First Drive

Tata Bolt BEV review, test drive

The Bolt BEV is not a car you can buy. It’s a sneak peek into Tata Motors’ EV future. Hormazd Sorabjee finds out how advanced it is.

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It’s a nice coincidence that Tata Motors’ first electric vehicle is the very electric-sounding Bolt. Launched at the 2014 Auto Expo, it wasn’t with electrification in mind that the Tata Bolt was christened so. Today, however, it is proving to be a good platform to showcase the carmaker’s EV technology.

The Bolt BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) as it is called is a one-off prototype that looks like any regular production Bolt which doesn’t deserve a second glance. The only reason I would look at it twice is because it is as rare here in the UK as a Bristol back home in India. Tata doesn’t sell the Bolt in the UK, which is a shame, because it’s just the kind of hatchback that would slip comfortably into the budget end of the UK market. Now with an electric powertrain, it makes an even better case for itself.

Designed and developed by the Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) headquartered in Coventry, the Bolt BEV isn’t a purpose-built electric car and that’s the point. TMETC didn’t want to compromise the practicality of the spacious Bolt and used the car’s existing packaging to slot in the battery pack, electric motor and controllers.

From the outside, the only giveaway is the subtle EV badge on the tailgate and, if you look closely, you can tell the tyres are bigger, shod on smart-looking 15-inch alloys, and nicely fill the Bolt’s wheel arches. But it’s not for aesthetics that TMETC has changed the rubber specs. The 185/65 R15 tyres are low rolling resistance versions, which are de rigueur in EVs because they play a critical role in extending the all-important range. Also crucial is the weight and it’s commendable that at 1,195 kg, the Bolt BEV is just 35kg heavier than a top-spec diesel Bolt. No doubt, removing the heavy lump of a diesel engine and replacing it with a lighter electric motor helps. But the battery pack, which is always the heaviest item in any electric car, negates the advantage.

Low-rolling resistance tyres help range.

The Bolt BEV uses a compact 16kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which replaces the fuel tank and extends into the spare wheel well area. This leaves no space for a spare tyre. Run flats? Not on an EV because they are bad for all-important rolling resistance and hence, a puncture repair kit is the best option. The lack of a spare is one of the few compromises you have to live with.

Pop open the ‘fuel’ lid and the nozzle filler has been neatly replaced with a multi-pin socket which when connected to a standard 240V line takes eight hours to top-up. Using fast chargers cuts the time by half or a good four hours.

Fact File

Price Range (in lakhs)*

Ex-showroom price (Delhi) Rs 20 lakh-plus (estimated)

Engine

Type Tata e-Drive electric motor
Power 109hp
Torque 160Nm

Transmission

Gearbox Single-speed auto

Dimensions

Length 3825mm
Width 1695mm
Height 1562mm
Wheel base 2470mm

Chassis & Body

Weight 1380kg (as tested)
Tyres 185/65 R15

About the author...

Hormazd Sorabjee

Our editor has been writing about cars for over 30 years. He has driven everything on wheels from a 65-ton battle tank to a Formula 1 car and still can’t get enough. His dream is to drive from the Autocar UK office to Autocar India HQ.

Recent articles by Hormazd:
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notSet

109hp motor fits comfortably in the engine bay and delivers a smooth drive. Fuel filler replaced with charging socket. Low-rolling resistance tyres help range. Gear lever replaced by simple e-drive controller. Sport mode best for spirited driving but saps range.
We bring you drives of the Maruti Ignis, the Skoda Kodiaq, the new 5-series and take you on a trip from India to Paris in a Renault Kwid. All that and lots more inside!
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Autocar Magazine

Issue: 209 | Autocar India: January 2017

We bring you drives of the Maruti Ignis, the Skoda Kodiaq, the new 5-series and take you on a trip from India to Paris in a Renault Kwid. All that and lots more inside!
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