The Little Electric Car That Might

Jude Edginton/Redux

The Little Electric Car That Might

What seats two adults, plugs into a wall socket, and costs less than 2¢ a mile to drive? The REVA, a tiny vehicle that may be the unlikely leader in the world’s electric vehicle market. Its maker, Bangalore-based REVA Electric Car, has sold nearly 3,000 of the autos (most marketed as a second vehicle) in India and Europe—1,000 in London alone, where drivers of the $9,000-to-$11,000 G-Wiz, as it’s called in Britain, are exempt from paying the $14-a-day congestion fee to enter the city’s center. The vehicle has limits: Its interior feels cramped, its body consists mostly of plastic polymers, and it was obliterated in a 40-mph crash test conducted by Britain’s Top Gear magazine. “It’s technically a quadricycle,” says independent auto designer Stephen Clemenger. REVA’s chief technology officer, Chetan Maini, says the car isn’t meant to be driven fast. Now developing roadster and pickup models, he seems undaunted by the demands of ramping up output—including investment in more automated production lines—and the specter of competition. India’s Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra plan their own electric cars, and U.S. and Japanese giants are pouring money into research. “We were the first ones to get here,” Maini says. “We can stay in the lead.”