Tata Nexon Electric likely to gain range & performance in first revision

The Tata Nexon is the company’s first long-range electric vehicle with a 312 km range (ARAI) but the first update to the product could unlock more range and performance.

In an interaction with Overdrive’s Bertand Dsouza on Instagram.com, Mr Anand Kulkarni, Vehicle Line Director, Product Line Electric Vehicle Business (Passenger Cars) said that the Ziptron technology will continue to be improved and benefit in the aspects of range, performance and efficiency. This is not shocking or surprising considering that EVs from any car company regularly get updated with extended range and more performance. For example, the first generation of Nissan Leaf offered a range of only 175 km, which now stands at 378 km (NEDC).

The continuous advancements in technology also enable EV manufacturers to pack in more range without proportionally expanding the battery size. Secondly the reducing price of the battery gives the manufacturer the opportunity to either offer more range or the same configuration at a lower price (theoretically). In a report published by BloombergNEF (BNEF) in December 2019, it was stated that battery prices have fallen 87% from USD 1,100/kWh in 2010 to USD 156/kWh in 2019, and is heading closer to USD 100/kWh within 2 years.

Tata’s Tigor EV is an example of upgrades bringing in added range. Last year the Tigor EV received a bigger 21.5 kWh battery with the range extending up to 213 km per charge.

The range is not just restricted to the battery capacity. The European specification Hyundai Kona gets upgraded range for the same 64 kWh battery, where the range increased to 484 km from 449 km (WLTP) with the help of chassis modifications and low-rolling-resistance tyres.

Here are excerpts from the chat with Mr Kulkarni:

What are the advancements that we can expect on the next Tata electric cars compared to the Nexon EV from a technology standpoint?

We would want to make sure that the Ziptron platform that we have launched which is a high-voltage architecture with permanent motors and batteries that are IP67 sealed continue to go forward. There will be a couple of additional aspects that we might do in terms of incremental benefits for range or for performance or efficiency. This is actually a product-related question because these changes tend to get accompanied with products. We will get back to you when we have things to disclose on this.

On the differences between the Electra powertrain used in the Tigor EV and Ziptron used on the Nexon EV –

Please note that when I tell you this answer, it’s also got to be looked at from a perspective of each of these cars being used for a specific use-case and therefore let’s appreciate why it has been done also.

The Tigor EV uses low-voltage architecture and the Nexon EV uses high-voltage architecture. If you look at it technically, anything which is below 60 V is called low-voltage and anything that uses above 60 V is called high-voltage. Tigor EV is actually 72 V, from a technical perspective it is at high-voltage but in a real sense, it is not. So these are two big differences.

The second thing is the motor which is used on the Nexon EV is a permanent magnet synchronous motor which gives very high efficiency and this motor tend to be more available in the high voltage format. And therefore it gives higher efficiency and higher power as well. The power density on this motor is quite high in a smaller space. The other thing is the amount of range that we have packed in. The Tigor EV has two versions – 16.5 kWh battery and 21.5 kWh battery, while the Nexon has a 30.2 kWh battery. These are the major differences.

With respect to bringing down the cost of EVs, Mr Shailesh Chandra, President, Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles & Electric Vehicles, told ElectricVehicleWeb in February that localising the main components, more volumes and reduced battery costs will drive down the cost of EVs.

During the Tata Motors Q3 FY 2020 Earnings Conference Call on 30 January, Shailesh Chandra said –

Taco (Tata Components) has localized the battery pack (for the Nexon EV), and going forward, we have plans to also localize motor for us. Tata Chemicals has also been working with us for cell manufacturing, and we are going to start the pilot plant in Dholera, in Gujarat.

The Nexon EV needs a step-up in travel range next year as its first competitor, the Mahindra eXUV300 arriving in mid-2021, is promised with a range of over 370 km. The eXUV300 will have both standard and performance editions.

Tata Motors has confirmed that it has a few more electric cars in the pipeline. The next launch is the Tata Altroz EV which is waiting in the wings since March last year when it was presented at the Geneva Motor Show. Looking further ahead, an electric version of the Tata HBX is expected as the company’s cheapest electric car when it arrives in 2022. A third crossover model (akin to the Tata Sierra EV) and a sedan (either the successor to the Tigor EV or a C-segment sedan) are other cars speculated to receive the Ziptron tech as Tata Motors pursues leadership position in the EV market.