Anand Kulkarni, Vice President, Passenger Electric Vehicles, Tata Motors
Anand Kulkarni, Vice President, Passenger Electric Vehicles, Tata MotorsTata Motors

“Our ability to produce is not restricted by our capacity” - Anand Kulkarni, Vice President, Passenger Electric Vehicles, Tata Motors on the new Tata Nexon EV Max, future products and Tata EVs

On the sidelines of the launch of the new Tata Nexon EV Max, we chat with Anand Kulkarni, Vice President, Passenger Electric Vehicles, Tata Motors about Tata’s latest EV

With the Nexon EV, Tata has captured the EV market in a way that no one had thought possible. Now, Tata is making a move to go even bigger with the Tata Nexon EV Max, a technical upgrade for the Nexon EV that includes a bigger battery and many new features that increase the car’s utility. Assistant editor Atish Mishra speaks to Anand Kulkarni, Vice President, Passenger Electric Vehicles, Tata Motors, about the new Tata EV, changes and the future course of action for Tata EVs.

Flexibility to choose what they want

“There was feedback from some customers about the fact that if you see what we also shared in the presentation, a lot of our customers today, while the original customers were early adopters and people who used EVs as the second car in the family, today a lot of people are using them as the first car in the family and almost about 80 per cent of Nexon EV owners have it as the primary vehicle within their household. Therefore, people want to use it for more use cases and more applications, which they can do with some level of planning. So intra-city, there are no problems. Inter-city, they plan and they can undertake drives as long as 500-600km, some people have been more adventurous and doing even 1000km drives in the Nexon EV. With the level of planning that people are able to do, could we improve this, could we have done this? Therefore becoming the only car in the family for a much wider number of people. This is the objective that we had. A lot of people wanted this, as seen on social media as well. We think it will give people the flexibility to choose an electric vehicle, of their choice, their use case, and their livelihood. The Nexon EV Max fills in that gap.”

Range depends on the use case you have

“If you're driving in hilly terrains, or if you're driving very short distances in the hot climates of Delhi and Jaipur, then because you drive only very short distances, there can always be a lot of load upfront in terms of conditioning of the cable, which wouldn't happen over a steady site. So, a lot of factors play an effect in determining what real-world range you have, and therefore we have not said anything. If you look at what happens on our existing Nexon, which is claimed at 312km of range, people get anywhere between 200-230km. If you extrapolate that you would easily be able to figure out how much more this car can do because it's a 30 per cent additional battery. People should be getting in the vicinity of 300km, dependent on the use case and their specific application.”

It is the same motor

“Motor power and torque can be covered by what kind of battery capacities you have and what kind of MCU software you are running behind that. The bigger battery has enabled us to tweak both those aspects in terms of extraction of additional power and torque as well as the software on top of it which gives us a reinvigorated feel and effect to the overall drive performance.”

You have better rigidity despite the higher mass

“We did modify some of the members on the floor in order to make sure that we have more uniform space for the batteries to be properly spread out and make additional packaging efficiency improvements. Actually, it improves the platform rigidity because we have redesigned the floor, and where the floor integrates with the front end structure. That means you have better rigidity despite the higher mass.”

The biggest challenge was a large number of additional features coming together at the same time

“One of the difficulties was that we were looking at incorporating a large number of additional features. For example, from the drive side, there's the battery and motor that undergoes a change. We worked on embedded electronics where we have combined certain key elements of the onboard charger, DC-DC converter and the power distribution box all into one common combination box, so to say. We had things like for example, an IV back, which is an excellent device in terms of optimisation and making sure the regenerative braking works in the most optimal manner. An IV back also houses the electronic stability control or the electronic stability program. That is a geography and climate-dependent development because you need to undergo one summer test and one winter test in order to be able to complete these things, so there's a time element to it, and there's a readiness element to it. The biggest challenge was a large number of additional features coming together at the same time, and for us to be able to optimise it in the best possible manner to extract what we wanted to have in terms of range, durability and reliability.”

Learnings from the development of the original Nexon EV

“Some of the learnings were very subtle but very important. Learnings in terms of what level of optimisation do you have for the regen. This was one important aspect because people think that the higher the regen you give the better it is on electric vehicles, which is not incorrect. But if you give too high a regen, then it also can cause difficulties in stop-start traffic, because the car stops faster than you would normally intuitively feel on an ICE vehicle which is what you've been used to for so many years. It's possible for us to give a lot of response because it's a powerful car, 105kW (141bhp) is a lot of energy, and 250Nm is a lot of torque. How do you balance this out so you give performance while at the same time not startling the driver in terms of a reaction that is not intuitive? The second part is that when you are looking at the entire vehicle, it is very easy for us to only look at how the driveability works. But if there is follow-on traffic, and they do not see the car in front of them, which is an EV, slow down well enough, can we look at lighting up the taillamps so that the guy gets an adequate signal? Very small things, very easy things to do, but it's a very important thing. Otherwise, we assume certain things and we assume them so blatantly that it becomes easy for us to overlook them. These were the kinds of things we looked at. Even when we looked within the cabin, how do you give the highest level of comfort? The ventilated seats, for example, is another way of doing it. The chromic mirror, the internal rear view mirror, is again, not a new device. It's been there for quite a number of years on premium cars. Can we bring it to this electric vehicle, and can we improve the premiumisation feel? That's what we looked at. All of these things have contributed together.”

Product planning

“We have already spoken about the fact that we would do ten cars, and we disclosed this plan even at the 2020 auto expo, which was the last one that happened. There is a cadence as you would expect, of what happens when and at what point of time and for what reason. That cadence is being followed, is what I would say. I wouldn't say that we are jumping that cadence. Of course, we are looking at feedback, and that feedback is going to enrich the cars, but there's a certain cadence and when we looked at how we would need to improve upon that, how we would need to follow that, this is the natural sequence of events that comes through.”

You will see a lot of products from us

“We will have a three-phased approach. We will have a Gen 1 approach, a Gen 2 approach and a Gen 3. By and large, we have shown you pieces of almost everything now. With the Avinya, we have also shown you what our vision of Gen 3 looks like. With the Curvv, we showed you what our vision of Gen 2 looks like. You are already seeing what we are doing on Gen 1, which is electrification and augmentation, taking us towards Gen 2. We will follow all of these approaches and so it would be unfair to say that it would only happen with a certain set of vehicles or not. The Curvv for example, is an EV first, and that's on a completely new architecture that we are doing which is going to debut our Gen 2 approach. You will see a lot of products from us, that is correct. But it would be spread out over Gen 1, Gen 2 and Gen 3, and they all have their distinct advantages and time periods in which they will come.”

Production capacity is not a problem

“We are in a position to do as many vehicles as we would want. Of course, it's dependent on market demand, and our ability to service, because currently there are challenging times in terms of key components etc. But our ability to produce is not restricted by our capacity. Going forward, we will be able to have this flexibility, where we will be able to make, depending upon the demand for that particular product, an ICE car or an EV on that particular platform.”

Semiconductor shortages and the Nexon EV Max

“With the benefit of hindsight, I could say that we did a lot of work, but the combination where we brought the PDU, the OPC and the DC-DC together, is in a way optimisation on the total number of semiconductors that go into it. Work on the Nexon EV Max started much earlier than the recent challenge, therefore all of this was done from the perspective of weight optimisation, function optimisation as well as in terms of packaging effectiveness and technology upgradation. Of course, it helps that under the given circumstances today it is turning out to be a good solution for us. But from a balanced perspective, the battery, although it has increased in size, the DMS and the rest of the electronic chips that go into it are pretty much similar. The rest of the stuff is also very standard. In that sense, the Nexon EV Max is not additionally under any kind of difficulty or challenge with respect to the semiconductors.”

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