John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Tata Motors, the maker of the world's cheapest car, has unveiled an armored electric microcar that climbs stairs.
In a recent survey, 70 percent of drivers reported that the most annoying thing about their commute is encountering bands of insurgents who shoot up their cars and throw grenades through their windows.
Or so you might believe when confronted with the new Micro Bullet-Proof Vehicle from Tata motors, India's largest auto company and the force behind the world's cheapest car.
The public unveiling of the concept car at this year's DEFEXPO in New Delhi provoked the spillage of much ink from military and auto publications, which marveled at its buglike-yet-deadly design. It also grabbed the interest of at least one green-beat writer over at Tree Hugger, who instantly saw a use for the MBPV here at home. Wrote Lloyd Alter in "Tata Introduces The Perfect Nano For Urban America":
Here is something for that portion of the 1% with a conscience: instead of a big black armored Sprinter or Escalade, they can have a cute little electric Tata MBPV. It's bulletproof, and has angled floors and walls to deflect grenades. Visibility isn't too terrific, but it will run for six hours, has all wheel drive, and can climb stairs. It is a bit slow at 20 Km/hr (12.5 MPH) though.
What a fake-out! As Alter later admits, while it's fun to imagine these Martian-rover-looking rides crawling over blocks of stalled gridlock in L.A., or climbing three flights of stairs to deliver a driver to a Brooklyn apartment, the MBPV is not for public use. Rather, Tata developed it in concert with the research arm of India's military to create a highly mobile, rugged vehicle that can steer in tight spaces, like airports and train stations. So in a way, the MBPV is the perfect new urban car – just for situations when bullets are flying and hostages being threatened, like the terrible gun battle at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel during Mumbai's 2008 terrorist attacks.
India's commandos have apparently long desired a vehicle that can take the fight to indoor locations. In addition to its bullet-and-bomb resistance and climbing ability, the MBPV also comes loaded with 4-wheel assisted turning that allows it to whip around corners in narrow hallways, has several portholes through which police officers can fire, and is very light (2,425 pounds) despite its two-person occupancy. One guesses that if faced with a blocked stairway, its compact shape would allow it to take the elevator.
People who love to dream of the MBPV finding its way to the commercial marketplace might be interested to know that this is just one of Tata's new combat-ready vehicles. Another machine that Tata debuted at the defense expo: the 12x12 Prahaar Missile Carrier. Pardon, did I just hear you honk at me? Didn't think so: