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March 23, 2009 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Today marks the launch of the Tata Nano. Some see this car as the next Ipod. Some have grave environmental concerns. (previously)
posted by Xurando (63 comments total)

 
Yes, we can't let those dirty brown people have the things WE HAVE, or it will RUIN EVERYTHING.

</sarcasm>
posted by blue_beetle at 11:20 AM on March 23, 2009 [16 favorites]


Nobody can prevent anybody from owning a car and the Tatas have that way made the big dream come true for many people

Ah yes. many people dream of Tatas
posted by delmoi at 11:21 AM on March 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


To echo blue_beetle, it's a bit rich to hear Americans lamenting all the polluting Indians are going to be getting up to. For reals? Also, isn't there an electric version also in the works?

I wonder if these things will replace auto-rickshaws.
posted by chunking express at 11:26 AM on March 23, 2009


Seconding blue_beetle and also the "grave" link indicates that these aren't people who were walking. They were already driving around, just on overloaded scooters. The question isn't how much pollution these things might put out, it's how much *additional* pollution they put out compared to what they replace (if any). Well actually, it's both. But if they are serious about the eco versions, it can still be an absolute good.

Also, if this car were available in the US I'd buy one. 50-60 mpg for $2000? In your faces, Detroit Liars (and apologists therefor).
posted by DU at 11:28 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


If it's built around a two-stroke scooter engine, get ready for yet more global air pollution.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:28 AM on March 23, 2009


Ah yes. many people dream of Tatas
That was going to be my alternate title. "These aren't the Tata's I crave."
posted by Xurando at 11:33 AM on March 23, 2009


If it's built around a two-stroke scooter engine, get ready for yet more global air pollution.

Accroding to wikipedia it's using an "all aluminium 623 cc 2 cylinder SOHC petrol Bosch multi-point fuel injection (single injector)" engine. I'd be surprised if it were a two stroke.
posted by delmoi at 11:34 AM on March 23, 2009


It's not. It's a four-stroke with multi-point fuel injection.

And I would totally buy one, regardless of air bags. I also wouldn't take it on the interstate.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:35 AM on March 23, 2009


To echo blue_beetle, it's a bit rich to hear Americans lamenting all the polluting Indians are going to be getting up to. For reals?

Yeah, for reals. If you compare air quality in Bangalore vs Delhi, there's a huge difference - Delhi's autorickshaws use LNG, and Bangalore's don't. And, as you can imagine, the American lifestyle doesn't scale very well.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:36 AM on March 23, 2009


They're also working on a compressed air version.
posted by delmoi at 11:40 AM on March 23, 2009


Hmm, apparently it's not designed to last very long if driven faster then 45 MPH
posted by delmoi at 11:49 AM on March 23, 2009


How many smog-belching Tuk-tuks are they going to take off the road?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:50 AM on March 23, 2009


Where's the appropriate YouTube clip from "An Officer and a Gentleman" when you need it?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:51 AM on March 23, 2009


From the environmental link, the car is "[d]esigned to put a stop to a family of four travelling on a single scooter." Which makes me think that there are already many little scooters that are overloaded and unsafe on the roads, so this could be a net positive improvement.

Also from that article: "My first reaction when someone says they need to buy a car is to say don't buy it," said Soumya Brata Rahut, a spokesman for Greenpeace India. -- Just clarifying that it's not Uppity White Folk trying to keep the Hopeful Brown People down.

And I would totally buy one, regardless of air bags. I also wouldn't take it on the interstate. - dunkadunc, you may want to look into NEVs - neighborhood electric vehicles. The pricing isn't as good, but they're currently available in the US and if something is really a NEV, then it's street-legal. NEV is a Federally-approved street-legal vehicle classificationwhich came into existence in 1998 under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 500 (FMVSS 500) (the vehicle classification is referred to as "low-speed vehicle" within Federal regulations).

delmoi - that's the brilliance of planned obsolesce.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:52 AM on March 23, 2009


Their website is already experiencing gridlock.
posted by monospace at 11:52 AM on March 23, 2009


Isn't this a good thing? Isn't the bad part that Americans won't get onboard with them, but will prefer monstrocities that burn too much fuel?

Oh, I forgot, America is the greatest nation on Earth (TM)?
posted by explosion at 11:55 AM on March 23, 2009


To put the "no air conditioning" into perspective: in Delhi in July, the average high is 94° F and the humidity commensurate with 9 inches of rain per month.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Tata Motors claims they'll have it available in the United States in three years. Delays to meet USA standards include validation based on American regulations, beefing up the safety features if necessary, and changing the name from "Tata Nano" to the more US-consumer-friendly "Johnson Macro".
posted by roystgnr at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


Nthing the 'If Americans can drive SUV's, then the rest of the world can drive microcars that get 50mpg.

And really, making this kind of vehicle safe and feasible anywhere is a good thing for climate change, imo.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:02 PM on March 23, 2009


was just listening to this on npr...yeah, turns out it's a lot of indians who are against this...i believe it was the indian minister of transportation talking about the percentage of transportation done by car vs. the percentage of the urban real estate they take up (roads, parking, etc), as well as the pollution concerns that led her to hope that india and the developing world do not repeat the "mistakes of the west". hear, hear!
posted by sexyrobot at 12:05 PM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


filthy light thief, the concept of those NEVs really defeats why I would want a Nano (or its European quadricycle equivalent) in the first place.
I'm from Maine, so the lack of doors, heat, and the fact that it's electric (which means limited range) really turn it into a rich persons' toy for the Florida suburbs. What makes a quadricycle attractive is that it's a tiny gas-powered car that's dirt cheap: I'm anti-pollution but as far as electric vehicles go I'm also anti-suck.
For the moment, I'm going to keep on buying used small cars and driving them into the ground.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:05 PM on March 23, 2009


We had our Model Ts, I don't really begrudge India for going for the Tata Nona. Sure it will contribute to an increase in greenhouse gases (unless there is a net reduction in smog belchers on Indian roads) and yet another demand on finite petroleum resources but it's not like there is a stable infrastructure in place for a plug-in hybrid in India.

Hopefully it will result in a higher standard of living and investments can be made to encourage more sustainable vehicles in the future.
posted by vuron at 12:06 PM on March 23, 2009


In three years, the US will be using rickshaws.
posted by digsrus at 12:08 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


To put the "no air conditioning" into perspective: in Delhi in July, the average high is 94° F and the humidity commensurate with 9 inches of rain per month.

And to put it in the right perspective, July's nowhere near the hottest month in Delhi. That would be May, in the lead-up to the monsoon, when the average high is 41C (about 105F). That's on average. It cools slightly from then till July, with the average humidity ticking up steadily until the monsoon finally breaks. Driving around in one of these things will be like tooling around in an easy-bake oven for two months, followed by a couple months driving around in a cramped sauna.

Which would make for a very strange narrative in a Chuck Berry song . . .
posted by gompa at 12:09 PM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


12 inch wheels! so cute!
posted by mattbucher at 12:10 PM on March 23, 2009


Many Indian cities definitely need better public transit infrastructure.
posted by chunking express at 12:13 PM on March 23, 2009


It's not as if people in India with $2000 to burn haven't thus far been able to own a car. They just haven't been able to own a new car, with the better fuel economy and lower emissions that go with that.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2009


(had to have a go at it . . .)

Ridin' along in my automobile
My baby beside me at the wheel
I nearly passed out at the turn of a mile
My sweat glands oozin' and runnin' wild
Cruisin' and cursin' the lack of a radio
With no particular place to go

No particular place to go
Sufferin' from some kind of severe heat stroke . . .
posted by gompa at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm, apparently it's not designed to last very long if driven faster then 45 MPH

You really can't drive faster than that in India. Even on the highways, it isn't safe to drive at high speeds.
posted by rottytooth at 12:26 PM on March 23, 2009


Manufacturer Tata Motors
Parent company Tata Sons
Also called The People's Car


You know who else...
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:30 PM on March 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


One thing to keep in mind is that the scooters these are supposed to be replacing aren't going to be taken off the road. They will just be sold to someone else, and then you have a scooter and a tata on the road, where before there was just the scooter. Resources are way too scarce for servicable scooters to simply be scrapped. That being said i'm not for or against the whole thing, just pointing out something of note.
posted by jester69 at 12:30 PM on March 23, 2009


I would be cautious about repeating "these are safer vehicles than scooters" without seeing some statistics. First: other road users are not taken into account - cars kill more people than scooters. Second: safety is a key part of the marketing of this product, so there will be many inaccurate figures and assertions from the marketing people polluting the discussion.
posted by alasdair at 12:34 PM on March 23, 2009


Also, if this car were available in the US I'd buy one. 50-60 mpg for $2000? In your faces, Detroit Liars (and apologists therefor).

In that case, let's start lobbying congress to get rid of safety and emissions standards and start selling them here!
posted by The World Famous at 12:37 PM on March 23, 2009


dunkadunc - you'll be looking towards the quadcycle options. From wikipedia: "The deluxe version will have air conditioning, but no power steering." -- sounds like they're all pretty basic. But that all might change by 2011, when they come to the US.

I have trouble believing that 4 people on a scooter is less dangerous than 4 people in a tiny shell of a car. And the fuel efficiency sounds fairly good, by US standards: 4.55 L/100 km (21.97 km/L, 51.7 mpg (US), 62 mpg (UK)) under city road conditions, and 3.85 L/100 km on highways (25.97 km/L, 61.1 mpg (US), 73.3 mpg (UK)) -- though I'm not sure what highway conditions are implied, if 45 mph is the max desirable speed for these.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:39 PM on March 23, 2009


In that case, let's start lobbying congress to get rid of safety and emissions standards and start selling them here!

Tata's apparently working on a European/international version of the Nano, which will meet European emission and safety standards and have some extra features, like a bigger engine and a five-speed automatic gearbox. It will also cost a lot more, though - around € 5,000.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:52 PM on March 23, 2009


You know, I kinda like the prefix "nano" and would hate to see it become the derisive equivalent of "Yugo" for a new generation.
posted by Spatch at 12:59 PM on March 23, 2009


you may want to look into NEVs - neighborhood electric vehicles. The pricing isn't as good

No kidding. Just getting proper doors on one of those gemcars (~$2k for the 2-seater, ~$3k for 4-seater) is about as much as a tata.
posted by juv3nal at 1:07 PM on March 23, 2009


I saw the post title in my RSS feed and thought someone had accidentally posted a AskMe on the blue.
posted by sciurus at 1:18 PM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


But that all might change by 2011, when they come to the US.

Certainly it's already the case that the one designed for the UK features a 3 cylinder engine, instead of the 2 cylinder in the standard version. There are other changes too, but I can't remember...
posted by opsin at 1:41 PM on March 23, 2009


In the '80s, I owned a Chevy Sprint (aka the Geo Metro), that got 50-60mpg on the highway. We've come so far.
posted by nomisxid at 1:58 PM on March 23, 2009


I still think they are adorable. I want to buy a bunch of them, stick them in a fenced off parking lot, and play high speed bumper cars. I'd call it "The World's Tiniest Demolition Derby!"

In fact, there is probably a pretty good market for that idea.
posted by quin at 2:07 PM on March 23, 2009


In the '80s, I owned a Chevy Sprint (aka the Geo Metro), that got 50-60mpg on the highway.

Don't forget to factor in the fuel burned by the truck your Geo was wedged under for the entire trip.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:09 PM on March 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


I am no car person but I believe many Am cars got better MPG than they do now becAuase now cars are so much heavier with all the added nice things (A/C etc)...as for pollution: clearly the nations such as China and India are getting wealthier because they are making stuff that used to be made in Am and in Europe. As they acquire wealth they buy the things that made us screw up the environment...but given the populations in those nations, the damage to the environment will be massive. As some wise fellow, not Malthus, said: Nature could readily correct itself if but 80% of the world's population would just disappear.
posted by Postroad at 2:15 PM on March 23, 2009


One thing to keep in mind is that the scooters these are supposed to be replacing aren't going to be taken off the road. They will just be sold to someone else, and then you have a scooter and a tata on the road, where before there was just the scooter.

Which is exactly what would happen if the owner of the scooter decided to buy a new scooter rather then a Tata
posted by delmoi at 2:35 PM on March 23, 2009


The Tatas I crave are far, far larger than that. And come in rosy pink, not Banana Safety yellow.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:58 PM on March 23, 2009


Yes yes, the boobies were mentioned upthread already.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:00 PM on March 23, 2009


To keep the internal syllable repetition in the company's name, it should be the Nono.
posted by gurple at 3:34 PM on March 23, 2009


I think a family of four would find one of these quite roomy and comfortable. A family of four GI Joes, that is.
posted by jamstigator at 3:55 PM on March 23, 2009


I think a family of four would find one of these quite roomy and comfortable. A family of four GI Joes, that is.

TATA
It's not a clown car.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:04 PM on March 23, 2009


A two-wheeled motorbike in India costs around 2K USD, too, and there are so many of them parked in front of almost everything that you have to walk to the end of the block lots of places, then cross in front of the bikes, then loop back.

Replacing them with cars, no matter how small…I literally cannot imagine where they would all fit.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:08 PM on March 23, 2009


None of the 'grave environmental concerns' links mentions it, but I wonder if it is possible for this car to actually pollute less than the scooter it would likely replace--especially when carrying more than one person and lots of stuff.

Maybe we are too quick to compare it to an American (not Am!) or European car, which is not an alternative option for its intended customers.
posted by eye of newt at 5:19 PM on March 23, 2009


"Freedom: TATA TATA TATA, the howl of clashing colors, the intertwining of all contradictions, grotesqueries, trivialities: LIFE." - Tristan Tzara.
posted by Sova at 5:41 PM on March 23, 2009


Here come the Tatas, just as I was looking at TTs...
posted by Tube at 5:54 PM on March 23, 2009


Well, the simple resolution to environmental concerns would be to have the majority of these sold to the car-dependent countries via a guaranteed market share, thus helping the G8 nations "leapfrog" ahead in consumer automotive technology.
posted by eustatic at 6:15 PM on March 23, 2009


Yeah, for reals. If you compare air quality in Bangalore vs Delhi, there's a huge difference - Delhi's autorickshaws use LNG, and Bangalore's don't.

And yet, Delhi is the second most polluted city in the world, while Bangalore doesn't even feature in the world top 10 list. Admittedly, they've cleaned up their act a fair bit in recent years, but the point stands: Delhi is significantly more polluted than any other Indian city.

Thing is, Delhi is a vastly more spread out urban conglomeration than Bangalore is; the roads are much much wider, and most of the upper-middle areas (South Delhi, Chanakyapuri, even that backpacker ghetto, Pahargunj) are less dusty than, say, Bangalore's MG Road. Therefore, the roads would feel less polluted, but that is misleading: Bangalore is actually one of the least polluted cities in India.

While it'll be interesting to compare emission metrics between a Tata Nano and a bike, I'm actually less concerned about particulate matter, and more concerned about how Indian cities will handle this new raddi (traffic). Most Indian streets aren't designed for a car-rich traffic; they're 'designed' to, well, everything goes on to the roads, auto-rickshaws, buses, cycle-rickshaws, bullock-carts, lorries and cars. Cars are quite troublesome in that they occupy a lot of space, and I'm deeply concerned that many Indian cities simply can't take the new load.

On a slightly nostalgic note, here's how the Indian middle-class used to travel in the 1980's.
posted by the cydonian at 7:34 PM on March 23, 2009


Back in the day, Tata actually got the domain name "bodacious-tatas.com" cancelled by the WIPO because it was considered confusingly similar to their real name. Confusingly similar by people who can't tell the difference between huge breasts and an Indian super-conglomerate.
posted by xigxag at 8:05 PM on March 23, 2009


No headline using the word "bodacious?" Not one?
posted by rokusan at 8:06 PM on March 23, 2009


Replacing them with cars, no matter how small…I literally cannot imagine where they would all fit.

This. I have no idea why places like India or China, with population densities an order of magnitude higher than the U.S., are encouraging American style car culture. There simply isn't enough space to lay roads for all the potential cars. Tokyo style public transportation seems like such a better option.
posted by afu at 8:34 PM on March 23, 2009


I still think they are adorable. I want to buy a bunch of them, stick them in a fenced off parking lot, and play high speed bumper cars. I'd call it "The World's Tiniest Demolition Derby!

In fact, there is probably a pretty good market for that idea.


Now that is thinking like an American!
posted by wilful at 10:53 PM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have no idea why places like India or China, with population densities an order of magnitude higher than the U.S., are encouraging American style car culture.

While there's a definite push towards personal transportation, and while I've already talked about this in my previous post, I would hesitate to call it an American-style car culture. You have to remember: Indian cities already have massive public transportation systems; Mumbai, for example, has one of the highest rates of usage for its rail network on a per-capita basis. More to the point, I don't think the government is encouraging anything; it's just that cars are an obvious symbol of greater upward mobility.

But yes, we need more, significantly more, governmental investment into public transport; there's a very very urgent need to plan cities around metro networks, rather than have a sort of a laissez-faire urban sprawl that all Indian cities are becoming.

On a slightly different note, here's an interesting insight into the Tata Nano's emission standards:
And before we go any further, let us also put one more myth to sleep: the Nano is probably the cleanest automobile ever to go on sale in India. It is BS III compliant and is BS IV ready [that's Bharat Stage III and Stage IV standards] ... [T]he car had lower emissions than the best selling 100cc bike in the country; [...] the overall Nano ranks as one of the world's best cars with the lowest CO2 emission levels, pegged at 110 grams per kilometre. And all this without a start-stop aid or with [...]crazily priced [...] computer controls.
They're already talking about version 2.
posted by the cydonian at 6:15 AM on March 24, 2009


Categorical Imperative
posted by Eideteker at 11:47 AM on March 24, 2009


you know, this is pretty much the car i've been wishing they would build- my only concern really is the build quality.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:52 PM on March 24, 2009


50-60 mpg for $2000? In your faces, Detroit Liars (and apologists therefor).

You have some hilarious expectations. The current, original version gets 47 mpg, not 50-60 -- not terribly impressive given its displacement.

$2000? Ho, ho, ho. I've seen guesses that the European version will start at $5000. There's a hell of a lot of safety and emissions equipment that will have to be added before it can be sold in Europe or the US. Which will add weight. Which will require a bigger engine. Which will cost more, and probably get worse fuel economy.

Then again, I live in Detroit, so you'll probably just disregard my information.
posted by pmurray63 at 5:50 PM on March 24, 2009


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