At the ongoing Geneva Motor Show, Ratan Tata and his successor to the Tata empire, Cyrus Mistry, took the wraps off Tata Motors' latest concept car, the Megapixel, which showcases the company's plans to enter the European market in a big way
Designing a compact car to take on the challenges of the urban jungle of future Europe seems to have become the Holy Grail of motoring at the moment for many-an-automaker around the world, chief of which is our very own Tata Motors. As the largest auto maker in South Asia (that is, if you factor in the sheer volumes of commercial vehicles the company makes as well), making a foray into the west is inevitable, and Tata Motors isn’t one to sit content with just purchasing an iconic European brand (read Jaguar Land Rover).
Even an accolade such as creating the world’s most affordable mass-produced car in the world, the Nano, isn’t enough, though it does form the basis for the company’s plans to invade Europe. The first sign of this was of course the Nano Europa concept unveiled at Geneva in 2010 which took the basic idea behind the Nano, which is affordable and economical motoring for the masses, and up-specced it to meet the sensibilities of the European car buyer.
The second sign, and one more crystal clear in its intentions, was the concept car that Tata Motors showed off at the Geneva Motor Show last year, the Pixel. Based on the Nano Europa, the Pixel took technology and styling to a whole new level, with the inclusion of an innovative Zero Turn toroidal traction-drive Infinitely Variable Transmission built by Torotrak, which in conjunction with the steering system, allowed the Pixel to literally turn on a dime. And who can forget those massive scissored doors, which when opened, stood up like a bunny’s ears. This year’s edition of the Geneva Motor Show has yet another new gem from the Tata stables, which takes the game even further.
Dubbed the Megapixel, this latest concept car made by Tata Motors adheres to its name by appearing to be a slightly larger, grown up version of the Pixel. But almost immediately, you can notice that the radical, completely conceptual styling has been dropped in favour of a more mature design that looks like it could make its way to production in the near future. The design of the car is truly global, in every sense of the term, combining the efforts of designers from India, Italy and the UK, to create a shape that will look at home on any of the megacities around the world.
Not that there is any lack of “concept-ness” in the Megapixel’s design though. A panoramic glass roof that melds seamlessly into the windscreen, floating C-pillars and super sleek rear view mirrors are just the start of the equation. And even though the twin scissored doors have been dropped in favour of four, seemingly conventional ones, these hinge and slide outwards to create a massive B-pillar-less opening into the cabin for easy ingress and egress.
On the inside, things are just as interesting, with four seats cantilevered on the centre tunnel, which not only accommodate four adults comfortably, they also clear up ample room on the floor for storing luggage. In an era, every “smart” is the magic mantra for nearly every device we interact with, the Megapixel too features a large touchscreen panel in the centre of the dash which can integrate functions from a smart phone that is docked to it. And in true “smart” fashion, this touchscreen human-machine-interface (HMI) can control not just in-cabin functions such as temperature, ventilation and entertainment, but can also be used to configure the Megapixel’s performance and driving modes.
And in the same manner in which modern digital cameras jump from megapixels to more megapixels, Tata’s Megapixel makes some great technological leaps over its predecessor. Ditching the 1.2-litre 3-cylinder diesel engine from the Pixel, this new car goes for four independent 10kW electric motors in each wheel, which can produce an astounding 500Nm of torque each! These draw their juice from a cutting edge 13KwH Lithium Ion Phosphate battery which can sustain the Megapixel by itself for a range of 87km. And if you thought this gives the car rather short legs, then the onboard 325cc single cylinder petrol motor can charge the batteries on the fly and extend its legs up to almost 900km!
Borrowing some notes from the Zero Turn drive of the Pixel, the Megapixel too can pull off the same trick by having the electric motors turn the wheels in opposite directions when they’re turned at acute angles, giving it the ability to carve a turning circle the same radius as its wheelbase, i.e. 2.8 metres. And this independent nature of the electric motors means that the torque sent to each wheel can be easily electronically controlled, making the Megapixel a proper all-wheel drive car, giving it traction to handle almost any sort of road surface that can be thrown at it. But of course, rivalling the Imprezas of the world isn’t really the sort of thing the Megapixel is built for. The low rolling resistance tyres together with the series hybrid electric drive system let the car stretch that litre of petrol to almost 100km, or so Tata Motors claims, yet at the same time, coughing out a miniscule amount of CO2 – just 22gm per kilometre.
With every iteration of its concept cars, Tata Motors is making bold statements about the direction the company will be taking in the immediate future. The Megapixel is not just indicative of the Indian auto giant’s global plans, it also represents the design language that will be part of its cars not too far ahead from now. All things considered, there’s a good chance that we’ll actually see a ready-for-production version of a truly European car from Tata Motors by the next Geneva show. We can hardly wait!