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Tata Nexon-EV first drive review: 5 ways this car opens new doors for e-mobility in India

Tata Nexon-EV review: The e-Nexon has a peak power output of 127 bhp compared to 109 bhp of the diesel and petrol versions. Peak torque is at 245 NM, significantly higher than petrol's 170 NM

twitter-logoSumant Banerji | February 17, 2020 | Updated 14:31 IST
Tata Nexon-EV first drive review: 5 ways this car opens new doors for e-mobility in India
Tata Nexon-EV review: This is the first affordable electric car for the individual customer, priced between, Rs 13.99-15.99 lakh

If you are one of those who have driven the first generation electric cars to hit our roads-the humble Reva/e2O, e-Verito or e-Tigor, and base your opinion of EVs on that, you are sure to get an electric shock with the Nexon-EV. The car is not only significantly different and better than those but is also in some ways a true reference point for other EVs that are sure to follow. But that is to be expected. Every new car has to be necessarily better than predecessors. Else what is the point of being born at all. This is even more true for a nascent segment like electric cars-we do not have too many of them around and the potential is huge. So the propensity to go all hyper over a car that has for now very little competition is high. Yet, there are reasons why you should at least take a test drive of the e-Nexon, if not buy it outright. For the latter, there are still some issues to sort out. For the former, please read on.

Looks better than ICE counterpart

For the better part of this decade, most electric vehicles will cost more than their ICE versions. So should they look the same as well? Will anybody pay 20-50 percent more for a car that has an older cousin that looks just the same? Most probably not and that is one area where e-Verito and e-Tigor missed the point. Thankfully with the e-Nexon, the company has tried its bit to differentiate from the regular version both on the outside and inside. With the battery pack on the floor of the car, which also by the way increases the overall weight by almost 100 kg, the bonnet sits higher than the regular version which enhances the butch appeal of the car. It also gets a new teal blue colour which goes well with the overall dimensions of the car and there is a smattering of blue accents in a tri-arrow theme all across the car-from the air dam at the front to the seats inside. The battery pack has not eaten into the space either inside the cabin or the boot, so for all things practical, it remains as utilitarian as a petrol or a diesel Nexon.

Offers loads of connectivity tech

Connectivity in cars is the in-thing and you cannot say you have built a futuristic or even a contemporary car without offering an app or two. The Nexon EV does that and a bit more. Its Zconnect application comes with 35 connected car features, right from vehicle statistics, remote access, along with safety and security options. From sharing basic information like

charge level, available range, charging history and the nearest charging stations, it allows users to remotely operate features like remotely unlock and lock the vehicle or operate lights and horn to locate it or to remotely activate the air conditioner in the car to pre-cool it before a trip. It will also help you get preferential access to 300 charging stations that are being set up in collaboration with Tata Power. The app can even monitor driver's behaviour, and assigns a score based on parameters such as acceleration and braking, at the end of each trip. Now some of these features are slowly making their way into even ICE vehicles like the Hyundai Venue or the MG Hector. But not having it, would have been a glaring miss. Case in point, the e-Veritos and e-Tigors did not have it.

Sports mode actually works

Now Tata has offered different modes of driving on many of their cars but in a combustion engine vehicle it does not really alter driving characteristics by much. With the amount of torque available on the go in an electric vehicle, it allows engineers to have some fun with it at legit speeds. The e-Nexon has a peak power output of 127 bhp compared to 109 bhp of the diesel and petrol versions. Peak torque is at 245 NM, marginally less than diesel version's 260 NM and significantly higher than petrol's 170 NM. As mentioned above all that torque however is available from the word go unlike in the diesel version when it kicks in above 1800 rpm when the turbo motor unspools itself. Which means, it is a lot more fun and not to mention, totally silent. The sports mode is a notch higher as 60 percent of the torque is made available upfront. It gives you the sort of acceleration none of the ICE enabled sub Rs 20 lakh cars are capable of. Proof of the pudding-0-100 kph in 9.9. The petrol and diesel versions are over 2 second slower.

Offers practical and decent real world range

The big question with an EV is whether the battery is good enough for our needs-be it on the highway or grid locked congested city roads. Considering gas stations are of no use and one has to be either at home or office to put the vehicle to charge, it is a valid concern. The ARAI tested mileage of the Nexon EV is 311 kilometers but we all know in real world conditions it will be far less. In the mix of hilly, highway and city traffic that we drove the vehicle in, we got a range of about 240 kilometers. Some got much better, some a bit worse, so suffice to say this is more or less what the car can be trusted to last on a full charge week in week out. Now, this is less than how far a car with a full tank of petrol can go-Nexon's 44 litre tank in petrol and diesel versions should last a minimum 500 kilometers before the need for a re-fill, but this range is good enough for daily commute. You would not need to re-charge it as well for at least 3-4 days. With better batteries that are more densely packaged, the range is bound to improve in e-cars of the future but unlike cars in the past that gave you less than 150 kilometer range, the Nexon EV does go far enough for you to give it a serious thought.  

Breaks the Rs 15 lakh barrier decisively

The car also partially solves the other problem of e-cars being too expensive by decisively breaking the Rs 15 lakh barrier. Launched in three variants priced between Rs 13.99-15.99 lakh, this is the first affordable electric car for the individual customer. All electric cars like this one come only with automatic transmission so for the sake of fair play, the Nexon petrol automatic costs between Rs 8.3-10.3 lakh and the diesel automatics are priced between Rs 9.8-12.7 lakh. That makes the electric version between Rs 3.2-5.5 lakh more expensive. While individual customers do not qualify for benefits under government's FAME 2 scheme, various state government offer different quantum of subsidies for electric car owners. Delhi for example offers Rs 10,000 per kilowatt hour upto a maximum Rs 1.5 lakh for every electric car. The Nexon EV qualifies for the Rs 1.5 lakh rebate. Further you get tax rebate on the loan amount for EV and some other benefits like no road or registration taxes in some states. Basically, with all the subsidies and benefits added, Nexon EV has narrowed the gap between an ICE and an electric vehicle substantially.  

A few irritants

No car is perfect. Neither is one that runs on electric. Couple of them in the Nexon EV.

  • It does not have the best gearbox in town. There is a lag when changing gears from neutral to drive or reverse and sometimes, it misses the slot as well.
  • Tata has limited the speed at 120 kph to ensure optimal battery performance. No road in India allows speeds in excess of that so while it is completely legit this may be a deal breaker for some.

To the moot question then--should you buy the Nexon EV? It is still not the time yet to decide whether you should unless one is convinced of the need to go electric. Till such time a wide network of charging stations do not come up, any electric car will not be a straight substitute to a fossil fuel run vehicle. These also need to be superfast chargers capable of recharging the lithium ion batteries in less than 15 if not 5 mnutes. That will all take time.

However, if you do have a slotted parking at home or one in office where a wall box charger can be installed (by the company free of cost), a car like the Nexon EV may make some sense. It can be charged fully in about 8 hours from a standard 15 ampere socket at home. Or it can be charged at one of the fast chargers that are slowly being set up, which gives about 80 percent charge in 1 hour.

The plus point is the ridiculously low operating cost-at about Rs 1.1 per kilometre versus Rs 6.5 for petrol and Rs 5.5 for diesel, which means one would start saving money in quick time. Electric cars also require next to nothing by way of maintenance cost-no engine oil or oil filter changes for example.   

In the not too unforeseeable future, we will start getting answers to some of these. For now, the Nexon EV gives a good glimpse of the exciting new world of electric mobility. Whether you need to have it right now in your garage or not, is a different matter altogether.

Also read: Tata Nexon EV launched at starting price of Rs 14 lakh; can charge from zero to 80% in 1 hour

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