Expensive, yes, but the Mahindra Reva is a car that can’t be ignored. While it might be boring to look at, it is the defining Indian electric car of this era. An easy and very visible route to greenness which helps demonstrates your concern for the environment. It was nearly 15 years ago that the idea behind the Reva first originated and in 2001 the Reva became the world’s first mass produced electric car. This electric car is sold in over 26 countries and in 2009 the manufacturer launched the Reva-i which is powered by lead-acid batteries. Mahindra bought over the Bangalore based company the following year and at the 2012 New Delhi Auto Expo unveiled the highly anticipated Reva NXR concept electric car. Prices for the Reva-i start from Rs3,44,667 to Rs4,27,425 ex-showroom New Delhi.


Mahindra is expected to launch the Reva NXR by around Diwali this year with lithium ion spec batteries and in the coming years the manufacturer plans to sell 3000 units compared to around 600 units in the past few years. Reva’s new facility in Bangalore is also one of the most eco-friendly units built according to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system standard. The unit includes facilities like rainwater harvesting, natural light, solar energy harvesting etc.

Design

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The Reva’s tiny dimensions which almost make it look like a dinky are what you first notice. The only difference between the Reva and the Reva-i is that the Reva-i now gets a curved windshield. The styling does start the debate again as to why hybrid and electric cars can’t be made good to look at. The NXR comparatively is a far more contemporary car to look at but some would suggest that the round headlamp Reva is cute to look at. The compact dimensions have more in common with an auto rickshaw and the proportions are completely off. The hatch has a tall stance and a small wheelbase. The body panels are made of Acrylonitrile -Butadiene-Styrene that are bolted onto a strong yet lightweight tubular space frame. While the bumpers on the base variant are matt grey in colour, the top of the line variant gets body-coloured bumpers. Fit and finish leaves a lot to be desired from but its small footprint does make it easy to use in urban conditions.

Interiors

It comes as no surprise that the interiors of the Reva are extremely cramped. For tall passengers especially the interiors are incredibly cramped. The driving position is high which is good but your head is quite literally hitting the roof and accessing the cabin is quite an ordeal. Even for a couple of ten year old passengers it is next to impossible to sit for a reasonable duration on the rear folding seats. Ergonomics are poor as well and the narrow footwell makes it difficult to find the pedals.

The design of the interiors however is far more pleasing than the exteriors and the cabin gets a swoopy dashboard, nicely styled steering wheel and chunky switches. The top-end model gets a music system, an air-conditioner and even climate-controlled seats which blow cold or hot air through vents in the seats. There is no power steering but you don’t miss that since the Reva is rear wheel drive.

Engine and performance

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The Reva uses 8 six volt lead acid batteries under the front seats. All you need is a 15 amp socket to charge the batteries beneath the front seats and charging this hatch is as easy as charging your laptop. A full charge takes nine hours and a fully-charged battery according to the manufacturer will take you around 80km.
The engine expectedly is extremely silent and produces 53Nm of torque. As is the case with all electric vehicles throttle response is excellent and the hatch immediately gathers momentum. Try riding an e-bike and you’ll know what we exactly mean. The electric motor produces its maximum torque at 0rpm but the performance drops as the speed builds. The Reva however is extremely underpowered and while the low end grunt is good to get you off the line, it is all together another matter once you get past that. 40kmph takes over 7seconds, to reach the next 20kmph takes more than 12seconds. These figures nevertheless are a big improvement over the original Reva.

You can drive the Reva up to 100kms if you keep her switched to E-mode and there are no gears on the hatch which makes it really easy to drive. Running costs are also extremely low and on an average you only end up paying about 50paise to every kilometre.

Ride

The Reva runs a rear engine, rear wheel drive setup. Despite its tall proportions the heavy battery pack under the seat gives it a low centre of gravity which allows the Reva to corner without feeling that it would flip over. The Reva-i has disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear which is a change from the drums all around in the old Reva. Under light braking the motor itself does the braking and recharges the battery while doing that. The brakes themselves only work when you press the pedal fully down. Ride quality with two passengers on board is not bad.

Competition

The Reva doesn’t really have any competitors in India. Mahindra sells the Bolero and the Scorpio in the Micro Hybrid version but both those vehicles are basically run by diesel engines and the Hybrid motor only comes into play while starting the vehicles. The Toyota Prius is the only other full Hybid on Indian roads but the Prius costs nearly 30lakhs. Honda also has the Civic in the Hybrid form

Verdict

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Does the Reva make a genuine case for itself? The answer would depend on whether you are serious about doing your bit for the environment. If you are really interested to be seen as being concerned about the environment and going green, the Reva could well be the answer to your problems. But you need to know that the Reva can only be your second or third car. It has a range of only 80kms or 100kms at the best which wouldn’t let you take her on the highways. It serves its purpose best in town while doing your daily ordeals. Outside of that the Reva does have its fair share of shortcomings. The interior space is limited, styling looks more in place in a comic book and the fit and finish is also below par. While the low end torque is good, the Reva feels underpowered.

If you are really interested in buying an electric car then we suggest you wait till the end of the year when the Reva NXR would be launched. The hatch looks more expensive and contemporary, interior space is better, would use parts from the Mahindra bin to keep costs in check and the NXR would be offered with three battery options – small, medium and large – to cater to a variety of driving ranges. The NXR would run for 160kms on a full charge and reach a top speed of more than 100kmph compared to 80kmph of the Reva-i.

Quotes from other reviews:

Autocar India: ‘The company has worked on the rear suspension, played around with the damping and spring rates and even added an anti-roll bar on the ‘i’. Yet, if you are looking at ride quality, you are better off with a conventional car. The Reva-i is a step-up from the Reva but not enough, yet. Having said that, I would 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 adopting the EV. As volumes rise, the cost of EVs will come down. The running costs may be temptingly low but the only compelling reason to buy one today is a strong desire to save our blue planet.’