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Tata Nexon EV: Makes the strongest case yet, for electric vehicles

Tata claims the Nexon EV battery is IP67-certified (can withstand being submerged in water up to a meter deep, or 3.3 feet, for half an hour).

Until now, electric cars in India were either too expensive (Hyundai Kona and MG ZS; over Rs 20 lakh) or had too little driving range (Mahindra e2o Plus; 110-140km). There was none in the Rs 10-20 lakh bracket with a range good enough not to give you range anxiety (worry that the battery will run out of power any time). With the Nexon EV, Tata Motors appears to have found a sweet spot. We drive it in Pune.

What is the Nexon EV?

Unlike a Tesla or a Nissan Leaf, which are born-electric cars, the Nexon EV is turned-electric, i.e. the petrol/diesel Nexon SUV has been fitted with an electric motor and a battery pack.

How big is the battery pack?

It has a 30.2 kWh lithium-ion battery (the Kona has 39.2 kWh battery, the ZS has 44.5 kWh and the e2o Plus has 11-15 kWh). The certified driving range on full charge is 312 km (the Kona’s claimed range is 452 km, and the ZS’s is 340 km). Electricity and water is a dangerous combination; Tata claims the Nexon EV battery is IP67-certified (can withstand being submerged in water up to a meter deep, or 3.3 feet, for half an hour).

Is the 312 km range enough?

Very few personal car users drive more than 100 km per day, within city limits. There’s mathematics to support the case. Suppose you live in Gurgaon, and even if you drive across a state, to your office in Noida, the return journey won’t be more than 100 km. Throw in a meeting in Delhi and a dinner, and the maximum you might drive is 130 km. In an electric car that travels 312 km on a full charge, it shouldn’t be a problem. Also, the 312 km Tata Motors is claiming appears closer to real-world range—in Pune, I drove it for about 140 km with a 50% drop in battery charge.

How does it drive?

While it’s natural to compare the Nexon EV with petrol/diesel Nexon, both are generations apart when it comes to driving experience. One, the Nexon EV produces a whining sound. Two, there are zero vibrations inside the cabin. Three, it is far quicker—in the Sport mode, it accelerates from 0-100kph in less than 10 seconds; in a petrol/diesel, you might be struggling to shift from second to third gear in the same time frame.

Also, while the petrol/diesel are available in both manual gearbox and AMT, the EV doesn’t need the conventional gearbox—it has a simple switch that mimics the settings you may be used to from a fully automatic (and far expensive than AMT) gearbox. From a driver’s point of view, it’s linear acceleration from any speed to any speed.

The top speed has been electronically limited to 120kph—to save battery from draining fast—and any way you cannot drive faster than that on Indian roads. However, there can be a scenario where you want the car to go over the top. If, in an emergency, one must overtake a bus on a two-lane highway at, say, 100kph, and there’s oncoming traffic approaching fast, a limiter can be catastrophic!

Is it a connected car?

Most EVs have to be, so that the car is able to locate a charging station on its own, among other things. The Tata technology that makes it so is called the ZConnect, which monitors current battery charge levels, available range, charging history, nearest charging stations, etc. Users can also remotely lock/unlock the car, switch on the AC using a dedicated mobile app to pre-cool the cabin, and track the car remotely in case someone else is driving it or it gets stolen.

EV vis-a-vis petrol/diesel?

Ex-showroom prices of the Nexon EV start at Rs 13.99 lakh for the entry-level model, to Rs 15.99 lakh. It’s definitely expensive compared to petrol/diesel, but it’s also unique in more ways than one. One, it won’t come with a 10-year or 15-year expiry date. Two, Tata estimates the Nexon EV’s running cost at about Rs 1 per km (petrol/diesel is Rs 5-6 per km), and lower maintenance cost (50% lower owing to lesser moving parts, minimal lubrication and the eight-year battery warranty). Three, the more you drive it, the lower are the running costs. Four, it’s far more engaging to drive.

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