Tata Motors Ltd. has commercialised the first electric, four-wheeled cargo small commercial vehicle. Ashish Bhatia looks at the broader strategy behind the electrification of a legacy model.

It was a busy span of one week in particular at the Tata Group of Companies. Known to have synergised for the Group’s electrification drive, on the passenger vehicle front, Tata Passenger Electric Mobility (TPEM) globally unveiled a futuristic concept, a pure electric vehicle on its third generation (Gen 3) architecture. This was followed by the Commercial Vehicle Business Unit (CVBU) at Tata Motors Ltd. succeeding at creating nostalgia when it opted to electrify its mass selling, legacy model, the Tata Ace Small Commercial Vehicle (SCV). With the “Chota Hathi”, it has embarked on the electrification journey of four-wheeler goods carriers. It is geared to offer its fleet customers a complete transport solution. The Tata Ace EV launch sans a price declaration, due for an announcement at the time of its customer deliveries had the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) draw in leading e-commerce giants among Tata Motors Dealers. The former (e-commerce giants) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on stage to seal the deal of making the Ace EV a part of their fleets. Most, customers of the erstwhile Ace. To fulfil their vision of net-zero emissions, in turn, the sum of the all the signed MoUs populated the Ace EV order book with 39,000 bookings. Tata Motors deemed the bookings from Amazon, BigBasket, City Link, DOT, Flipkart, LetsTransport, MoEVing and Yelo EV as a stamp of market acceptance before a single unit is delivered.  “We are much encouraged with the support and response received from our e-commerce customers, with whom we begin this journey of zero-emission cargo mobility,” expressed Girish Wagh, Executive Director, at Tata Motors Ltd.

Exactly 17 years after the Ace was launched in 2005, Tata Motors launched the Ace EV on the same date May 05, 2022. A planned coincidence,  N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons and Tata Motors, graced the landmark occasion and was credited for inspiring the team with the “Art of the possible” much like in the past. Reflecting upon the early mover advantage, the OEM stands to benefit from this launch. Chandrasekaran expressed, “Sustainable Mobility is imminent and a global mega trend that we’ve embraced fully. We’ve made a business model that integrates sustainability as a key pillar.” Of the firm opinion that it’s a solution that adds value to the entire EV ecosystem, he committed to the OEM wanting to engage and build e-cargo platforms beyond the Ace as may be deemed fit for market requirements across the country. “At Tata Motors, we are moving with speed and scale to lead this change. I am delighted today that with the launch of the Ace EV, we are entering a new era of e-cargo mobility. It will further build on this legacy by providing a technologically advanced, clean and smart mobility solution. I am excited about the electrification of commercial vehicles,” he averred.

Building on the Chairman’s vision to offer a complete transport solution that looks at meeting needs like fast charging, quick service and fleet management through the Tata ‘UniEVerse’, Wagh, called it an opportunity to reset the future agenda at the company. Admitting to the Group leveraging the Common Architecture and Shared Technology (CAST) and synergising with the various Group companies, Wagh drew attention to the company’s Group’s electric buses clocking 34 bn kms, cumulatively, across nine countries as a testimony of acing commercial EVs. The Convergence Energy Services Ltd. (CESL) tender had the OEM emerge as the lowest bidder for an order book of 5,450 buses. “Building on our experience and success with electric buses, we have designed use-case specific EV solutions for intra-city distribution. These solutions effectively cater to the application needs and deliver a superior value proposition to all stakeholders,” he claimed.

The next wave of transformation

Intending to tap the booming e-commerce and last-mile segment, Tata Motors, opined Wagh, was ready to trigger the next wave of transformation. “We collaborated with operators to understand their operating model with a complete EV ecosystem. With the Ace EV, we are offering a 50 per cent higher drive range compared to the competition with both slow and fast charging capabilities thereby bringing extensive value addition to various duty cycles,” he stated. Asserting on the group moving beyond offering a vehicle to offering customers a complete ecosystem, Wagh cited ‘Fleet Edge’ as a key pillar. Through the holistic ecosystem, the company will offer a suite of services, from charging solutions to financial add-ons.

Setting it apart

The Ace EV is known to be the first product featuring the Tata Motors’ Evogen power train. With it, the EV offers a certified range of 154 kilometres and a real-world range of 121 kms powered by a 21.3 kWh lithium-ion phosphate battery pack, which shared Wagh, was much over the requirement of operators clocking 60 kms at the top end on an average. The EV features an advanced battery cooling system and regenerative braking system to boost the drive range. Powered by a 27kW (36 hp) motor the EV is claimed to offer a peak rated torque of 130 Nm. It comes with a single-speed reduction transmission unit and a rear-wheel drive. Leaf springs are carry forwarded from the erstwhile Ace and make up the rigid front and rear suspension. It plys on 155 R13 LT 8PR tyres. All drive parts are IP67 rated. The EV comes with a home plug solution with a 15A socket beside the Onboard charging gun. The EV comes with best-in-class, highest cargo volume of 208 cu. ft and offers a grade ability of 22 per cent keeping in mind ascend requirements on gradients when fully laden. The cargo container is said to have been made of lightweight, durable materials in keeping with the requirements of e-commerce logistics operators. The OEM is assuring TCO benefits that include an over five-year battery life, a robust energy management system, and an all-weather protection. It claims the highest uptime in the segment backed by dedicated service support and value-added services.

The choice to electrify the Tata Ace over a next-generation product like Intra in the mix was driven by the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) considerations and the use of a large proportion of carry-over parts, mentioned  Rajendra Petkar, Chief Technology Officer at Tata Motors Ltd. “The consideration relied on the least cost and the assurance of delivering with a large number of the carry-over parts to keep the vehicle cost under check,” he explained. Highlighting its technical advancements and differentiators claimed to set it apart from the competition, Petkar cited the Ace EV as the first credible EV option in comparison to what’s available in the market today. “I’m talking here about the three-wheelers because the Ace EV is in a different league altogether. It offers the highest range, about 50 per cent higher than the current three-wheeler platforms out there. It offers the highest cargo area in cubic foot capacity,” he shared. He also drew attention to an estimated 21 connected vehicle features and the largest infotainment screen on board bringing the vehicle to par with the passenger vehicles.

At the launch, Tata Motors showcased the full-loaded variant with voice-recognition capability (In English and Hindi), and a rotary gear-shift dial to name a few. The base variant uses a stick instead. The Ace EV was also showcased in a tipper guise for waste collection duty cycles making it relevant for municipal corporations. The Ace EV features a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and comes with two charging options for both a slow and a fast charge (DC). Claimed Petkar, that the lithium-ion phosphate battery pack was very stable, reliable, and thermally suited for the Indian duty cycle, especially for the Indian tropical conditions as he allayed fears around the recent safety anxiety stemming from unstable electric two-wheelers. “We are quite certain that the Ace EV is going to perform very well,” he concluded. on a high note.


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