Reva Revs Up

reva1.jpgReva, the Indian electric car company, says its namesake vehicle was the best-selling on-road electric vehicle in the world last year. Never heard of it? The company’s numbers so far may be modest — 2,500 vehicles on the road — but there are indications that it’s about to explode.

The carmaker just announced that it will launch another model by the end of 2008, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg; it plans to launch one new vehicle every calendar year. And a company spokesman says Reva will ramp up its annual production from 6,000 to around 30,000 vehicles in the next six months.

The company can thank its first mover advantage, a low price tag and a keen sense of targeting emerging markets for its early success. If you haven’t heard of Reva, you’re about to. The Bangalore-based company’s cars are getting popular in congested urban areas (like Delhi and London), and are gaining traction in island destinations (like Cyprus), where vehicles with shorter ranges and low environmental impact are particularly attractive.

With the governments of Italy, Japan and the UK offering strong incentives for buyers of EVs (the US is catching up, and Reva is testing that market as we speak), Reva is looking to the future. It’s researching lithium ion and lithium polymer batteries to extend range and increase performance. And its cost is relatively low — $9,000 for a range up to 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) per battery charge, according to the New York Times.

While Reva may be news to you, a few on our shores have been aware of the company’s potential for years. Reva got its start in 1994 as a joint venture between the Maini Group India and California-based AEV LLC, and after an extensive R&D period, its first commercial vehicle went to market in India in 2001. More recently, Draper Fisher Jurveston invested in the fledgling brand, and led a $20 million round of financing for the company in 2006. Founder Tim Draper sits on the company’s board of directors.

But if Revas come to the US, who will buy them? As with all EVs, eco-conscious early adopters will surely line up, but unlike the models we’ve seen so far, Reva will likely attract those with a bit of flair–with a convertible model and “over 2000” color shades to choose from, tricking out your little Reva might provide that playful edge that moves EVS into the mainstream.

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