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The Tata Electric Car Is Dead. Or Is It?

One year ago this week, Tata Technologies unveiled the eMO, a tiny electric concept car with a hypothetical $20,000 price tag and a playful design that caught the attention of visitors and journalists at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This week, I caught up with Kevin Fisher, Tata Technologies’ president of vehicle programs, to find out what happened to that exciting idea.

To be fair, this is not a car that Tata ever intended to make. The company called its design a “electric mobility study” (eMO). Besides, Tata Technologies doesn’t make cars; it advises automakers how to make cars, while another arm of the conglomerate, Tata Motors, makes vehicles for the Indian market such as the Indica and the Nano.

For a concept car, though, Tata delved deep, seeking 15 patents and spending what Kevin Fisher would only say was “a considerable amount” to build and refine it over the course of 10 months.

The challenge engineers presented themselves, he said, was to create a nimble, affordable electric car for the North American market — an unusual move for a conglomerate that was founded in India and sells no cars in the U.S. (though Tata does own both Jaguar and Land Rover).

The eMO won praise at North American International Auto Show for its roomy interior, swooping windshield and front-opening rear doors. The beauty was only skin deep, however, as the prototype operates on a “surrogate motor.” Designed to go 65 miles an hour, Fisher added, the eMO has never exceeded 30 m.p.h. on the test track.

It has made the rounds to events and universities in the U.S., and — more importantly — has been part of the conversation with Tata Technologies’ clients, 80 percent of whom are in the automotive industry.

“We wanted it to be our biggest business card, and I believe it is that for us,” Fisher said.


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