I’d love to hear your comments on the Tata Nano. Tata Motors launched commercial sales of the low-cost car Monday.
The 2-cylinder Nano gets 55 mpg (23.6 km/litre), which the company claims is “the highest for any petrol car in India” and hence has “the lowest CO2 emission amongst cars in India.”
That’s the “good news.” On the other hand, the stripped down version — yes, it is a bit odd to describe any version of a 9 foot by 5 foot by 5 foot car as not stripped down — which does not have heating or air conditioning, air bags, a stereo or, apparently, even a “cup holder in front console,” is only $2000.
And that means a lot more potential buyers.
Still, I’m not sure anybody United States — where the average vehicle gets 20 mpg! — can criticize India too much. That didn’t stop the New York Times editorial page a year ago when the car was first unveiled:
Given the gas-guzzling behemoths that so many of us in the West feel entitled to, it would seem hypocritical to begrudge people in poor countries an affordable car. Much like the hypocrisy of the dealers who have resisted Tata’s bid for Jaguar on the grounds that Indian ownership would erode the brand’s prestige.
The sad fact is that the world has changed since Americans celebrated the egalitarian breakthrough of the Ford Model T. We know now that gas-driven automobiles do terrible damage to the environment, and the notion of loosing millions upon millions of new carbon emitters on our planet is not something to celebrate.
So while we admire Mr. Tata’s business and engineering acumen in creating the Nano, we ardently wish that he would focus his talents elsewhere: creating transportation that is both affordable and doesn’t emit ever more greenhouse gases. That would be something for the whole world to celebrate and buy.
But the truth is that no such transportation exists until the world makes a mammoth transition to clean energy. Certainly the cleanest car you can buy is no car. And Tata claims “the Nano pollutes 12 percent less than a typical scooter,” though I’m not certain that’s CO2.
For the foreseeable future, fuel-efficiency is the best strategy. And even in 2020, when oil is probably $200 a barrel or more, fuel efficiency will still be one of the two best strategies for reducing CO2 emissions in cars — along with electrification. Hmm. An electric Nano.