India’s Tata Motors Unveils Fuel-Cell Micro-Van

Cars, Technology  /   /  By Bradley Berman

Tata Motors, India’s largest automobile company, earlier this month showcased a range of eco-friendly vehicles, including a hydrogen-powered micro-van. The unveiling of the so-called Magic Iris Ziva concept at AutoExpo India is a sign that Tata Motors recognizes the country’s challenge of meeting increasingly stringent vehicle emissions standards. AutoExpo India, a bi-annual international auto show, concluded on Feb. 9.

The Magic Iris Ziva fuel-cell vehicle is based on a production model—a pint-sized people-mover powered by a single-cylinder diesel engine. Previously, Tata displayed a battery-electric concept of the same vehicle. The zero-emissions hydrogen version is powered by a modest five-kilowatt fuel-cell, which is expected to have capabilities similar to the diesel version. The diesel variant can reach a top speed of 34 miles per hour. (For reference, the Toyota Mirai’s fuel cell is rated at 114 kilowatts.)

This is not Tata’s first foray into hydrogen and electric power—having previously developed buses using fuel cells, as well as commercial vehicles using hybrid-electric powertrains. Tata Motors is India’s leading maker of commercial vehicles, with more than 8 million vehicles on the country’s roads.

To curb its pollution and address climate change, the Indian government wants to introduce six million electric vehicles of various kinds on the road by 2020. A vehicle powered by a fuel cell is essentially a type of electric car—but stores energy in the form of gaseous hydrogen instead of a battery pack.  In the next two years alone, India is aiming to introduce about 800,000 electric vehicles—a target that includes two- and three-wheelers.

Considering the small and efficient shape of the Magic Iris Ziva, it might not seem like a likely candidate to take on a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain. However, the diversity of vehicle segments in India is wider than in United States and Europe, with a much greater percentage of micro-cars and rickshaw-type vehicles. Tata Motors is well-known for its diminutive Nano micro-car. India’s standard for average fuel consumption of cars is required to increase by 14 percent by next year, and 38 percent by 2022. India is the third most polluting country in the world after China and the United States.

Tata was at Auto Expo 2016 to champion its range of clean technologies, including fuel cells. “With these new future ready products, we are set to revolutionize the commercial vehicle industry here in India, and I am convinced that we’re setting new benchmarks for the entire industry,” said Ravi Pisharody, executive director of commercial vehicles at Tata Motors.

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