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All charged up

Will the small Reva-i, an EV, prove a competent alternative to conventional cars

Chotte ustad There’s just enough space for two, there are no bothersome gears and it comes in over 2,000 customised colours

Seven years after its first EV, the Reva Electric Car Company has now launched the Reva-i. Will this car finally close the gap between a conventional car and an EV?

Externally there’s very little change, except that the ‘i’ now gets a curved windshield as against the flat glass in the older car. The car feels a little more spacious but it is just large enough for two people and a couple of small bags on the rear bench. The fit and finish is pedestrian, though on the top-end model you get a music system, an air-conditioner and even climate-controlled seats that blow cold or hot air through vents in the seats!

The basic design remains the same. And then you can order the Reva in over 2,000 customised colours! The body is made from ABS. Under it is a strong yet lightweight tubular space frame.

The Reva-i has ditched the Bulgarian 13kW DC unit for an AC induction motor. This motor requires nearly zero maintenance. The new motor has higher torque, as much as forty per cent. This is a sealed unit, which means that you can dunk it into water and nothing will happen to it. The company claims that it can go through three feet of water without any damage.

You need to charge the Reva, just like you charge your mobile phone, mp3 player or digital camera. If you have a garage, it takes just a few rupees to get your electrician to install a socket, and it’s as simple as plugging it in. A full charge takes nine hours, while an 80 per cent charge takes around three. A fully-charged battery, the company claims, will keep the Reva going for about 80km under ideal conditions. Since we don’t drive under ideal conditions, don’t go by the 80km promise. With the AC turned on all the time, we saw 50km on the tripmeter before the AC compressor cut off to signal low battery.

Driving this car is an interesting experience. Turn the ignition, the dash lights up, and… nothing. Turn the rotary knob in front of you from N (neutral) to F (forward), and… nothing, again. Press down on the accelerator and it is then that you realise that the car is not dead. It glides forward noiselessly. If there’s an ear-splitting beep added to the soundtrack, it means that the parking brake is not fully disengaged or a door not shut properly.

As the car picks up momentum, the unassisted steering lightens up. The Reva-i is actually a hoot to drive. It’s small. There are no gears to bother about. The battery pack under the seat gives it a low centre of gravity. So despite its tall proportions, you can go around a corner without feeling it will flip over. Now that’s fun.

The old Reva had drum brakes all around. The ‘i’ upgrade gets discs in front. When you press the brakes, for the first 20mm of pedal travel, it’s the motor itself that’s braking the car, and in the process recharging the battery. This regenerative braking means that you are better off braking gently over a longer period. The company has worked on the suspension, yet, if you are looking at ride quality, you are better off with a conventional car. So — is the Reva-i worth your money? The high cost is somewhat offset by the low running and maintenance costs. An average unit of electricity in Mumbai costs Rs 3.50. It takes nine units to fully charge the Reva, i.e. Rs 31.50, which will comfortably take you at least 50km. That works out to an unbelievable running cost of 60 paise per kilometre! Yes, you do have to shell out around 55k to replace the battery pack every few years, but even then the ownership costs favour the Reva-i.

The Reva-i is a step-up from the Reva but not enough, yet. Having said that, I would certainly put my money on India’s only EV. As battery technology improves to give greater performance and range, it’s not hard to imagine more people choosing the EV over the internal-combustion vehicle.


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