There was, at the time, a growing market for light commercial vehicles (LCVs) in Europe supported by Government initiatives.
Small LCVs are particularly suited to pure electric propulsion, and Design Tech Centre’s development of an electric commercial vehicle was to be used as part of a neighbourhood EVs portfolio. The vehicle was to be capable of a maximum speed of 25mph and a range of 30 miles, based on a Tata Ace EV 0.75t platform, a hugely popular vehicle in India since its launch in 2006.
The Design Tech centre was also planning to develop the manufacturing base and skills required to manufacture EVs in low volume series production in the UK.
The Tata Ace diesel light truck was specifically designed for the Indian market and obviously met its target customers' aspirations; since its launch in 2006, it has created a new sector within the Indian commercial vehicle market that it has consistently dominated.
However, the requirements of the Indian domestic market and that of the UK EV market are radically different. This required close working between the Tech centre and its Indian production colleagues to ensure that the donor vehicles would be built to relevant European specification and quality standards.
The Design and Tech centre was also challenged to develop the manufacturing base and essential skills required to manufacture electric vehicles in low volume series production in the UK.
The Tata Ace was adapted successfully and the new Tata Ace EV was launched into the UK market in 2012 in small numbers. With the new low volume production facility commissioned, the first build vehicles were completed and extensive market testing through a demonstration programme with end users was delivered.
However, a combination of changes in Government incentives, upon which the business case for the Tata Ace EV was built, and a sluggish take up of EV by the industry as a whole compared to initial forecasts, resulted in Tata Motors deciding to discontinue any further supplies of the Tata Ace EV into the market.
The challenge of developing the build facility, sourcing components from new suppliers, and developing and completing the test plan so that a fully compliant Ace EV could roll off the new production line ready to be handed over to end users were newly developed capabilities to the Design Tech Centre’s growing skill base.