World's Cleanest Car Vs. World's Cheapest Car - InformationWeek

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2/15/2008
12:44 PM
Cora Nucci
Cora Nucci
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World's Cleanest Car Vs. World's Cheapest Car

The MDI OneCAT may be the cleanest car ever invented. It may also be a smokescreen for the dirt-cheap -- and dirty -- Nano from Tata Motors.

The MDI OneCAT may be the cleanest car ever invented. It may also be a smokescreen for the dirt-cheap -- and dirty -- Nano from Tata Motors.This week, a month after rolling out the World's Cheapest Car, Tata wants your eyeballs firmly fixed on the MDI OneCAT, candidate for World's Cleanest Car. The OneCAT, which runs on compressed air and could sell in its basic configuration for about $5,250, was designed by French inventor Guy Negre.

Negre's announcement this week that the OneCAT, a.k.a. the Air Car, could roll off production lines within one year comes only one month after Tata Motors announced the $2,500 Nano.

What's the connection? It goes something like this: The Nano looks like an environmental disaster in the making. Negre, toiling away for some 14 years on his air-eating/air-breathing vehicle, needed cash. Tata, with full pockets and a loud ticking in its ears, needed to create a diversion from the imminent Nanobomb.

The Nano's price tag, $2,500, is only cheap if you're counting rupees, euros, or dollars. When the initial roar of approval for the Nano died down, level-headed critics started calculating the fat tab. Car ownership rates in India are about eight cars per 1,000 people. In the West they are 300 to 500 per 1,000 people.

Figure that the ultralow cost of the Nano will enable millions of Indians to afford emissions-spewing car ownership, and that they'll be competing with the rest of the world for the oil to run those cars, and that Indian roads weren't built for Western volumes of traffic, and the results are clear.

Chief U.N. climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore last year, said, "I am having nightmares" about the prospect of the low-cost Nano.

So, apparently, is Tata. Now it appears to be hedging its bets, much like fast-food giants that offer triple bacon cheeseburgers and garden salads. Someday Tata may be able to boast: "We sell the cheapest car in the world. We also sell the cleanest."

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