By : RACHNA TYAGI
TURN OF SPEED caught up with Mohan Savarkar, Chief Product Officer, Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles Limited, during the New Tata Nexon drive in Jaipur where he spoke to us about the road ahead for diesels, how ‘Flex’ is the next big thing, and the new safety-related technologies that the car manufacturer is bringing on to their new vehicles.
TOS: What is the road map vis-à-vis diesels at Tata Motors?
MS: You may have noticed that we also had diesels on our very small cars which has reduced now. It is a matter of acceptance in the market, for the kind of money it costs to meet the new regulations, that has not worked for the smaller cars but it still works for the Nexon and above vehicles and it also about how well you’re able to do it. For example, with the Nexon, we were able to do BSVI Phase II with just a passive SCR. We don’t need SCR and Urea Tank and all that which also keeps the cost in control. Then it [also] depends on the market. Let’s say [if] there is demand in the market for diesel we continue.
TOS: There are still so many diesel heads out there who love your diesel engines, despite people swaying towards petrol engines these days…
MS: For Nexon also, today, we’re doing 20%. That would continue at least till the BS VII comes. When that comes we’ll have to think again but we also understand that at BS VII the gasoline and diesel emissions are going to be identical. Even with BS VI, we’re very close but with BS VII, it will be identical, same numbers… so once again, we’ll have to see what it costs us to do that. We’ll see what the scene is at that point in time but till then it continues the way it is.
TOS: Tata Motors is big on clean fuels. Besides your EVs, what is the way forward?
MS: EV is definitely in, CNG is in for most of our cars, not just Nexon. Flex (Ethanol and Gasoline mix) is the way forward. All our cars are already material compliant for 20% Flex (Ethanol) and then going forward, depending on how the government is looking at making 85% ethanol available, we’re getting ready.
TOS: Quite a lot of people are also wary of buying diesel vehicles as it is not a clean fuel, leaves a lot of residue, etc, how does ethanol compare?
MS: Ethanol is very good but even at BS VI levels most diesel tanks engine emissions aren’t bad either. Ethanol is much better than most of the synthetic fuels like gasoline and others mainly because of the constituents of the fuel. There’s much less pollution that comes out of it. CO2 wise also it is pretty much the right direction to go, provided you’re using organic methods to grow the corn or the sugarcane, so if you use fertilizer then the CO2 generated while making the fertilizer also adds up so then the equation starts getting a little fuzzy. If we’re doing organic farming, generally corn or sugarcane, then it is brilliant.
TOS: Indians are warming up to ADAS. What are the other safety-related technologies that Tata Motors is working on?
MS: For example, in the new Tata Nexon, this is already very close to Level 0 ADAS. These days nobody speaks of Level 0, but what used to be called Level 0, the 360 degree view, ESP and such things. So, in the new Nexon, what we’ve tried to do is… normally when you do a crash… the regulation checks for the offset frontal crash at 54kmph, we have done 64kmph for quite some time. From this car, we’re also making it symmetric crash. The way that we see it… today in India most roads now have dividers, so, the chances of a head-on collision has gone down even more, so the check that the regulation does is a little less important now. What becomes more important is a crash with a stationary vehicle or something stationary on the left side, so it requires something that we call symmetric crash. This is something that is already in the New Nexon. And then we have six airbags, so, we have made sure that if there is no co-passenger sitting, you can switch it off. This is something that is there in Europe and other countries which we are bringing here.
TOS: What’s the advantage?
MS: Sometimes if there is a child in the front, airbags can be more dangerous. Among other things, it reduces insurance cost in other countries, it reduces repair cost, if the airbag comes on, then you have to change many things. Then on the rear seat there is a seatbelt reminder. The one that we have put in the New Nexon is Load cell based. What that means is that if there is someone sitting, only then will the alarm go off.
TOS: What’s the next big thing at Tata Motors?
MS: The next big thing is going to be Flex.
TOS: When is that expected?
MS: It depends on the government. So, the government is going in for 20% Flex from 25. All the engines and cars today are compliant, availability of fuels is going to be only from 25 onwards. That’s also the time the government is after us to make at least one car, one engine with 85% Flex and we’re working on that. Beyond that doing all engines on 85 is not such a big deal, it can be done, it only depends on when the government starts looking for it. Once that comes the CO2 footprint of all our cars will shift substantially. Good for everyone… CO2 goes down, everyone has to do Net Zero, we’re also on that path. So all the things start adding up… on the fuel side. On the other side, in terms of transmissions, the DCA that you see that we have brought, will see more traction. You’ll see that becoming more and more popular and as it becomes popular the absorption will keep on increasing.
TOS: What has the response to the DCA been like?
MS: It’s growing. People have started experiencing it. Word of mouth is very strong. We’ve always been asked, why not on Nexon, so, it starts now.
TOS: What’s going to take your fans by storm next?
MS: Two-three years back sun roofs became really big, even in a hot country like India, everyone went in for sunroofs. For example in our SUVs, the Harrier and the Safari, it is more than 90% today. So the next thing we see that looks like we’re heading towards is maybe something like the 360 degree view. It is something that is very useful in India, in all kinds of traffic situations, also when you give a left or right indicator, how it shows up on the screen, those things help people to see better and hopefully drive better.