When Tata Technologies' engineers and designers sat down to come up with a concept for an electric-powered car, they wanted to start clean.
No preconceived notions, said Peter Davis, chief of vehicle design for Tata Technologies' Novi, Mich., offices. But that wasn't always as easy as it sounded.
On a panoramic windshield and roof — swooping over the car from front to back, with no roof pillar above the instrument panel — where would they put sun visors?
“Where do we put the windshield wipers when they're not in use, if we don't have a hood?” he said in a Jan. 9 interview alongside the Electric Mobility, or eMO, concept car at the Detroit auto show. “There's a domino effect of what happens if we do something this way or that way.”
The team placed the wipers vertically, alongside side pillars. Sun visors are stored vertically too, tucked in along the rear view mirror at the center of the car.
Tata, which has the same parent as India's Tata Motors Ltd. but is not part of it, developed 15 new patents for parts for the eMO, though the car is just an engineering study. “It's a shingle for us to say to the industry that this is what can do,” Davis said.
The eMO is intended to be small, light and less expensive to make, with unpainted thermoplastic body panels, eliminating the need for a paint shop, and a polycarbonate rear window that integrates LED lighting, cutting the number of manufacturing steps.
Without the need to cool an engine in the front of the car, air ducts are tucked beneath the flooring, where they would cool a center-mounted battery pack.
Unlike carmakers, Tata doesn't need a shelf of platforms or parts to build a car on its line, Davis said.