When is a Car not a “Car”?

Cars have four wheels, a motor, and are usually enclosed, right? If you get a vehicle that matches this description, it has to be a car, right?

Indian company Bajaj Auto is releasing the RE60, a vehicle that is neither car, nor “auto-rickshaw.” They are instead dubbing it a “quadricycle.” As I type this, that word gets the WordPress red-squiggle, so it obviously doesn’t exist. Not until Bajaj Auto petitions the Indian government to create a new classification for it, at least.

“Because at the end of the day it provides a very logical upgrade from a three-wheeler for people who want to pay a little more and want to have the comfort and safety of four wheels, four doors, a roof and seatbelts,” [Rajiv Bajaj] said.

Right now auto-rickshaws are a large portion of the motorized vehicle market in India, competing primarily with motorcycles on the busy and overcrowded streets of the country. Auto-rickshaws provide a covered alternative to their two wheeled friends, but do have problems with instability due to their three-wheeled nature (as the western world experienced with the Reliant Robin). The easy solution is to either swap to a tadpole configuration like we saw last week, or to add that fourth wheel to brace the center of gravity.

Once you add that fourth wheel though, it starts to sound an awful lot like a car, something Bajaj Auto would like to avoid due to the more rigorous safety standards that the term requires. The vehicle itself is safer than auto-rickshaws, which traditionally have soft roofs and no doors, but other competitors tested the RE60 against small-sized cars and found the safety comparison somewhat lacking. However, the vehicle tops out at 40mph and this is more comparable to auto-rickshaws which are usually 30-4omph as well. It can also run on traditional gasoline or compressed natural gas.

Overall, the vehicle itself is nothing to go crazy about, but it could provide a newer form of transportation to many people withing the developing world. The company is only looking at markets where the auto-rickshaw is currently the dominant force, so there are no plans to import it to the US (all the HEMI-enthusiasts can relax). The effect this has environmentally has yet to be seen, however, because it may mean an increasing amount of drivers on a global scale. However, it does have a potential at being a universal car at some scale where economic conditions are similar to the development of our “universal” cars.

Read more at:
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/30936948.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

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One thought on “When is a Car not a “Car”?

  1. Brian, this raises a lot of important issues for our course, not the least of which is how to deal with the problems that autos present in a rapidly growing nation like India. Fewer cars on the road are probably a good thing at this point, but as you observe, the regulatory catch is a big one. Do we want a class of vehicles that is less safe than cars on the road?

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