Back in 2001, just as mainstream automakers like General Motors, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Ford, and Chrysler were fighting the state of California to end the very same legislation which had resulted in amazing, fully fledged, highway-capable electric cars like the GM EV1, Toyota RAV4 EV, Honda EV Plus and Ford Ranger EV, a small company call the Reva Electric Car Company (RECC) was gaining attention half a world away for its tiny all-electric four-seat city car.
Founded in 1994 as a partnership between the Maini Group of Bangalore and Amerigon Electric Vehicle Technologies Inc., RECC’s tiny car — known simply as the REVA — originally featured a 48-volts of lead-acid batteries, a top speed of 51 mph on a good day, and a range of 48 miles per charge in ideal conditions. Built to take advantage of European heavy quadricycle regulations, it gained popularity in London, England after being introduced there in 2004 as the G-Wiz, thanks in part to its exemption from London Congestion Charging fees on account of its zero tailpipe emissions.
Like the British yeast-extract spread Marmite, the tiny little REVA G-Wiz was a polarizing car: you either loved it; or you hated it. Even after undergoing several upgrades — including an upgraded AC motor and lithium-ion battery pack — to improve its performance, acceleration and range, the G-Wiz still epitomized many negative stereotypes about electric cars. It was slow, cramped, and had questionable safety. Worse still, it became the electric car straw man whipping boy for BBC Top Gear.
Despite its shortcomings though, the G-Wiz was quite a fun car to drive. We know: one of our former staff cars was an early pre-production model from 2002 shipped to the UK specifically to attract interest from an official importer. But when cars like the Nissan LEAF were unveiled and production plans set for late 2010, the G-Wiz just couldn’t compete, and found itself relegated to the history books.
Next month, after five years of absence in Europe, the company behind the infamous G-Wiz is back with the Mahindra e2o, an electric car which is still technically a quadricycle rather than a full-size car but offers what parent company Mahindra (which acquired REVA several years ago) hopes will be a more compelling package for those who live in busy cities.
Sadly, we don’t yet have European specifications, but we do have UK pricing. Starting at £13,000 ($18,690) and going up to £16,000 ($23,000), the Mahindra e2o won’t be cheap, but Mahindra hopes its small dimensions and tight turning circle will earn it some friends among city dwellers who just can’t find a place for a full-sized car in their lives.
We’re assuming the European model will gain some extra safety features that the Indian model — which has been on sale for more than three years — lacks, but there’s no word yet if the E2o will use the same powertrain.
In India, the tiny car can seat four and is fitted with a 48-volt, 6.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, a 19 kilowatt AC electric motor and produces 39 pound-feet of torque. It has a top speed of just 51 mph, and manages around 75 miles per charge.
If indeed it is sold as a heavy quadricycle — which means it won’t have to undergo full-size, European crash-tests and ensure it fits into the same regulations that makes the tiny Renault Twizy possible — that 51mph top speed will likely stay the same. But as we’re about to explain, that might not be the case.
That’s because back in January we obtained the exclusive spy shots showing a prototype Mahindra e20, complete with temporary license plate, charging up at an Ecotricity Electric Highway CHAdeMO DC quick charging station. The image shows an elapsed time indication of 37 minutes, an instantaneous power draw of 9.4 kilowatts, and a battery pack that is only 56 percent full.
Those figures don’t seem to add up for a 48-volt vehicle with a 6.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack: given charge rates drop as the charge cycle continues, this suggests a much larger battery pack is fitted to the mysterious prototype, perhaps double or even triple that used in India. The Indian-market version of the e2o, we should note, comes with the ability to quick charge at a compatible charging station in 1-hour, and comes with a patented ’emergency reserve’ system that can remotely activated by Mahindra to ensure customers can get to a nearby charging station.
Interestingly too, AC charging at 230-volts is supposed to take 5-hours, indicating that either the on-board charger is very underpowered, or the battery pack is indeed larger than it seems.
It’s worth noting too that the Mahindra e2o is actually based on the REVA NXR concept car first shown in 2009 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Despite being majorly revamped by its parent company Mahindra to improve its quality, road holding and overall capabilities, the e2o is still a car that owes a lot of its DNA to the NXR, which in turn has some similarities to the old G-Wiz. And being three-years old before its European debut won’t do the tiny plug-in any favors.
Nor will price. As a heavy quadricycle, the Mahindra e2o may get by with fewer crash test requirements, but won’t attract any electric car incentive money in the UK. If it is being sold as a highway-capable car with better specifications for Europe — something which would explain the price — the amount of incentive available to it would depend on the size of its battery pack.
Either way, considering the Renault ZOE — a motorway-capable five seat family hatchback — is available from £13,945 after UK Government incentives with battery rental from £70 per month — we think Mahindra might have a tough time convincing customers to pick the brand without an established, well-known dealer network.
Do you like the look of the e2o? Would you want to buy one? Will this optimistic brand be the latest to fail to impress buyers with quirky and unique stylings? Or are we being too dismissive of a company known worldwide for its successful range of internal combustion engine vehicle, machinery, and more recently, active involvement in Formula E?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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