Tata Nano Will Come in Hybrid Flavor

tatananoNews from the Indian automotive world: the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest production car, will someday be available as a hybrid electric.

Rumors became reality during the LA Auto Show, according to Wired, which reported a South Korean business paper got the scoop when Tata Chairman Ratan Tata let slip plans for a hybrid of the minicar. But according to StockWatch India, Ratan made the announcement at Tata’s 63rd annual meeting, and that the hybrid model “may also include some modification in exterior design.”

People and Profits, but…

The Nano has been hailed as a way to bring the advantages of car ownership to India’s billion plus citizens, who have an average per capita income of $1070. The Nano sells for just 100,000 rupees ($2,150), and gets 50 miles to the gallon, in part because the basic model eschews air conditioning, power brakes and other amenities that Western car buyers have come to expect.

Chairman Ratan Tata, whose family-run conglomerate has a hand in nearly every sector of the Indian economy, said the Nano can be assembled in remote locations from kits shipped from the factory. “we would create entrepreneurs across the country that would produce the car…That is my idea of dispersing wealth.”

Of course, once everyone in India has a car, expect that country’s CO2 output to explode — thus the nod towards hybrid technology. Few additional details were available, although according to one report, Tata would make use of existing hybrid technology rather than develop its own for the minicar.

One question: where, exactly, are you going to put that dual gas-electric drive-train? Because the Nano is not only the world’s cheapest car, but one of the smallest.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.