Blog Post

Small Car, Big Ripples

Some smart people on the greenbuilding email list (along with just about everyone else on the internet) have been discussing the Nano — at $2,500, the world's cheapest car — which is being introduced by Tata Motors in India, which apparently has visions of marketing it internationally. You can read the whole thread in the archives. Here are some excerpts, omitting bunches of good stuff solely for the sake of brevity, and in a couple cases taken slightly out of context. The writer's name links to the original post.
"Here is a $2500, 50MPG car that seats five (presumably five people who haven't been binging on twinkies). Environmentalists are howling, yet we are also lauding the Prius, which gets the same mileage and costs ten times as much." — Lawrence Lile "Now everyone in India can afford a car. Don't get me wrong, the line between cultural imperialism and environmental conscientiousness can be close sometimes. But it's like [if] you took a big country with lots of cars, and then subsidized oil — it would drive up emissions vastly. Oh that's right, that's the US." — Keith Winston "You have nailed the environmental argument against these cars on the head. This article seems to indicate that the Tata will be cleaner than the average Indian car, but still won't meet US standards, which says a lot about the average Indian car." — Lawrence Lile "Until we in the US demonstrate a low carbon lifestyle we have no moral standing to criticize others for emulating our long-standing material and energy profligacy." — Reuben Deumling
"I think the main point, and why eco freaks like me have our knickers in a twist over this car, has little to do with whether it is more or less efficient than a Prius. The thing that frightens me is that if even a fraction of Indians and Chinese can afford this car, even if it is micro emissions, we are in deep (methane producing) poop. A recent survey of Chinese youth found that they were very interested in living a green lifestyle, but 84% wanted to get a car first." — Kirsten A Flynn "And a 50mpg Tata in Bombay traffic isn't going to happen either. Years ago I saw an estimate for total time spent related to automotive travel (driving, in traffic jams, working to pay for the car, etc) vs. miles traveled. It turned out we're traveling at just about walking speeds... But we're spending much more time 'walking' than we used to (and getting a lot less exercise)!" — Keith Winston "I can already imagine the resentment we'll be feeling once the developing world really begins to realize that global oil production has peaked and we've consumed the lions share." — Curt Sommer "There aren't many of us who, if we can afford it, don't get what we want. If you live in a village in the middle of nowhere and have to get somewhere, you're going to be mighty happy if you can go by car. Most of us on this forum have a real choice; we should therefore not poo-poo those who don't. This includes the little kids who work 12 hours a day in factories. Their standards are quite different from ours." — Sacie Lambertson "1/3 of greenhouses gases come from vehicle emissions. We are losing habitat, and therefore species, at an unprecedented rate due to road building. Bicycles are un-happpening in certain developing societies as people who used to walk, bike and use public transit close themselves off in cars. Rainforests are being clearcut at the rate of 150 acres per minute. This is not even yet touching on the human health and safety issues: 400,000 deaths per year from autos. Incidence of respiratory, circulatory disease from pollution, etc. Hey guys, the sooner we get out of our own cars here, the more credibility we'll have in telling others what's good and not good to have." — Lois Arkin "At the risk of beating an off-topic dead horse, I thought some of you might find this article from Worldwatch interesting, considering the conversation this week on the Tata Nano. 'One car gets 46 miles per gallon, features fancy accessories, and sports two engines with a combined 145 horsepower. The other car reportedly gets 54 miles per gallon, runs on a diminutive 30-horsepower engine, and is positively spartan in its interior trimmings. The first is the Toyota Prius, a darling of the environmentally conscious. The latter is the Tata Nano, reviled as a climate wrecker. Is there a double standard?'" — Leslie Moyer "One is replacing a 20 MPG SUV, and one is replacing a bicycle." — Corwyn "Bingo. I think the Tata will do one thing extremely well. It will draw us elitists out of the woodwork and will force a wider discussion of our role in damaging the planet." — Steve T

Published January 18, 2008

(2008, January 18). Small Car, Big Ripples. Retrieved from

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