Tata Pixel

31 Dec, 2012 11:00am Ian Adcock

The innovative new Tata Pixel gets front wheels that pivot at 105 degrees for easy parking


The zero turn technology in this Tata Pixel is a shining example of lateral thinking by British engineers. And it works, allowing you to squeeze in and out of unfeasibly small spaces and practically turn on the spot. This technology could definitely be transferred to black cabs and city cars of the future, as the towns we live in become ever more congested. Watch this space.

When Tata revealed the Pixel concept at March’s Geneva Motor Show, it showed CGI footage of the car doing U-turns in narrow streets and parking in spaces that drivers of conventional cars could only ever dream about.

It has taken Tata’s UK-based engineering team – led by Nick Fell, the man behind the MGF – the past 18 months to perfect the patented zero turn technology, and we got a world exclusive first drive.

“There was an eagerness to show Tata’s growing technical capability,” said Fell. “Particularly to look at something distinctive in a low-cost, low-carbon vehicle.”

Key to the zero turn tech is the unique MacPherson front suspension and steering mechanism that allows the front wheels to tuck back into themselves when turning left or right at angles of up to 105 degrees. Equally important are the two Torotrak variators that counter-rotate the rear wheels as the car pivots around the centre of its rear axle. The team is working on a system that will enable or disable the zero turn capability at a still-to-be-determined speed.

To simplify matters and reduce costs, Tata is developing software that will use the ABS or a modified electronic brake to lock the inner wheel, instead of the complex Torotrak system. “It’s worked well,” says chief test engineer Martin G. Jones. “But it’s costly, and we need to reduce that.”

The simpler set-up widens the turning circle, but by such a small degree that drivers won’t notice any difference to true zero turn.

Tata plans to have a functional Nano running with the system in a year’s time, and then fit it to a version of the range-extending Megapixel, seen at Geneva.

The Pixel we drove feels like any other city car, despite its ability to pivot in its own length. Although the concept car used a three-cylinder 1.2 diesel, this prototype had the 624cc petrol from the Nano – and it struggled for power. But that’s not the point; it’s all about the Brit-designed steering tech. It’s easy to imagine zero turn on a taxi or delivery vehicle, never mind commuter cars of the future.

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The innovative steering could make life easier for motorists parking in tight spaces. A city car of such tiny dimensions with so little power on offer should dip below the 100g/km - preferably the incoming 75g/km CO2.

110g/km is awful for an engine so feeble.

Just want to say that I'm not a mathematician, so feel free to correct me, but if the front wheels turn 105 degrees then won't the car travel slightly backwards in a forward gear?

If that's right, wouldn't it make getting out of the tightest possible space a bit confusing? You'd have to make sure you don't steer too much or you'd end up crashing into the car behind...

Could this be a possible new Marque or the re establish of Rover (city Rover)) or Austin as TATA own both these and would give it world wide new premium city model.

Tata have engineers?

Hope Rover would have been a subsidiary of TATA Motors, but it's bought by Chinese after MGR collapsed. But TATA has lots of vision and will contribute a lot some day to the automotive world.

What happened to the Nano Air car that was going to run on a tank of compressed air.

Still under development. It's an engineering exercise, y'know.

You should try reading the article, it's jam-packed with information!

"Although the concept car used a three-cylinder 1.2 diesel, this prototype had the 624cc petrol from the Nano "

Oh... if Tata does something good, it is the work of the great Brit-engineers. If Tata does something bad, it's the shabby Indians.

At a glance

Price: N/A
Engine: 624cc 2cyl petrol
Power/torque: 37bhp/51Nm
Transmission: Twin-path Toroidal IVT, front-wheel drive
Top speed: 65mph (est)
Economy: 65mpg (est)
CO2: 110g/km
Equipment: Tablet with remote connectivity, zero turn ability
On sale: N/A