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Home » Environment

Tata Nano: Good? Bad? Or just plain stupid?

Submitted by on March 24, 2009 – 23:39One Comment

tata_nano_03A recent Twitter message to the @JagritiYatra twitter ID said the following:

oscar_soria @JagritiYatra you can mentor Mr Tata and tell him that extinction is forever and maybe he needs to review his decision to build a port a …

This promoted me to write this article. It’s not supposed to be an opinion, but more of an exploratory question.

Although we have the credit crunch, the Indian economy is still growing. The growing masses of the Indian population will continue to earn more, and hence buy more motor bikes and cars. Now that the Tata Nano is here, even more people will be able to afford a low cost car. Let me say that in another way. Million of people in India WILL BUY a car in the near future. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cheap low cost Nano or a standard average priced car or a huge gas guzzler. The simple fact is, the Indian economy continues to prosper and grow and people will continue to buy more and more cars, Nano or no Nano.

Therefore, is the Tata Nano a good thing or a bad thing? On one hand, the Tata Nano has a much smaller engine and emits less CO2 than your average car does. It also uses fewer parts in its construction and therefore one would assume it consumes fewer resources in its construction and later on in its recycling. On the flip side, millions more cars will eventually end up on the streets pumping out a whole lot more CO2 and pollution. The uptake of cars will be accelerated because the Nano is so much cheaper than all the other cars available on the market today. No-doubt, rivals such as Bajaj will also come out with a competing car in the near future that will be even cheaper or similarly priced giving the consumer more choice and hence the potential to expand the market EVEN MORE and pump out EVEN MORE pollution.

My question is this; since people in India ARE GOING TO BUY A CAR ANYWAY at some point, isn’t it better to buy a car that’s less polluting instead of continuing (as it will do) to buy average ordinary cars that on average spew out over 110g of CO2? Isn’t this a better solution, here and now, to curb vehicular CO2 output in India by encouraging people to “upgrade” to a smaller an less polluting car as a first time or second time purchase? Or is it better to carry on as were and just have average vehicles and large SUV’s which spew out extremely large amounts of CO2?

My final thought on this is about R&D. From the profits that Tata Motors will make from the sale of the Nano, I wonder if they’ll pump some of that profit in to R&D to develop cleaner, even smaller engines and perhaps start to look seriously in to electric and hybrid technology that supplants today’s very expensive hybrid and electronic vehicle technology and brings some really amazing innovation to the market? This is, of course, a pipe-dream today, but I wonder if Tata’s intentions are to move in to that area of R&D or will they purely continue to produce vehicles that are 100% reliant on carbon based fuels with little or no regard for the environment.

I argue that Tata *DO* have a regard for the environment. That’s why they produced a car that uses less resources to build and has a much smaller engine that produced less pollution.

Do you agree with me? If not, what’s your opinion on the Tata Nano and it’s environmental implications?

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  • David Arditti

    Tata, being a company and not a person, does not have a regard for the environment or anything else. It is merely an organisation which exists to exploit opportunities and make money by making something no other company makes in the same way.

    The problem with small cars is that you can get more of them onto the road without generating gridlock or self-limiting congestion. So small cars mean more cars mean more pollution, which is bad.

    The solutions to the environmental crisis can only come by governments adjusting tax systems to make individuals and companies pay true long term environmental costs for their activities. These solutions will not come through the actions of the free market or companies within it.