 billion.
To start with, there will be three variants of the car; apart from the entry level, Tiny will have two other models costing Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 2 lakh ex-showroom, respectively. However, before the car makes its debut, the company will be launching a 14-seater electric bus in May next for which it has already procured firm orders.
âWeâve received orders for 10 buses already from a reputed school in the city here and are expecting as many in another couple of months,â Mr Ganguly claimed. The company aims to unveil two more models â Tara Titu and Tara Micro very soon. As an engineering graduate from California, Mr Ganguly began dreaming about the small car since 1994 when he first held discussions with the electric car manufacturers of America.
âAs a first step, I diversified into solar energy segment and set up wind power plants in places like Coimbatore and, Tirunelvelli. Then, I started finetuning my dream,â he added.
The MoU with Aucma envisages commercial production of electric vehicles at its plant and the company has been negotiating with the Chinese major for expanding the scope of the JV.