Tata Nano Emax: The world’s cheapest car goes green with CNG bi-fuel option

Tata Nano blueTata will introduce a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueled version of its Nano, which is billed as the world’s cheapest car.

The Nano Emax runs on either gasoline or CNG, switching between fuels with the flick of a switch. It uses the same rear-mounted 624-cc two-cylinder engine as the regular Nano, but with hardened valves. Think of it as an amoebic version of the Porsche 911.

Unfortunately, CNG doesn’t help the Nano’s lack of power. Output actually drops from 37 horsepower and 37 pound-feet of torque to 33 hp and 33 lb-ft. Admittedly, with so little power to start with, it’s not likely that drivers will notice the difference.

The question is: will they notice a difference in fuel economy? Thanks to its tiny engine, Tata says the straight gasoline Nano already returns an estimated 60 mpg in mixed driving, while emitting 93.5 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

Tata Nano interiorThe Nano’s creator (which, ironically, also owns Jaguar and Land Rover) envisioned it as a new age Citroen 2CV or Fiat 500 for its home market of India, and for other countries with developing economies. However, sales haven’t met expectations, which is why Tata is adding the Emax to the lineup and making other changes.

Despite its bottom of the barrel status, Tata has decided to add a few optional convenience features to entice customers, including a four-speaker AmphiStream audio system, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and remote keyless entry. Even cheap cars need tech these days.

At roughly $2,500, the revised Nano will most likely hang on to its “world’s cheapest car status,” although buyers may have to pay more for the Emax. As before, Tata has no plans to sell the car in the United States.