BUSINESS

India-made `green' car finds global takers

WORLD BEATER: The Union Minister for Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal, at the wheel of the Indian-made Reva-NXG next-generation electric car during its unveiling at the electric vehicles symposium in Monaco recently.

WORLD BEATER: The Union Minister for Science and Technology, Kapil Sibal, at the wheel of the Indian-made Reva-NXG next-generation electric car during its unveiling at the electric vehicles symposium in Monaco recently.  

Anand Parthasarathy

BANGALORE: An `electric car' completely designed and manufactured in India has emerged as arguably, one of the most advanced vehicles of its kind, worldwide. The Reva- NXG (for next generation) concept car, had its global launch, earlier this month, at the 21st International Electric Vehicle Symposium in Monaco and reviews appearing in the European media suggest that the Bangalore-based company's order books may soon be full, thanks to customers in nations with strict vehicular norms, where petrol or diesel-based cars are a luxury.

The two-seater NXG is powered by a 37 kW AC induction motor and runs off sodium nickel chloride batteries rather than the more common lead acid cells. With an independent four-wheel suspension, a top speed of 120 km/h and a maximum range on one charge of 200 km, the car has the best endurance among electric personal vehicles today.

While the basic car was designed and manufactured at the Bangalore plant of the Reva Electric Car Company (RECC), its futuristic body was conjured up by Dilip Chhabria, the well-known Indian car designer and Encore Software (makers of the Simputer) provided the state-of-the-art `digital dashboard' — a wireless tablet that uses a touch screen display and integrates all vehicle functions as well as Internet access, a satellite based navigation system — and an MP3 music player.

Just back from a brief European road show, Reva's Deputy Chairman, Chetan Maini, told The Hindu in a special briefing that depending on the market response, the Bangalore plant was geared to roll out 6,000 cars a year in a few months time.

Reva's current model (65 km/h speed — 80 km range) has already found buyers in the U.K. (where it is known as G-Wiz), Japan, and Malta and export deals have been sewn up in Norway and Israel. In most of these countries, the car has been welcomed by the government with generous subsidies: In Japan the official incentive is the equivalent of $2,600; in the U.K. in addition to a pound sterling 1,000 subsidy, the car enjoys exemption from special congestion taxes and parking fees in London which add up to a 600 pound sterling a month concession.

In India, however, while states such as Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Goa and Pondicherry offered road tax and sales tax concessions, there is lack of clarity of the post-VAT scenario.

And unlike solar appliances, the Central Government has not pitched in with any monetary incentives to the Indian customer — which has kept the price at around Rs. 2.7-3.5 lakhs and restricted the Indian population of Reva cars to under 1,000.

Fuel cell option

Last week, Reva signed a deal with Hydrogenics Corporation whereby the Canadian company will develop a special fuel cell to replace the batteries that now power the car. This will use an on-board tank of Hydrogen, with Oxygen from the atmosphere, to `make' its fuel and steeply extend the endurance of the vehicle. The concept has already been tested in a roadworthy prototype but commercial realization may come in two-three years, Mr. Maini felt.

While `green' cars have been a global target for years, few projects have received fruition — and the presence of Reva on roads across Europe and the Far East is seen as testimony that India has a head-start in this technology. Ironically, successive governments at the Centre have done little to encourage the initiative — but this is set to change.

The Union Science & Technology Minister, Kapil Sibal, was an enthusiastic participant at the Reva-NXG launch in Monaco and the company is hopeful that some concrete schemes will soon be in place that will ensure that Indians will not just make world-class green cars but can also afford to ride them.

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