University Reveals aCar: An Electric Utility Vehicle For Africa

aCar electric utility vehicle

A frontal view of the aCar on test in Ghana,

aCar electric utility vehicle

The aCar was developed by the  Technical University of Munich.

Technical University of Munich (TUM) scientists have introduced a prototype electric powered utility vehicle designed for use in rural Africa. Four years in development, the prototype is called aCar, as in “all-rounder”, and was developed specifically to meet the needs of sub-Saharan countries.

The aCar is a cross between a UTV and a small truck, and is off-road capable and can transport heavy loads with a total load capacity of 1 ton. The aCar has four-wheel drive and electric powered to minimize maintenance, provide plenty of torque and be environmentally friendly. The battery can also be used to power winch or as an energy source. The modular design for the rear of the vehicle provides versatility to carry cargo, passengers, a mobile physicians office, a water treatment solution or other functionality. Other key specifications and features include:

  • 20 kW battery capacity
  • 48-volt system
  • 80 km range
  • Top speed:  60 km/h
  • 7 hour recharging time from 220 volt household socket
  • Optional solar sheets
  • Price: under 10,000 euros
  • 3.7m x 1.5 m x 2.1 m
  • Seating capacity:  2
  • Simple production and low manufacturing costs

The vehicle was tested in Ghana for a month and was well received by locals. The aCar will first be produced in Europe to understand and optimize production, but the goal is to move production and eventually component manufacturing to Africa.

Learn more:

This project highlights some of the obstacles in creating a capable and affordable vehicle for customers in developing countries. Not only does such  vehicle have to be affordable to purchase but also to operate. One might think that a large UTV manufacturer could just export their lower priced models. However, the complexity of the design, the need for a reliable fuel supply, and the additional cost of shipping the vehicle all create obstacles.

In terms of design, complexity invites potential for more breakdowns and requires a robust supply chain for parts and more technical expertise for repairs. A simple but robust design alleviates these issues. A leading UTV manufacturer would likely have to develop an entirely different platform for this market.

The modular approach for the aCar is different from the accessories and options approach in the UTV market. Developing modules for specific applications provides some flexibility but, in comparison to the UTV market, limits the level of customization that can be achieved. On the other hand, developing the modules and the requisite supply chain, is likely more cost effective than developing and supplying a wide range of accessories and options in areas where a dealer network will be very limited. A next step in this project may be to look at how the modular design approach can best balance cost, supply and complexity issues with vehicle customization to increase productivity and value.

Marc cesare,

Tata Motors Launches SuperAce Mini-Truck in Vietnam

Tata Motors SuperAce

Tata Motors has launched their SuperAce mini-truck in Vietnam.

Tata Motors, with their partner TMT Motors, have launched the Tata SuperAce mini-truck in Vietnam. The SuperAce is positioned as a versatile replacement for a small pick-up truck. The vehicle has a one ton payload and comes with either a diesel or gas engine and has a top speed of 130 km per hour. The vehicle can be used for inter or intra-city transport and for a wide range of goods including construction material, produce and consumer goods. According to Tata Motors management, “Through our partnership with TMT Motors, we are committed to shaping the commercial vehicles industry here and are determined to build a long-lasting relationship with the customer for competitive business advantages and the trusted credentials of the Tata Motors brand,”. Tata Motors sees a lot of potential in the fast growing Vietnamese economy and announced their intention to enter the market last year.

Learn more:

Comment:  While not as popular in the US market, in Southeast Asia and in other countries mini-trucks are quite popular. They are integral for delivering goods in the hub and spoke system employed in these countries. The small-sized trucks can more easily maneuver in crowded and narrow city streets to deliver goods the “last mile” from large distribution centers. In the US they can be seen on farms and are usually imported used vehicles. With their top speeds mini-trucks don’t meet the safety standards for full on-road use in the US and are too fast too be considered low speed vehicles. Approximately 20 states allow mini-trucks on roads where it is locally permitted. Depending on the state mini-trucks are not allowed on highways or, in some cases, not allowed on roads with speed limits above 35 mph. Vantage Vehicle International offers vehicles that are mini-truck like in styling but are configured as LSVs.

Data Shows Decline In Indian Mini-Truck Market

The Tata Ace mini-truck

The Tata Ace mini-truck is the leader in the Indian mini-truck market.

Data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers shows that the mini-truck market is declining as larger pickup trucks are displacing them. Last year’s figures have pickups outselling mini-trucks 140,000 vehicles to 131,000. Estimates for this year put the pickup market at nearly 200,000. Increased urbanization and improving road conditions are driving the pickup trend according to industry executives. The pickup trucks can carry more cargo and have more horsepower than mini-trucks whose sales declined last year by 21% from nearly 167,000 units the year before.  Learn more:

Comment:  The decline in the mini-truck market would appear to be a problem for the Polaris-Eicher joint venture which just launched their Multix vehicle. However, the Multix is being positioned as a multi-purpose vehicle that users can easily transition from using for work to using for family purposes to even using for power generation, since the vehicle also has a generator that can be used for operating tools or provide electricity to the home. A primary target for the Multix is the rural and semi-urban independent business person. In contrast, urbanization is cited as one reason for the decline in the mini-truck market. It would be interesting to see the breakdown of where mini-truck sales have been declining, in terms of urban versus rural.

Road Use Regulation Roundup – July 2015

The following is a summary of some of the road use regulations passed or being considered at the state, county and city levels since he beginning of 2015. Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • Many of the ordinances focus on allowing UTVs, ATVs and mini-trucks to be used on public roads.
  • There appears to be more regulatory activity with regards to golf cars than low speed vehicles.
  • In a continuing trend, while some people are still expressing safety concerns about these vehicles being used in mixed traffic situations, they seem to be in the minority and most regulatory bodies are passing ordinances in favor of allowing these vehicles on roads.

Ontario, Canada – The province of Ontario will now allow people to drive ATVs, UTVs and multi-purpose off-highway utility vehicles on the shoulder of public roads. All riders and passengers will have to wear a helmet and seatbelt. The law reflects the growing use of the vehicles.

Indiana – The Indiana legislature passed a bill that will allow the use of mini-trucks on state roads and highways. The vehicle must be titled and registered with a ‘mini-truck’ plate.The bill also defines a mini-truck dealer as a person who sells more than 12 vehicles and requires the person to register with the state. A mini-truck is defined as having an ICE of not less than 660cc, a top speed of 60 mph or less, a locking enclosed cab and heated interior. The bill is mainly targeting farmers and hunters.

Alabama – A bill being proposed in the Alabama state legislature would allow cities to decide whether golf cars could be used on certain roads and to post signage declaring their use. It would require drivers to have a license and insurance and the golf cars to have seat belts, headlights, brake lights, turn signals and a windshield. The legislation is meant to clear up any confusion related to some cities allowing golf cars on their streets, while others do not.

Chatham County, GA – Police ticketing drivers for using golf cars on public roads use is causing Chatham County officials to consider allowing golf car use on county roads. In general the state of Georgia does not allow golf cars to be allowed on public roads unless a municipality passes a specific ordinance allowing their use. Residents of the Isle of Hope, an island, are a driving force behind the review. With smaller and lower speed roads and less traffic, golf cars have become integrated to some degree into the island’s lifestyle and residents want to be able to use the vehicles without being ticketed.

Swift County, MN – A new ordinance passed by the Swift County board of commissioners allows the use of UTVs, ATVs and golf cars on county roads. The law only applies to county roads, not state or federal highways, city streets, or township roads unless those jurisdictions have also passed laws allowing their use.

Clay County, IA – The Clay County Board of Supervisors is developing an ordinance that would allow the use of UTVs and ATVs on county highways. Public hearings and more fact finding from neighboring counties will be carried out before a final ordinance is proposed.

Nashville, TN – The city council approved regulations governing the use of low-speed vehicles for taxi services. The regulations give the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission authority to determine how many low-speed vehicle certificates are issued in Metro and to whom. The vehicles must also undergo inspections, will be limited to seven passengers and travel no more than 25 mph.

Schuyler City, NE – The city council is considering an ordinance that would require of owners of UTVs or ATVs to purchase licenses at a cost of $75 annually. The intent of the law is to make sure that those who regularly drive the vehicles on city streets get licenses.

Wilmington, NC – A bill moving through the state legislature will allow public safety officials to operate utility vehicles on Wilmington public streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. The legislation is mainly targeting the fire department and police department that currently use utility vehicles for events and emergency response. In some cases the UTVs must first be transported to where they are being used.

Montpelier, VT – The village council is considering an ordinance to allow LSVs to operate on the town’s public roads.

Marion, KS – The city council approved regulations that would allow ATVs, UTVs, golf cars and mini-trucks to be used on city streets. The vehicles will have to be register them with the local police department at a cost of $45 for one year or $75 for two years.

New Braunfels, TX – A public hearing was recently held for input into developing an ordinance that would allow golf cars and LSVs to be used on city streets.



Mahindra Launches Jeeto Mini-Truck

The new Jeeto mini-truck from Mahindra & Mahindra.

The new Jeeto mini-truck from Mahindra & Mahindra.

Mahindra & Mahindra has launched their new commercial mini-truck, the Jeeto, targeting the sub one tonne load mini-truck segment. The Jeeto comes in eight different variations and will be available in S (S6-11, S6-16), L (L6-11, L6-16, L7-11, L7-16) & X (X7-11, X7-16) series, catering to mini-truck, micro-truck and 3 wheelers customers. The vehicles start at 2.32 Lakh or 3,620 USD. The variations include options for powertrains, payload capacity and deck lengths.

  • Powertrains – 8.2 kW (11 HP) and 11.9 Kw (16 HP)
  • Payloads – 600 Kgs and 700 Kgs
  • Deck lengths – 1630mm (5.5ft), 1780mm (6ft) and 1930 mm (6.5ft)

Jeeto also comes with a class-leading warranty of 2 years/40,000km (whichever is earlier). It will be available in 5 colors of Diamond White, Sunrise Red, Mango Yellow, Ultramarine Blue and Premium Beige. The vehicles are targeting the last mile distributor segment. Mahindra & Mahindra spent approximately $8 million US on product development and another $40 million US on the production facility. Learn more: and


Eicher Polaris JV Launches Multix: A Personal Utility Vehicle for Indian Market

The Multix utility vehicle, the first offering from the Eicher-Polaris joint venture.

The Multix utility vehicle, the first offering from the Eicher-Polaris joint venture.

Eicher Polaris Pvt. Ltd., a 50:50 joint venture between Eicher Motors Ltd and Polaris Industries Inc., launched the Multix India’s  first personal utility vehicle. The Multix, available in two versions and four colors, is targeting the “independent businessman”. The Multix is being positioned as a versatile vehicle that can be used for both business and family purposes. Management estimates the market size to be 60 million households. From initial idea to launch took Eicher and Polaris about five years and $60 million. Extensive consumer testing was performed to identify the market and test the concept. The Multix is being viewed as launching a new vehicle category. Initial production is expected to be 5,000 vehicles per month and the manufacturing facilities can expand to handle twice that volume.

Key features of the Multix include:

  • 500cc Diesel engine
  • Cabin space that can comfortably seat a family of five along with luggage
  • Multix can be adapted to create large storage space of 1918 liters.
  • X-PORT a unique power-take-off point, which can generate power of up to 3 KW that can be used for lighting homes and powering professional equipment
  • Pro Ride Independent suspension system
  • Ground clearance of 225mm,
  • Mileage of 28.45 kmpl.
  • Tubular frame structure and Roll-Over Protection System (ROPS) 
  • Flexituff body

The two Multix versions are priced at 3,620 USD or 2.32 Lakh and 4,245 USD or 2.72 Lakh. The vehicle will be launched in 30 cities with test drives starting in July and deliveries in August. Learn more:

Comment:  In contrast to the US market where a crossover utility vehicle means a vehicle for work and play, in the Indian market it means work and family use. This utility vehicle/mini-truck market is very dynamic. Not only do you have new entrants like Eicher-Polaris with the Multix, but there are also a number of startups receiving venture capital that are targeting the independent delivery/shipping market that utilize these vehicles. These companies are using software and other technology to make the process of locating and quickly accessing a shipper much more efficient. This could prove to be another catalyst for the vehicle market.

SVR Adds Vantage Vehicle International Models To Vehicle Database

Models like the electric powered GreenTruck Extended Cab from Vantage Vehicle International have been added to the SVR vehicle database.

Models like the electric powered GreenTruck Extended Cab from Vantage Vehicle International have been added to the SVR vehicle database. has added models from Vantage Vehicle International to our vehicle database. Vantage Vehicle International offers a range of electric and gas models, all of which are low speed vehicles. There are three product lines:  the electric powered Green line, the Primo line with 4WD designed for all terrain and the Premium line with a 2,500 lb. payload. Each line offers models in a cargo or passenger van configuration and standard cab truck configurations. The Premium and Green lines includes trucks with extended and crew configurations. If you are a Vantage Vehicle International dealer you can add a basic listing for your dealership to our dealer directory for free or if you are already in our database you can add Vantage Vehicle International to your listing.

Startups Aggregating Mini-trucks In India’s Local Delivery Market

Some of the mini-trucks and owner-operators part of the network.

Some of the mini-trucks and owner-operators part of the network., an Indian startup, is using technology to aggregate the highly fragmented local delivery market in the country. Major cities such as Bangalore employ a hub and spoke delivery system where the last mile is handled by mini-trucks and other vehicles driven by owner-operators. The problem has been connecting the large number of owner-operators with potential clients in an efficient and cost-effective manner. LOTrucks joins similar companies such as The Porter, Blowhorn and Shippr who are operating in Mumbai and Bangalore. LOT stands for Logistics, Optimization and Transportation.

According to the founders “When we noticed some important issues like large idle time of vehicles, no standard pricing, customer-driver communication gap and billing problems, we thought this can be addressed using technology.” LOT has reduced the time from order booking to processing to 30 minutes, implemented a standard mileage based pricing system to eliminate negotiating and trains drivers for communicating in the diverse city. An online payment system using a mobile is in the works. LOT currently has over 500 trucks including the LOT MINI, aTata Ace with 800kg capacity, and the LOT MAX , a Tata 407 with 2.5ton capacity. The founders plan to perfect their system in Bangalore before expanding to other cities.  Learn more:

Eicher-Polaris Joint Venture To Launch Flexituff Utility Vehicle For The Indian Market


The new Flexituff utility vehicle from an Eicher and Polaris collaboration was spied on the road recently while undergoing tests. Photo Credit:

A collaboration between Eicher and Polaris is set to release their first vehicle, something akin to a mini-truck, later this year for the Indian market. The Flexituff UV will be available in two configurations, a multi-passenger van (MPV) and a twin-cab pickup for hauling cargo. The vehicle will feature a Greaves Cotton 600cc diesel engine with claimed mileage of 25km/L. Based on pictures of the vehicle in testing, the vehicle will be slightly larger than competitive offerings, the Mahindra Maxximo and Tata Magic. Initial production is expected to be 10-12,000 vehicles per year with expectations that it will reach 100,000 units in the future. Learn more:

Update:  Some more information on the vehicle. It uses composite body panels to save weight and “…features a bare dashboard with a four-spoke steering wheel, a simple instrument cluster and a centre console-mounted gear level.” The double cab pickup with cargo area can fit five occupants. The price of the vehicle is expected to be about 1 lakh or about $1,500-1,600 US. The vehicle development project is reported to have cost $40 million US. Learn more:

Comment:  This type of vehicle is not as prevalent in the US but in India and parts of Asia the vehicles are common. Smaller sized delivery vehicles are an important part of a hub and spoke delivery system where they are used to deliver goods the last kilometer or so through small and crowded streets. Price points and cost of operation are important purchasing factors for owner/operators of these local shipping businesses.

Ashok Leyland Plans for Electric Version of Dost Mini-truck

The current ICE powered Dost from Ashok Leyland may get an electric brethren.

The current ICE powered Dost from Ashok Leyland may get an electric brethren.

India-based Ashok Leyland is working on an electric version of their Dost light commercial vehicle. A prototype was recently revealed along with electric versions of a larger truck and a bus. The Dost will be undergoing testing by the company to validate the concept. There is no timetable for when the vehicle will be commercially available. Learn more: