Love those Tatas

Tata Nano

Ok, the title is not what you think.

Recently Tata Motors of India announced they’d be offering a fuel efficient vehicle (50MPG)  priced at $2500 USD that almost any family in India could afford to buy and to operate.  Called the Tata Nano, it is seen as enabling people to move up from the lower ends of India’s transportation spectrum, where two-wheeled scooters selling for as little as $900 are often crammed with entire families.

The Nano’s closest competitor is the Maruti 800, a four-door selling for nearly twice as much.

In terms of performance, it doesn’t offer much more than the Ford Model T. The Nano has a two-cylinder 0.6-liter gasoline engine with 33 horsepower, giving it a top speed of about 60 mph, according to Tata Motors. It gets 50 miles per gallon. Tata claims that the car meets safety and environmental standards (such as Euro IV emissions compliance) which is as I understand it, pretty tough. In any case, the Nano is probably cleaner than the 2 cycle Vespa scooter or other small motorbikes currently all over India.

It is very low on use of raw materials, and it gets better mileage that the Toyota Prius (46MPG) yet environmentalists are having a bit of a cow about it.


Here is a recent blog posting from Sidartha Stone,  who grew up in India, but lives in Silicon Valley, and holds a Ph.D in mechanical engineering.

Here is an excerpt:

Car A gets a fuel efficiency of 46 miles per gallon. Car B gets about 50 miles per gallon. Car A is called the Toyota Prius and is hailed by environmentalists as a step towards solving global warming. Car B, a new car called the Tata Nano unveiled by an Indian company, is reviled by environmentalists as disastrous for global warming. The New York Times devotes an entire editorial condemning the Tata Nano. Columnist and author Tom Friedman calls for the Tata Nano to be “taxed like crazy.” The reason for this extreme criticism? The Tata Nano is cheap – very cheap. It is a revolutionary new car design that will cost only about $2,500 and will bring car ownership within reach of millions of new people in the developing world. The environmentalists’ hypocrisy is breathtaking.

This is not unlike that of the Duke of Wellington at the dawn of the railroad era, who criticized the railways on the grounds that “[They will] only encourage the common people to move about needlessly.”

This environmental angst over the Tata reminds me of this classic Far Side comic:

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Jim Arndt
February 4, 2008 1:43 pm

LOL wouldn’t want to have a Hummer tailgating you. Sardines come to mind.

Mike Weller
February 4, 2008 1:53 pm

The comparison between the Prius and the Nano are meaningless. The Prius meets US and international safety and emissions standards, and the Nano does not. That’s fine in India, but any other country would require extensive changes before the car could be marketed.
REPLY: Yes but that’s the thing, they aren’t marketing it in the US, so they don’t have to meet US regulations. This kinds of goes toward the much hated idea of the US imposing its will on other countries and economies.
Tata claims that the car meets safety and environmental standards (such as Euro IV emissions compliance) which is as I understand it, pretty tough. In any case, the Nano is probably cleaner than the 2 cycle Vespa scooter or other small motorbikes currently all over India.
Not to worry.

February 4, 2008 2:52 pm

The comparison between the Prius and pretty much any “proper” car is meaningless.
Take my VW Passat Estate as an example. Build quality is solid as a rock it’s got a 2 litre diesel engine, lots of “creature comforts”, 138 bhp, 320lb ft of torque (great fun), 128mph top speed and room for a large refridgerator in the back with the rear seats down.
All that and it’s still got better fuel consumption than the Prius, even using the official figures. In the real world it’s even better – I can average 50+mpg with mine if I keep it below 70 (ish) mph.
Mind you, it doesn’t have to carry heavy batteries around everywhere…..
See this link for official data
OK, so it’s a lot more expensive than the Tata but let’s not confuse an expensive marketing gimmick with any form of reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly personal transport.
Surely it’s good that India is developing as a nation, wanting for a prosperous future for its people. Much better by far than some of the alternative, less developed, countries in that part of the world surely?

February 4, 2008 3:14 pm

Mike Weller, it is simply untrue to claim the Nano doesn’t meet safety and emissions standards (see link below). * And to make this claim, merely exposes the gross hypocracy of greenies. Poor people getting what affluent Westerners already have is unacceptable to them because it exposes an unacceptable truth, namely that to achieve the carbon dioxide reductions they say are necessary, living standards in the affluent West must be drastically reduced. For example, all private cars must be banned. Not only is this a non-starter for most people, it’s a non-starter for the greenies themselves.
The inconvenient truth is that the only way to achieve their GHG targets is to prevent poor people in developing countries aspiring to what everyone in the affluent West takes for granted.
* Excepting dangerous, expensive and unecessary airbags, imposed on the rest of us because of the ignorance and selfishness of the minority who refuse to wear seatbelts.

February 4, 2008 3:48 pm

Mind you, this type of thing probably is a Greenie’s worst nightmare – proof that enough engineering can solve pretty much any problem mankind has.

Evan Jones
February 4, 2008 4:43 pm

India, China et al, are going to pollute a lot for the next couple of decades. By that time it is expected they will have largely caught up with the west in terms of individual affluence. Then they will clean up their acts, same as the US and Western Europe did.
This will be a completely natural process. It is only when one has a certain amount of creature comforts that one worries about the niceties. It was certainly true for the west, and there is no reason to believe it isn’t true for everybody.
I can’t say if CO2 is going to be a concern or not. That depends on too much science and/or politics to forsee. But the particulates are going to disappear. That alone will solve the “dirty snow” issue and, according to NASA’s estimates, undo 25% of AGW via increased albedo.
The vast majority of Indians and Chinese are going to own cars. We’d better get used to it. If the tech is clean (and it gets cleaner continuously), that won’t be a real problem.
Let the wealth solve the problem. Money may be the root of “all” (read, “a great deal of”) evil, but it’s the root of a heck of a lot of other things too, including very much of what is good in the world.
Fifty years ago, the great majority of the world’s starvation occurred in China and India. It was horrible. It was self-created wealth that has put paid those conditions. We in the west would do well to remember that as we count our calories and roll over our IRAs.
This cheap, efficient, clean new car will be a good thing. Mobility is a crucial component of both affluence and freedom.

Stan Needham
February 4, 2008 5:10 pm

As a side note, I bought one of these in 1962 at the tender age of 17. It was a ’59 for which I paid $540.00 (all my own money). My parents were delighted as I had already wrecked my mom’s Buick convertible twice. Funny, I never wrecked mine. It got close to 40 mpg, and, at $.25/gal for gas, cost about $2.50 to fill up and had nearly the same cruising range as my wife’s new Camry XLE (which now costs $50 to fil up). Why would anyone deny some 17-year-old Indian kid the same joy I had 46 years ago?

Stan Needham
February 4, 2008 5:12 pm

Oh, and the 0 – 60 time of 32 seconds — that’s being generous.

Jeff in Seattle
February 4, 2008 7:04 pm

Hehe, 0-60 in 32 seconds.

Evan Jones
February 4, 2008 9:23 pm

That’s the other half of the reason he never had a wreck.
But that 25 cents a gallon has to be factored for inflation. (They had silver in the quarters back then.)

February 5, 2008 1:17 am

Had the Tata been produced by the Swiss or the Germans and sold 6x its price like the Smart, it would have been hailed by the climate puritans as an Earth savior.
As long as the NYT has anti-tata editorials next to ads for SUVs and cheap air travel, you’ll know it’s has nothing to do with the planet and everything to do with hypocrisy. Quite a reliable BS detector.

Stan Needham
February 5, 2008 5:52 am

Evan, you make a great point. At 5.5% annual inflation for the period 1962 – 2008, that $.25 would now be $2.86. We’re currently at around $2.90 – $2.95. I don’t know what the CPI has averaged since 1962, but I’ll bet it’s not far off that 5.5%. Another aspect of the fact that all things are relative; I made $1.25/hour working part time after school, so it took 2 hours pay to fill up the Renault. I’m self-employed now, so it’s difficult to calculate my exact hourly wage, but, suffice it to say, it takes less than 2 hours pay to fill up my Toyota Highlander.
A couple other points. I could improve on the 32 seconds dramatically going down a steep hill — that law of gravity thing, heh, heh. I didn’t have to worry about getting squashed by a big SUV back then, but if I ever got hit by a big American sedan or station wagon — well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be typing this right now. Still, it was a great car for a teenager. I could go (and park) in places where others with bigger American cars couldn’t, which came in handier than you might think. My folks didn’t have to worry about me drag racing (although I did race a VW Carman Ghia once — beat him too). And since this is a climate blog, let me add that I drove it all of my junior and senior years of high school, and the only time it didn’t start was one January morning in 1963 when it was 18 below zero. Interestingly, we set a record that January for most consecutive days below zero (I think 7) that was either tied or broken last February with 8.

February 5, 2008 6:27 am

I think that the little car is a great idea. First it is basic that more miles per gallon means less polution. That is a given you can say what you want but 50+mpg is going to put less petrol waste in the atmosphere or else where than 18 mpg because if the waste isn’t in the atmosphere it is being captured and put some where else. It is still polution. Just think if many of our underprivaleged in the good ole USA that can only aford some old clunker that is mostly worn out and uses almost as much oil as it does gasoline and gets some where less than 20 mph were to be afforded the nice little tata. do you think that it might help our oil dependancy and possibly our CO2 output. (I’m not sure we are the problem with CO2) Before we condem the little car just look at the good things it could do even in the rich USA. We have plenty of folks here that would love to for once have a new car and be able to affore the payments and fuel at the same time. I would buy one.
The only major problem I can see with it is that most of us want to run 75+mpg and it just isn’t capable of that. perhaps that might be the answser to some of our speeding problems …….. there are good things in small packages after all
my 2 cents.

Jeff Wood
February 5, 2008 10:28 am

Stan, no-one forgets his first old banger.
I was intrigued by your reference to January 1963. Here in the UK the snow began to fall on Chistmas Eve 1962, a gentle, magical sight.
It kept coming. It was May before the Scottish Lowlands cleared.
Did you have a similar winter in the US? Any mainland Europeans in who remember theirs that year?

Stan Needham
February 5, 2008 11:11 am

Jeff, we had a lot of snow in northern Indiana during the winter of 1962/63. 1977/78 and 1981/82 were the biggest snow years in my memory. Here’s an NOAA report that covers the last half of the 20th century. Table 5 is illustrative:
Table 5. Some Notable Periods of Continuous Snow Cover of at Least a Trace at South Bend, Indiana
Inclusive Dates Length of time (days) Comments
Nov. 23, 1950 – Feb. 18, 1951 88 On Jan. 19th no snow cover was reported
Dec. 31, 1957 – March 6, 1958 66 Deep snow cover; 15 to 23 inches
Dec. 6, 1958 – March 11, 1959 96 Deep snow cover; 15 to 25 inches
Jan. 18, 1960 – March 29, 1960 72 On Feb. 5th no snow cover was reported
Dec. 19, 1961 – March 18, 1962 90 On Jan. 6th no snow cover was reported
Dec. 5, 1962 – March 16, 1963 102 Fairly deep snow cover; 10 to 16 inches
Dec. 3, 1969 – March 1, 1970 89
Nov. 28, 1976 – Feb. 25, 1977 90 Deep snow cover; 15 to 27 inches
Nov. 25, 1977 – March 31, 1978 127 Dec. 18-20 no snow cover was reported
Record deep snow; 41″ on Jan. 30, 1978
Dec. 25, 1978 – March 13, 1979 79 Deep snow cover; 15 to 23 inches
Dec. 8, 1981 – March 17, 1982 100 Fairly deep snow cover; 10 to 17 inches

Stan Needham
February 5, 2008 11:13 am

Sorry, left off the link to the full report.

Jeff Wood
February 5, 2008 11:18 am

Stan, many thanks.

Jeff in Seattle
February 5, 2008 12:18 pm

Did you have a similar winter in the US? Any mainland Europeans in who remember theirs that year?

Hehe, not me, I was only 6 mos old.

Jeff in Seattle
February 5, 2008 12:22 pm

In Norther Virginia, two years in a row we had HUGE mid/late winter shows, the biggest I remember. In Jan of 95 if I recall correctly over two days we got 30 inches or more of snow. Could barely move in my Toyota 4×4 truck, kept bottoming out. The following year in Early march we got something similar.

February 5, 2008 12:25 pm

Jeff, I am too young to remember 1963 (wasn’t around for another 10 years…). But I have heard my parents’ stories about the exceptionnaly thick snow cover (uncommon for the Netherlands), as well as a very long freezing period that started at the end of 1962. Cars and trucks were driving on the big “IJsselmeer” lake (“Southern Sea” until dammed from the Noth Sea), and my mother skated on the lake until the end of March. My grandfather told me that there was ice in the ground soil until the end of spring.

February 5, 2008 2:04 pm

Hey Stan, I lived in SW Michigan in the late 70s and remember the winter of 77/78, not just because I had to take my driver’s test in the snow canyons that formed along the streets of St. Joe, but also because my friends and I were able to go cross-country skiing down I-94, which closed down. We got the brunt of the lake effect snow every winter, but that one was a gem.
I lived in South Bend in ’82 and also remember an incredible amount of snow. My roommate – who was from CT – decided as the winter wore on that it was time to “punish” the weather, so he went without a coat for a week in early April. He paid dearly with a case of bronchitis afterward.
OT, but interestingly enough, the inflation calculators out there – which I believe use total CPI and not core CPI – tell me that $0.25 in 1962 has $1.73 of buying power in 2008, or $1.72 in 2007.

Stan Needham
February 5, 2008 2:13 pm

After the Blizzard of ’78 that blanketed the American midwest with up to 4 feet of snow and 25-30 foot drifts, there were piles of snow in shopping center parking lots that didn’t completely melt until the 4th of July. Which begs the question that I’ve asked before — who wants to go back to that?

Stan Needham
February 5, 2008 3:18 pm

John, you’re probably right about the CPI. I just took a constant of 1.055 X .25 on my calculator and hit the equals key 47 times.

Evan Jones
February 5, 2008 3:31 pm

Another aspect of the fact that all things are relative; I made $1.25/hour working part time after school, so it took 2 hours pay to fill up the Renault. I’m self-employed now, so it’s difficult to calculate my exact hourly wage, but, suffice it to say, it takes less than 2 hours pay to fill up my Toyota Highlander.
You impress me again, Stan. Folks are all too busy figuring inflation, yet they fail UTTERLY to consider hoe much more plain old wealth there is today.
I remember a late-1970’s Harlan Ellison story (Jefty is Five, IRRC) where he talks glowingly of how a Clark Bar was bigger and only cost a nickle–in the Great Depression! Hell, in 1935, you got a bowl of soup for a nickle. And you didn’t get the slice of bread with it because that cost 2-cents more and you just couldn’t afford it. Who the hell had a nickle to throw away on a candy bar in 1935?
And I bet under today’s health code it wouldn’t have been legal to feed that bowl soup (or that Clark bar) to a dog.
Anyone who buys that simplistic, ridiculous, destructive, sinful, envy-oriented, and profoundly incorrect Limited Pie theory about economics (i.e., if one person gains, another loses), I have a used AGW theory to sell them!

February 5, 2008 4:52 pm

[…] Love those Tatas […]

Evan Jones
February 5, 2008 8:30 pm

“Most self-described Liberals I know buy into the static view of the economy hook, line & sinker. . . . [o]ne of the primary solutions to many of mankind’s problems is the rapid accumulation of wealth by as many people as possible.”
One of those empirical issues. The statistics are there for all to see. Observable. Measurable. GWP. GDP. GDP per capita. Distribution curves. Individual economic mobility stats. Fact.
Nothing to do with value judgements. How anyone could possibly have arrived at the static economy conclusion in the first place is utterly baffling to me. Ossification of the brain?
(We can go into how incredibly wonderful the increasing gap between rich and poor is–for the poor– another time; that’s a slightly more advanced course. But it’s a glorious, devastating argument.)
Besides, being a bleeding-heart liberal can be very damn expensive. It would therefore seem somewhat counterproductive to be opposed on principle to the creation of wealth.
“Assuming, of course, that they then have the wisdom to use that wealth in a responsible way, as opposed to, say, lottery tickets, heh.”
We know that people tend to do that less if they are using money they actually earned.

Evan Jones
February 5, 2008 8:52 pm

Christmas Eve, 1962, I remember my parents slowly driving up to Chappaqua (yes, that one). As we reached the foot of the driveway of my aunt and uncle’s house, we had to stop. The snow drifts were over my head. I was seven.
I got a Moustrap game for Christmas. (I still have it, and it still works.)

Tony Edwards
February 6, 2008 6:49 am

Stan and Jeff, my first car was a 1938 Hillman Minx convertible, which was very cold to drive across the south of England in early January, 1963. The main roads had not been swept, so there was a sort of clear path where the tyres went, with a snow-bank between them. I had a friend who was making the same trip and asked if I would stay with him as he was driving a Morgan three wheeler and was having to go slightly sideways all the time as his single rear wheel kept sliding off the central ridge of snow. Fortunately we both made it safely, but bloody cold was an understatement.

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