In these troubled times of carbon footprints that leave a serious stain on the environment and serious hikes in fuel prices, a car like Mahindra’s REVA could be perceived as beacon of light. This alternative fuel source i.e. electric car made it to our “labs”, in this case, the wild streets of Mumbai, and I was able to get a first hand impression of what a possible “future-car” could be like. Here’s my take on the REVAi, the high-end model.
I’ll be blunt. I’m not a fan of the design. It’s a little too “boxy” for me although it’s quite comfortable inside for two people and two people only. The back set is just about useless for seating, even children, but does add a little boot space to the vehicle. The seats recline quite a bit providing a little ‘snooze’ space if you just want to park and relax for a bit. Since there’s no gearbox, being an automatic car, there’s plenty of leg room. It’s also got quite a bit of head room in the cabin which is essential for those who happen to be in the 6-foot range.
The dash is a little too plastic-y and seems just a mite flimsy. Indicators for all purposes are neatly arranged but can get a little confusing if you haven’t read the manual before jumping in. A simple dial system is designed for various driving modes and looks a bit like a dial on a cooking range. There’s – R for Reverse, N for Neutral, F for forward and B for boost. Don’t think of this as some sort of Nitro-Boost feature like you see in the movies or games - this mode throws in about 40% more power, which is quite handy on open roads.
The air conditioner is about the noisiest thing in this otherwise super silent car. Its hum can be a bit distracting. It features a heater as well and a de-fogger for the windshield and rear glass. This version of the REVA is equipped with a Stereo system from JVC that features a CD/MP3 Disc player and radio. Sadly, no USB option. The speakers are just not at par with the player so most times you’ll hear a jarring sound at slightly higher volumes. Bass heavy tracks like most Hip-Hop music really didn’t sound too good. A charging port for your mobile phone et al is also provided. Just above the glove compartment is a pull out cup holder for two cups.
Platicy dashboard but all relevant features accounted for
Now for the exteriors. Although the car seems a little flimsy it’s designed to be quite a sturdy vehicle. Aside from the Steel space frame and side impact beams, the REVAi also features energy absorbing bumpers and ABS dent-proof body parts. We had to take their word for it as I was not about to drive this rather pricey car into anything or press the shell hard enough to try and dent it. The wiper is rather oddly positioned as it tends to wipe just the central part of the windshield leaving a large part of the bottom portion rather murky when driving in the rain. This tends to inhibit your bumper-to-bumper vision so your judgment will have to be spot on. The headlights although small do tend to provide easy viewing while driving at night.
A charging cable is provided with the vehicle that goes into the little charging port on the left hand side of the car above the rear wheel. It’s positioned in the same place you’d expect to find a fuel tank. I was, admittedly, a little afraid to try and charge the car after driving it in the rains, as the charging port was wet thanks to the absence of a cover. It’s simply placed behind a spring loaded cap that isn’t water tight. I tried it nevertheless and there was no problem. The company also promises to set up a charging post at your residence should you decide to buy the vehicle.
No room in the back
All in all, I have to say, while most women I asked, seemed to think the REVAi was cute, the guys thought it to be a bit un-attractive, although the color of the exterior or the interiors was not the issue. I’ve seen a few other electric vehicles in places like Oslo, Norway, and have to admit those were far sleeker than the REVAi - What you would expect from Euro-designs.
Now to the nitty-gritty - the REVAi drives like a dream. It’s smooth, peppy and goes from 0 to 40 in just about 7 and a half seconds which is not bad for a small car like this. In traffic it’s got great pick up however the lack of power steering can make maneuverability a little tedious. On the plus side, a small car like this has a good turning radius making it easy to nip in and out of small spaces and take quick U-turns when you need to. Even with two people in the car, pushing her up to 65km/h was easy, but she pretty much caps off at that limit after which things tend to get a little shaky. In ‘Boost’ mode, I was able to get up to 70km/h before things started getting a little ‘out of hand’.
Fuel efficiency-wise, the REVAi is designed to offer you about 80km per full charge. Realistically, she delivered on this front in spades. Even with the AC on and music blaring we managed to squeeze 65km from the REVAi. That’s not bad at all. It takes about 8 hours to charge fully when the battery is drained and can be hooked up to any 15 Amp (220V) socket. The vehicle uses a Power Pack of eight 6-Volt EV type lead acid batteries.
Check out the little test drive video -
Thanks to the onboard computer controlled system, charging will stop as soon as you’re at 100% power so as to avoid your power bill going up. What I was warned about was to avoid taking the car over flyovers as the incline would be responsible for heavy battery drain. There went my highway plans - it meant I had to take the long way home. However, for the sake of putting it through its paces and to do due diligence to the test, I decide the flyovers were the way to go. It does reduce battery power quite a bit but not to the extent that you should avoid them altogether. Of course it’s not a powerful vehicle so climbing isn’t the speediest process.
Great turning radius
The onboard computer or Energy Management System (EMS) also signals you when you’re running low on juice and immediately switches over to a more efficient mode of energy consumption. So if you’re caught in traffic you’ll be able to pull over to the nearest socket and juice her up. The Five Lakh Rupee question is, who’s going to let you plug your car into their wall socket for an hour or so, so you can get back on your way? The best option is – think of it as a mobile phone that you can simply leave on charge while you’re at work or at home.
Really stands out in a crowd
Overall handling was a breeze even without power steering. The REVAi managed corners quite well and was zippy enough to quickly get from point A to point B within a specific suburb. City driving though is a bit heavy even if you are comfortably sitting in a cool air conditioned car, mainly because of the steering issue. The REVAi also handled the bumps quite well thanks to the Macpherson’s strut in the front coupled with coil spring at the rear to make up the shock absorbers. The regenerative braking system does make braking an easy task. Either ways, it’s not like this car can dish out any serious damage. Nevertheless…
Central locking with remote locking and unlocking via the provided security system keychain is also part of this high-end model’s sales pitch. It even has an annoying beeper that indicates that the doors aren’t closed properly, or that the hand break lever, which by the way was easier to pull in my Mahindra Two Door Jeep than this, was not released properly.
The Bottom Line
While I liked driving the REVAi and all the attention that came along with it, the price tag of Rs. 4,80,418 (Ex-Mumbai) freaked me out a bit. I’m all for green tech and yes, the technology is expensive, no doubt but as a proof of concept, the REVAi is a thought-provoking idea. As someone once told me, when you have a concept that’s not of the conventional variety, one must accept all the little pitfalls that go with it, keeping in mind its true nature and use. And I couldn’t agree more.
The price list, click to enlarge
The vehicle may have been around for over 2 years now, but it has evolved considerably since then and who know what we can expect in the next-gen model. Perhaps they’ll heed my cries and we could see options like power-steering, a better music system and maybe even a better design just might make it past the drawing board. Go Green, Go REVA!
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