Tata motors launched a new car called the – ahem! “Megapixel” and the first question one would ask is why the heck they named it Megapixel when they could have called it anything like electron, photon, plasma or even something that made no sense like XRE or YZW. Megapixel sounds like a cheap pink digital camera for Hello Kitty. Well part of the reason is because its predecessor was named pixel, pixel still sounds good. Anyways, they may reconsider the name before selling these cars, so what is special about this car? It turns out there are quite a few things
- It is a hybrid, which means it is a tree hugger
- It can go 900 kilometers (about 560 miles) between fuel stops
- It looks very cute
- It has 4 seats
- And since it is made by TATA motors, we can expect it to be value for money
TATA motors which is owned by the TATA group is one of the biggest names in the motor world, they have been making trucks, buses and heavy vehicles in India for a very long time and selling them throughout the world, they have been quite successful with their diesel cars and SUVs, they recently acquired Jaguar and Land Rover and of course they make the world’s cheapest car – the TATA Nano. Now how does their decision to go with a car which technically is a hybrid (although TATA call it REEV or range extended electric vehicle) rake up against the much cooler fully electric Nissan Leaf? The Nissan leaf has a range of 73 miles which means the Megapixel can go 7 times the distance and it can march on for 7 times more after a fuel stop which should take about 7 minutes compared to the 7+ hours of charging time the Nissan leaf will need.
Going fully electric may be the future for cars; however the technology is not practical, it doesn’t work in the real world. Some day they will make an electric car that can be as good as a gasoline powered car with a new battery technology or by using new materials to store electricity, but that day isn’t today. The hybrids are brilliant, we know that hybrids won’t last forever as it is a technology that will keep the world moving while the transition from gasoline to electric cars happens and it is a technology that works in the real world. When it comes to selling cars, people need practicality, electric cars may have sold well had it been the late 1800s when cars were a luxury but now they are a necessity and this necessity cannot be met with an unfinished technology. Clearly, Hybrid is the way to go, at least for now and the decision that TATA motors took was a prudent one.
The Design: TATA suggest that the car was inspired by traditional Indian design but it has a global outlook – I have no idea what that means except that the car looks cool and it should make an impression on generation-Y, the retired people and everyone in between.
The power plant: The Megapixel has four independent electric motors with a 10kw rating on each of its wheels, it is a smart move as in case of a central motor, some amount of power will be lost before it gets transmitted to the wheels, individual motors should be able to transmit more power to the wheels as there will be very few linkages. Such a design I reckon would have a strong computer control to manage the power delivered to each wheel. There is a 325cc single cylinder petrol engine which kicks in to charge the li-ion-phosphate battery that the Megapixel uses.
The Utility: It is a small car yet it can seat 4 in the developed world and maybe more in the not so developed world, the design is unique and very attractive, TATA have also designed the steering to be extremely sharp for parking and they also say that the motors will make the wheels spin in opposite direction while parking, I can not understand if they mean the rear wheels will spin backwards ( like a regular car) or one will spin forward and other will spin backwards – which doesn’t make much sense or if the rear wheels will turn the opposite way – which makes a lot of sense.
The car does not have a B-pillar and the doors slide out, so getting in and out will be a very easy, the question is how easy will getting in and out be when the car turns upside down in a crash. Will this design meet the safety norms? I don’t think TATA would overlook safety as they would want to sell this car around the world, they would have thought about it and maybe the car is strong enough that it doesn’t need a B-pillar.
If it gets out in the open market the Megapixel will face a stiff competition from the biggest names in the industry like Toyota, Honda and Chevrolet, the three trump cards that can turn the fortunes for the Megapixel would be 1) Cost of the car, 2) Incredible gas mileage and 3) Stunning looks.
The question is, will this remain a concept of will it actually go into production. TATA promised to their consumers the cheapest car in the world and delivered the TATA Nano which was about US$ 2000 when it was launched in 2009, well at that price the Nano was a very basic car and it couldn’t meet the stringent safety norms of the west and as a result found its market only in India. So they just might be able to put the Megapixel to production having learnt from their previous experiences and with the Megapixel, TATA are aiming at India and Europe, if they can sell in Europe we might see this car in the US as well.