Reva Nation

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I thought I had eyeballed the future when the first Smart car crossed my eyes, speeding down Sheikh Zayed road a few years ago. In a city like Dubai where petrol is cheaper than pop yet parking mostly comes in either the illegal or the parallel form a Smart car looked like it just might live up to its moniker. I was naive. It is today that I am really peering into that which is in store and yes it is also a small car. I like small cars but I like electric cars better.

Via Popgadget, a Bangalore-based company has been making the coolest little electric car known as the Reva since 2001. According to the site the Reva goes 85 KM on one charge through a 15 Amp socket. It boasts dent-proof ABS body panels, a dual-breaking system, climate control seats, and over 2000 colours to choose from while “elevated seats and a wide door provide excellent ingress/egress especially for ladies in saree and senior citizens”. Much better than having to sit sideways on a scooty.

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Last year the Reva Electric Car Company produced a super prototype of the next generation, an electric roadster called the Reva NXG. This bad boy comes equipped with a modem, GPS navigation, MP3 player, and a 125 mile range per charge. Plus it just looks cool.

The Reva has sold 900 units in India and is also on the roads in Malta and the U.K. The base price in India is Rs. 250, 000. Having never so much as looked at a car’s price tag there I don’t know how expensive this is in comparison to other cars on the road. Please feel free to enlighten. Have any Mutineers spotted or driven these vroom-vrooms in their town?

36 thoughts on “Reva Nation

  1. Maruti 800 costs around Rs 220,000 ..its by far the most sold car in India. Tata Indica – Rs. 375,000 Hyundai Santro – 400,000 Maruti Esteem – Rs. 550,000 Ford Fusion – Rs 750,000 Toyota Camry – Rs, 2,000,000 Honda Accord – Rs 1,750,000

  2. The driver will have to be Hobbit sized to fit in it comfortably. Tesla Motors has an non-toy looking electric car for regular sized people coming out in the US in 2007.

  3. Producing and selling electrics and hybrids in India should be a lot easier than in America thanks to a near total lack of homologation rules.

    However, those same rules are also what make cars safe to drive. The mp3 player and GPS are great; do they have airbags? Seatbelts? Daytime running lights? That second Reva doesn’t look like it has a roll-bar. Yeesh…scary. India generally doesn’t seem to mind so much about that sort of thing, though.

    And um…I’m going to guess that these things just don’t go very fast, either. Not that an electric can’t–it’s just hard to imagine that anything this small could pack enough battery (or a sophisticated enough battery) to propel it at any real velocity. Then again, in Indian cities, this is probably a good thing, since most drivers treat their Maruthi 800′s like open wheel Indy cars.

    I would like to see more hybrids and electrics in India. But what I’d like to see even more would be getting rid of the ubiquitous two-stroke engines in the scooters and motorcycles and even some cars, and some stricter pollution and emissions controls overall, and maybe even EPA-style mileage criteria for all manufacturers. Or a more sophisticated system than that. There’s no reason why not…

    Still, kudos to these guys for at least trying.

  4. Just saw a red one on my trip to delhi last week, looks small, stylish and cute. It looked like an alien on delhi roads, people drive far too rash for something like this to survive. Additional you need to include the cost of batteries that will have to be replaced every 2 years.

  5. Hey hey, before you diss the toy..er.. the car for perceived lack of safety features (I don’t know where you read it doesn’t have X or Y or Z), tell me you have driven a lot in many Indian cities. If you haven’t, let me illuminate. 40km/hr is the prevalent speed if that. At that speed, kids survive being held by adults, though adults still survive better in seatbelts. The traffic is so stop-and-go and poorly regulated, that you will see most cars sporting skirmish-marks on them from the traffic, but the occupants are none the worse for wear. Except for when the 2/4-wheelers meet the trucks you don’t see bloody accidents involving cars on Indian streets.

    However the situation is not true on inter-city, and as mentioned before, when involved with buses, trucks, and other load-bearing vehicles. But then the REVA isn’t made for inter-city transport. So all-in-all, smaller, lighter cars with narrower wheels work well for the speeds they are expected to run at.

  6. I saw a Reva in Delhi 2 years back, looked funny in the middle of a traffic jam. I actually wondered what would happen if you ran out of charge in the middle of the jam. The price doesn’t sound so high, until you see the car upclose, it is really small, not meant for more than 2 people. And for the same money you could get a Maruti/ Suzuki small car which would fit 4 people easily and give good mileage too. Plus, electricity is dicey at times in India, even in the big cities especially during summers, what if you couldn’t charge your electric car due to a electricity cut the night before, that would suck big time.

  7. I knew a professor at one of the IITs who owned a Reva. He had just moved back to India from the US. I think it makes a lot of sense of drive these small cars in congested city traffic in India – easy to manouvre, non-polluting and potenitally cost effective, given that gas costs the equivalent of $4 per gallon (not adjusted for PPP – more like $15-20/gallon if you take it into account). The only reason why I think it has sold only 900 cars in 5 months is that it seems like a “less value for money” proposition for the average Indian (and most Indians use this measure before making ANY purchase). Almost all Indian cars are 4 door sedans (even the 800cc Marutis), and can transport 4-5 people comfortably. If you offer a car at the same price as a Maruti 800, only smaller and less spacious, you ain’t selling too many of them!

  8. Imagine yourself surrounded by huge-ass trucks belching smoke, sitting in this matchbox in Delhi traffic. Hah.

  9. Vikram, Telsa Motors is going after the high end sports car market at least initially. It’s cool to see this kind of innovation coming out of India, but perhaps it’s best to shoot for the high end of performance and then work to cost reduce & mass market it.

  10. A close friend drives one here in Bangalore. It is not a hybrid, but an electric-only car, and so neccesarily has to be a second car. It looks cute but has serious problems – a maximum (realistic) speed of only 60 km/h, a relatively short range of 50-odd km/charge, and non-existent safety features.

    For all these reasons it is more a yuppie-second-car-that-compensates-for-guilt-from-driving-that-SUV than a true “people’s car”.

  11. Well, Seeker (#7), I get the “It doesn’t have X, Y, or Z” from their own product info, which lists a great many things that are homologated items in American-market cars as “features.”

    Picture, if you will, any brand promoting “Anti Glare prismatic mirrors For an undistracted driving experience” (sic) or “Luxury carpets and floor mats” as a marketing feature. The Standard model boasts “Rear seat belts For your child’s safety.”

    And allow me to take issue with your statement:

    If you haven’t, let me illuminate. 40km/hr is the prevalent speed if that. At that speed, kids survive being held by adults, though adults still survive better in seatbelts. The traffic is so stop-and-go and poorly regulated, that you will see most cars sporting skirmish-marks on them from the traffic, but the occupants are none the worse for wear. Except for when the 2/4-wheelers meet the trucks you don’t see bloody accidents involving cars on Indian streets.

    I agree that Indian city traffic tends to be lower speed. I’d disagree with your assessment of injury and mortality rates from traffic. India has a MUCH higher traffic death rate than you imply. And sorry, holding your kid in your lap won’t protect him in a 10kph accident, much less a 40kph one. Read the research; that kind of mythology was debunked back in the 1960′s. And I see a bloody accident involving cars almost every time I go to India and drive in Delhi. I’m not exaggerating. Of the last 7 trips I’ve made, I’ve witnessed fairly horrific traffic accidents 5 times, two in one trip, even. All of them involved fatalities, and only one of them involved a lorry.

    I wouldn’t dare make this up. But yes, that’s personal anecdote, not objective analysis. So let me offer the following. Many studies of traffic accident deaths and injuries have demonstrated that the official numbers in India (as well as in other developing nations) tend to be terribly underreported. The rates of death and injuries per accident are also far higher than in developed nations (this in spite of being lower speed accidents).

    The same car manufacturers make similar cars for different markets (think Honda and Suzuki, for instance). But India doesn’t press them on it, because price is so important to the consumer, and safety is not even a secondary concern. So you get cars with no standard safety features: seatbelts, crumple zones, collapsing steering columns, etc. that the American or Western consumer absolutely demands.

    So that’s where I’m coming from.

  12. oh here is what ‘the translator’ said for the above: 油缸 气缸 液压缸 Cylinder air cylinder hydraulic cylinder

    and the line above that was: 除尘器 dust remover.

    damn.

    are they calling us… um.. dirty? or am i looking to into it… and with the hydraulics.. hmm.. mind is turning like wildfire at 6am… :)

    note to readers: this was the translation on some online site…and my own intrepretations of the translation does not reflect any views of SM and your own intrepretations can be up to you… any correlation or collaborations between anyone’s views are simply coincidental and are no reason to start a mud slinging debate….

  13. In a city like Dubai where petrol is cheaper than pop yet parking mostly comes in either the illegal or the parallel form a Smart car looked like it just might live up to its moniker

    Thats really not saying a lot ;) Even in the US, gas is cheaper than pop. Gas (1 gallon) = $2.76 (MidWest) Pop (1 gallon) = 2 Liter bottle. Average price : $1.70 Cans/smaller bottles are even more expensive.

  14. I fell in love with this little car as soon as I saw the picture. However, I see three immediate problems as far as it’s being able to break into the indian market. First, it’s really small. The stereotype that Indian men are short is not always true. I’m 6’1 and am the shortest male of my generation on my moms side of the family (I’ve got 5 male cousins on that side, ranging from 6’2″ to 6’6″, and yes, we are all beanpoles). Second, I don’t think the car looks hardy enough to handle indian roads. I mean, between dodging the bullock carts, the families of 4 on scooties, and the lorries, plus the sink-hole sized pot holes, any indian car needs to be able to take some abuse. Third, not only is petrol more expensive in India than in the U.S., but electricity is also more expensive. So, who knows if it is really cost effective in the end? I think this car would work much better in a place like New York. But, hell, when are Americans ever going to buy a car this small.

  15. Saw quite a few in Bangalore when I was there in December. They’re awfully cute, I’d say.

  16. Im a bad person…when I saw the smart car pull up in a movie recently, I was one of the first person in the theater to start laughing at the ‘germ of a car’. Blush

    The reva might be a good choice for light driving etc or as a second car. I mean, how many of us know a family of two?

  17. Here is a road test report on the Reva from Autocar India.

    http://www.autocarindia.com/new/RoadTestDetails.asp?ID=1055

    FYI Maruti has just this month launched a new model of its WagonR compact with a provision to switch between petrol and LPG. If the mileage figures for this new model are correct, it should cost about half in running costs if it is run on LPG rather than on petrol. LPG dispensing outlets are presently not that many in most cities, but are increasing in number rapidly. Autorickshaws and other public transport vehicles have already been mandated to change over to LPG or CNG (compressed natural gas) in some cities.

    Pankaj

  18. I’m 6’1 and am the shortest male of my generation on my moms side of the family (I’ve got 5 male cousins on that side, ranging from 6’2″ to 6’6″, and yes, we are all beanpoles).

    You must be Punjabi ;) Do you look like a Latin lover as well?

  19. Technophobicgeek,

    Saw quite a few in Bangalore when I was there in December. They’re awfully cute, I’d say.

    “Cute” as in you wanted to pat them on the roof indulgently, or “cute” as in you wanted to boink them ? ;)

  20. So the Revalution isn’t yet on but a Bangalore based acquaintance of mine had one and indeed, it was very cute. Sort of like an even more compact and slightly tricked out rickshaw.

    She did note that she had to feed the recharging plug from her flat down to her car, so it wasn’t so great in terms of maintaining any sense of anonymity in the neighborhood. Not that there’s much chance for anonymity in most Indian neighborhoods.

  21. I’m 6’1 and am the shortest male of my generation on my moms side of the family (I’ve got 5 male cousins on that side, ranging from 6’2″ to 6’6″, and yes, we are all beanpoles).

    You must be Punjabi ;) Do you look like a Latin lover as well?

    He also lives in the UK and is often mistaken for white :)

  22. You must be Punjabi ;)

    Nope. 100% South Indian Tamilian stock.

    Do you look like a Latin lover as well?

    I’d like to think so but the ladies don’t seem to agree.

  23. for someone who was almost KILLED on the way to his own wedding while driving to the bride’s location in a trusty Toyota Qualis en route to Chandigarh because his overzealous driver decided that today was a great day to brown-bag a shitty single-malt whiskey while blasting “Kajra Re” until the speakers started farting (“arre, bhaisaab – ap fikar na kar!” my ASS) i just don’t feel comfortable knowing that the only thing coming between the family jewels and an irate TATA-truck-driving grain farmer whose wife just caught him fondling the nuts of a goat is the tin-foil sheathing of a “Reva”.

    besides, have you seen the newest Ambassadors out there? drooool

  24. Have driven a Reva and its really cool. No gears, you see!:) Its a popular second car in Bangalore. And yes, its not hybrid .It needs to be electrically charged.It’s ideal for city conditions as its compact (no parking hassles compared to ugly SUV’s that have hit the Indian market) , it will not hog road space and the mileage is adequate.Have also been in the Reva as a passenger, and it takes a bit getting used to, but not so difficult either. Tall persons will have a problem with leg space , though.

  25. People will buy it if it’s decently priced and has good load/luggage carrying abilities, i.e., if it can become the poor man’s car. This is the secret of Atlas/Hercules type bicycles, Bajaj M80 moped and Ambassador car etc. I doubt if it will be hip in the Kinetic Honda sort of way.

    OK, that was my prophecy based on nothing.

  26. Salil (#15), you are right on most counts. My ‘real’ argument was(ought to have been) that I don’t see much safety stuff in most cars on indian roads anyway, so I didn’t think the lack of mostly comparably non-existant features would be a concern. One of the cars I’ve had access to in India is a maruti 800, old enough to not have seatbelts. As don’t most of the cars on indian roads. Even the seat belt is a recent (5 yrs old or so) phenomenon for mainstream cars for the masses(for example those under 3.5lakhs or so).

    As to killing accidents, I’ve seen/read about plenty that happen on highways, or with material transport vehicles, but not as much in regular conjested traffic. My experience seems to be different from yours in that respect.

    I have seen cattle poke holes in cars with their horns, threatening all onboard though.

  27. for someone who was almost KILLED on the way to his own wedding while driving to the bride’s location in a trusty Toyota Qualis en route to Chandigarh because his overzealous driver decided that today was a great day to brown-bag a shitty single-malt whiskey while blasting “Kajra Re” until the speakers started farting (“arre, bhaisaab – ap fikar na kar!” my ASS) i just don’t feel comfortable knowing that the only thing coming between the family jewels and an irate TATA-truck-driving grain farmer whose wife just caught him fondling the nuts of a goat is the tin-foil sheathing of a “Reva”. besides, have you seen the newest Ambassadors out there? *drooool*

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read in a while. Can’t say I can argue with that. Though hard to imagine if most other indian cars would fare much better…

    And the comment about the new ambassador was another funniest thing I’ve read in a while. You totally had me on that one til I saw the pic HAHAHA!!I nearly choked on my food.

  28. Seeker:

    I agree, and I suppose it’s wrong to expect that just because a manufacturer is concerned with the environment, they’d also be concerned with safety. The two aren’t mutually exclusive! And while certain safety features would drive up the price (crumple zones in an electric), others (like seatbelts or daytime running lights) would make practically no difference to the cost of the car, and would save thousands and thousands of lives each year.

    I wish the Indian consumer would demand these sorts of things like the American consumer does. I also wish there were more consumer watchdog groups in India–that would help.