Barely has the dust settled down over the global wonder, Tata Nano, than a barely-known company in the eastern fringes of the country quietly crept up to usurp the mantle of the ''cheapest car in the world''. And they are environment-friendly to boot, not to mention cheaper to run as well.
Tara Tiny is a two-seater, while its four-seater sibling Tara Titu, both of which can now claim to be the cheapest cars in the world, retailing at Rs99,000 apiece. Moreover, both are electric cars.
Tata Motors set the ball rolling, and the little-known Tara International set the bar higher and prices lower to produce the two cars. . Analytical equipment maker Tara International, an affiliate of Bengal Enamel, is building these cars at its factory at Palta, a few kilometres from Kolkata, and expects to launch them from July this year.
In addition to the tiny tots, Tara International has also lined up a 14-seater bus, the Tara Shuttle and a truck, Tara Carrier. These are also priced very competitively at around Rs500,000 each.
The company also plans to launch bikes priced between Rs12,000 and Rs35,000. Apart from West Bengal, the company's other production centres are located at Puduchery,better known the world over as Pondicherry and Lucknow.
All these vehicles are electrical vehicles, and to develop them Tara collaborated with Chinese electric giant Aucma. This partnership translated in to lower running costs and maintenance charges vis-à-vis petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.
Tara S Ganguly, the company's chairman and chief executive officer and grandson of the founder Col. Dwijendra Bhattacharya who started Bengal Enamel in 1921, says electric cars contain only 35 moving parts on an average compared to a conventional vehicle's 2500, contributing to lower wear and tear.
According to Ganguly, ''Fewer parts mean less maintenance and simpler service. Also, electric cars do not need oil, filters and coolants''. Additionally, increased efficiency of electrical motors coupled with rising crude prices, results in a nominal running cost of Rs0.40 per kilometre. This is in contrast to the most fuel-efficient petrol car running at a cost of Rs.2.00 per kilometre.
While the Tiny and Titu can be charged from a 15-ampere socket at 220 volts, the electric bikes need to be charged through 5 amperes at the same potential. A daily 6-hour charge enables bikes to travel 80 to 100km, whereas the cars need 8 hours of charging to cover the same distance.
However, the top speed is limited to 50kmph. Though an impediment to highway cruising, the top speed is sufficient for urban commutes, or as Ganguly says, ''that is supposed to be the sane speed for confined and populated areas.''
Pictures available of this pint-sized powerhouse show a left-hand drive configuration. Ganguly explains saying these are meant for export markets in China and the US, with India-specific vehicles being reassembled at their factories. He also revealed that the company had received an order for 100 cars from a London-based firm.
Ganguly is extremely optimistic about the future of this car as he feels, ''In this age of global warming and increased pollution, our future lies in green cars. I am extremely confident that these cars will be runaway hits in the international market''. In tune with this optimism, a target output of around 1,000 cars, 5,000 two-wheelers and 500 buses and lorries has been slated for the first year.
With crude prices slated to go higher and people's knowledge of global warming increasing, Tara may well have bestsellers on their hands. Not only do the cars offer more for less, they make you feel good while driving one, of having contributed in a small way to the betterment of the planet.
The Tara Tiny/Titu in a nutshell:
|Specifications ||Measurements |
|Wheelbase ||2150 mm |
|Ground clearance ||150 mm |
|Net weight ||850 kg |
|Number of seats ||2/4 |
|Motor power ||3000 W |
|Battery capacity ||200 Amp-Hr |
|Battery voltage ||6V*10 |
|Recharge duration ||8 hours |
|Maximum speed ||50 kmph |
|Running cost ||Rs.0.40/km |
|Price ||Rs.99,000 |
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