Megapixel has an independent electric motor for each wheel, powered by a 13kWh Lithium-Ion Phosphate battery, giving it a claimed pure-electric range of 87km, backed up by a 325cc single-cylinder petrol-engined generator.

Tata has signaled its green drive at the Geneva motor show with a new hybrid, described as the firm's future, even as Western auto giants struggle to get customers to buy such cars.

Prakash Telang, managing director of Tata's India Operations, said: “The Megapixel, developed by our design centres in India, the UK and Italy, is our idea of a city car for discerning motorists in any big city - and denotes the company's future design direction.”

The four-seater that the company describes as a “smart global range extended electric vehicle” combines a lithium-ion phosphate battery and an on-board petrol-engined generator for recharging on the move.

Tata, which reported $27 billion (R205 billion) in revenue for 2010-11, claims that the Megapixel returns fuel consumption of less than one litre per 100km.

It has not revealed the target price for the vehicle but, if it’s low enough, it could be a serious competitor in the green car sector which has been dominated by Toyota's Prius.

HIGH PRICES

Toyota has sold two million Prius vehicles in the 14 years since the hybrid's launch and dominates the US market, selling nearly half of all new hybrids despite a growing number of offerings from its competitors.

Western car makers admitted the high prices of such cars were turning consumers off.

Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said carmakers were now investing large sums in designing cars that produced lower gas emissions, amid a global move to go green.

However, he bemoaned that customers were unwilling to fork out for the innovations.

“Customers are definitely paying more attention to CO2 emissions than they did a few years ago, but they are not necessarily paying for them,” Zetsche lamented.

VOLT PRODUCTION TO BE SUSPENDED

One case in point is General Motors' Volt hybrid, which was voted Car of the Year at the Geneva show, but which has had such a lacklustre reception in the United States that assembly lines will be temporarily shut down.

Last week GM said production of its electric Chevy Volt would be suspended for five weeks to reduce capacity in line with demand.

GM sold 8000 Volts in 2011, 2000 less than it had forecast for its first year.

Susan Doherty, president and managing director of Chevrolet Europe, defended the move to halt production, saying GM did not want to operate in old ways that brought it to bankruptcy in 2009.

She insisted, however, that “electricity is the way go in the future”. - AFP