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Tata displays impressive European City car concept - the low-cost, high-tech Pixel


March 1, 2011

The Tata Pixel Concept

The Tata Pixel Concept

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Growing Indian powerhouse Tata emphatically announced itself a player in European personal mobility at the Geneva Motor Show when it announced the Tata Pixel, a car built for European cities based on the Tata Nano. Tata claims the Pixel to be "the most package efficient four-seater in the world". The company's use of high-tech in the new vehicle includes connected services and Tata's own human-machine interface (HMI) concept, an infinitely variable transmission from Torotrak and a 1.2 liter turbo diesel offering 3.4 l/100km, but its biggest point-of-difference is that it is ultra maneuverable thanks to moveable wheels which give it a turning circle of just 2.6 meters.

The Pixel's extraordinary talent for maneuvering in very tight surroundings is due to the Torotrak Zero Turn toroidal traction-drive Infinitely Variable Transmission (IVT). The Nano's steering system is linked with the IVT control mechanism. By moving the outer rear wheel forward and the inner rear wheel backward, while the front wheels turn at more acute angles than we've seen before in anything but Nissan's PIVO I & II, the car essentially pivots around its rear axle. The resultant turning circle radius is just 2.6 meters.

As is becoming the custom with new city car designs, "scissor" doors have been used which enable the driver and passenger to exit the vehicle without requiring any footprint for door sweep.

Key functions are controlled by the driver's smart phone, running "My Tata Connect" which essentially uses the driver's smartphone or tablet as a central information display and touch-screen control panel for the car's entertainment and internet system, so the driver has the same media environment in the car as they have at the office and at home. Docking the tablet also allows a range of displays of the vehicles performance and adjustment of the air-con settings.

Even the turbocharged three-cylinder diesel engine has come in for a high tech workover with a variable coolant and oil pump and rapid warm-up technologies. The car has been optimized for aerodynamic drag in a wind tunnel, uses low rolling-resistance tyres, and micro-hybrid (stop-start) to eek out the last bits of energy so it can return a 3.4 l/100km European combined cycle (NEDC) fuel economy figure.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

This care is an unaerodynamic pig. The open wheel wells, lack of aero shape (no boat tail) and lack of smooth underside suggest that any work in the wind tunnel was by the art department, not aerodynamic engineering.


What about the price, can we get it in the US......

Richie Suraci

@TogetherinParis I think it\'s optimized as far as reasonably possible. Putting farings on the wheel wells, a smooth underside and a boat tail would be the stupidest city car design imaginable. It\'s not an aeroplane, it\'s a city car. Surely the most important aspect of engineering is establishing requirements.

Did you just look up \'aerodynamics\' on Wikipedia?

I think it looks great.


How do you open the windows to hand your arm out? and what happens when you take the car to a mall or other venue that has covered/underground parking? Doesn\'t seem to me to be enough clearance...

Richard Dinerman

It is very similar to \"NIDO 600\" Pininfarina design, with the beautiness encountered only in the simplicity. Congratulations to Mr. Tata. I hope he develops, as soon as possible, a 0.6 l turbo diesel hybrid version to complete his masterpiece. Fantastic the IVT drive system and the info gadgets.


creative, innovative, frugal and with a competitive pricing this could be a winner, as consumers we need henry fords of future. well done.

b. ozar

I like it. And I bet it cost half the silly money of a smart. Get this thing to market for motor bike money (say $7 to $9 K in Australia/US dollars and Tata will become a global player. Price it like a premium car (I\'m talking to you, Mercedes/Smart) and watch it founder. Tata, look at Asus with their netbooks. Surprisingly cheap yet useful and bringing millions of new customers to the brand. Unlike the Smart, with that motor its a real car - it could even tow a small trailer I bet. I say keep it simple though - a simple manual motorbike-style gearbox is more than enough (and flicking gears sequentially is super cool) and lose the rear wheel steering - if ever there was a case of the KISS principle this is it.

Re - aerodynamics - yeah I take the point above that it\'s not much better than a brick but designers always say stupid stuff like that... sounds good in the brochures and techies and car nerds are not the target market of those brochures! It will spend most of it\'s life doing between 20 and 110 kph so who cares.

I have a Ford Fiesta and while it drives better than this Tata ever would, its fuel economy is disappointing. I\'ve considered going to the combination of a cheap motor bike and cheap bigger vehicle. This Tata could accomplish 95% of my driving tasks and if it was cheap enough, with the difference I would buy or share a larger car for that other 5% of tasks. I\'d be a serious potential customer for one of these at the right price. Price it cheap, Tata.


togetherinparis has little understanding of aerodynamics or simple practicality. Aside from apparent ignorance of the Kamm effect allowing bobtailed aero effects - fact remains this is a commuter car rarely exceeding 60kph.

Yup. Let\'s cover over the wheels and achieve another .0025mpg.

Get out of the ivory tower.


I also immediately compared this car to the Pininfarina. It sure is terrible that most concepts fade away. This design makes a lot more sense than a squashed 4 door jellybean. Extremely useful too!!! I like it, but I hesitate to say so since almost everything people like vanishes.

Chris Jordan

I would have liked to see some details on safety equipment.

Curtain air-bags? Electronic stability control?


Why doesn\'t this have that revolutionary compressed air powerplant that was being touted by Tata just a year or two ago? Because it doesn\'t work????????


Let us compare the Tata Pixel to the Nissan Micro DIG-S. 1. Both have 3 cylinder 1.2 liter supercharged motors. The Pixel uses diesel; the Micro uses gasoline. 2. The Pixel is rated at 69 mpg, the Micro at 68 mpg. 3. The Pixel has gull doors, the Micro has 4 doors. Neither appears to have a low Cd but this does not mean that a newly designed good aerodynamic body could not fit on the chasis to bring the mpg up to around 100. The present drawback in body design is the lack of understanding or lack of industrial equipment to taper the body from front to back (even on the sides) like the Volkswagon Qatar. Both the Pixel and Micro are flat in back. Tapering the entire body should bring the Cd down considerably. This may be difficult for small cars since the space inside is already limited.

Adrian Akau

It looks good, and 70 mpg sounds good. Price it right and it will sell like crazy.

Facebook User

Tapering the body to go from 69mpg to 100mpg? If it was 18\' long, 2\' wide and 6\" high maybe, but doesn\'t that defeat the purpose of being a car?

Facebook User

Dear Facebook User,

You must understand that only a small amount of taper is necessary to reduce the Cd considerably. There are presently no cars manufactured that have this characteristic but it is necessary to cut the suction caused by turbulance in the back of the car which is a major source of resistance to the motion of the vehicle, especially above 45 mph. Small city cars need not be concerned with aerodynamics since their speeds are normally low but companies manufacturing any vehicle, including large US made cars with hundreds of horsepower should realize that by simply tapering the sides and top will increase the mpg considerably. Presently, tapering is only occurring at the top.

Adrian Akau

Just for your information - the common known aerodynamic rules applies only (or better say \'much more\') at higher speeds. For city cars, where the average speed is 40-50 km/s it makes almost no difference

i did have a Smart, and it was a perfect car for a city, as it was big as a motorbike, so i was allowed to park the oposite way. This will not be possible (allowed) with this car, so the main advantage is out, so if i could choose (and do not look at price) than i would definitely go to Smart electric.

Tomáš Kapler

If I paid $5000 and this thing lasted 5 years I would be quite pleased with it. I am very excited to see Tatas in the USA! Should be here in the next couple years as far as I have been reading. Plus because it gets 69 mpg it will basically pay for itself in what you save on fuel. So if the car lasted 5 years, cost $5K and saved you $85 a month on fuel ( or $20 a week) it would actually pay for itself. Plus I think it looks really cool just how it is. :) And I am partial to American cars, but I think its about time a company puts its greed aside and really challenged the current car prices that start at like $20k at the cheapest.

Chris Manno

I love Gizmag but all this stuff drives me nuts. Mass production and the assembly line was potentially to keep costs down for producers and consumers, but the way things are now, there are no practical vehicles that are inexpensive safe and practical for everyday use. All the money goes to making fancy add-ons instead of keeping it simple and practical and safe. Make it boring. Make it durable. Make it lightweight. Make it rustproof. Make it able to travel over land, sea, or in the air. Make it powered by rotary Wankel air motor. Use 10,000 psi air pressure tank. Use solar panels. Put a tornado tube down the center of the vehicle to pull air out of the front of the car. Use counterrotating turboprop. Use air brake. Use Twheels. Use automatic collision avoidance. Use graphene. In-wheel air motors. Use Cadillac Aera concept car 2010 1,000 mile range, curb wt. 1,000 pounds, 10,000 psi carbon fiber air pressure tank.

Jay Dillon
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