October 20, 2013

Book Review: Reva EV: India’s Green Gift to the World By Dr SK Maini

(A variation of this review was published in the Business World Magazine dated 23-September-2013)

In the last week of July, BMW presented to the world the company's first electric car that was mass-produced. Called i3, it was priced upwards of 45,000USD and was looking ravishingly neat. And a few weeks before that, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Modors, unveiled the Battery Swap System for Model S that was faster than filling your gas tank. And a part of the World went gaga about them while the remaining still slept in the darkness and continued to ride the gas powered vehicles, let alone know about the other brands of EVs.

In our own backyard, Reva is a very popular name and is sometimes seen as a small animal zipping past the traffic. Though Reva or any other EV for that matter has many challenges for it to become mainstream, the success of Reva lies in the fact that it has continued to remain on the roads and be produced for a very niche market and is priced at one-tenths of the contemporary EVs. Professor Maini in his new book 'RevaEV' goes onto state that Reva has been getting really rave reviews and is not restricted to the Indian roads but is also being exported to a many other countries. What started as a small project in a tools industry has gone onto become an award winning car that has been mainly built using indigenous technologies. During the due course of the book Prof.Maini highlights the various achievements and breakthroughs that were seen during the development of the EV and how managing limited resources made them cost-competitive compared to many other EVs in various segments.

My biggest disappointment with this book would be that Prof.Maini is often seen repeating what he has already stated and continues his paeans on his son Chetan without much going into the emotions. The book, though a quick read, is seen lacking the 'rigour' that could have otherwise made this book an enjoyable read and an object of possession for posterity. Remember that RevaEV is probably one of the biggest achievements in our auto-industry as it was developed purely from inbred technologies and is truly our 'Green' gift to the World. The book lacks the depth that could be gone into some of the challenges that were faced, than merely stating them point wise. Though comparing with Lee Iacocca’s Autobiography would be inevitable and not do justice to the efforts, but Prof.Maini could have used some flavours of the ‘relentless pursuit’ that is often seen in the Auto Industry and given us some splendid insights.

Though the book fails in many quarters, it would be interesting to watch how the technology from EVs are used in other spheres of life and how EVs are molded into over the next decade. Do vanilla EVs have a chance to compete or do they need to rely upon standby gasoline powered engines for longer journeys. Would they command the label of being a 'Glorified Golf Cart' or indeed become an object of mass-consumption? We will wait and watch.

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