India’s electric vehicle drive: Challenges and opportunities

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#61
Govt drops the idea of an India EV policy

New Delhi: The government has decided against formulating an electric vehicle (EV) policy in an apparent U-turn from its position so far, providing a breather to many carmakers that are unprepared for an abrupt shift to the clean-fuel technology.

“There is no need for any policy now,” Nitin Gadkari, minister for road transport, said at a press briefing on Thursday. He was addressing reporters along with Amitabh Kant, chief executive of government think tank NITI Aayog.

This is a remarkable volte-face, given that as recently as last month, Gadkari said the policy was awaiting approval from the union cabinet. He had earlier outlined the government’s ambitious plan to shift to electric vehicles by 2030. Companies such as Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd, the local unit of Toyota Motor Corp., have been publicly voicing concerns about the proposed India EV policy.

“What we need is just action plans,” said Kant, backing Gadkari’s stand on the policy.

“Everyday, new technology is coming into the market. Technology is always ahead of rules and regulations. And in India, it becomes very tough to change rules and regulations, so let there be just actions,” Kant said, explaining the reason behind the decision.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd chairman R.C. Bhargava said companies will now have the flexibility to choose a technology they want. “The fact that the government will allow the industry to work on any form of sustainable technology is itself a policy. So, if there isn’t a policy on electric vehicles, it is not a problem at all,” said Bhargava.

The government’s decision to have an EV policy had created uncertainty in the automobile industry for the past year, although several companies had outlined their strategies for EVs or lobbied the government to drop the idea.

“Implementing an EV policy package would need huge investments and with empty coffers, it is not possible for the government. So, the idea is left to the open market, manufacturers and the consumers,” a senior government official said,requesting anonymity.

Mahesh Babu, chief executive of Mahindra Electric Mobility Ltd, the country’s biggest EV maker, said the industry needs continued support from the government.

“We have already stated that the existing FAME (incentive) scheme should continue for another two years and electric vehicles should continue to be taxed at the current level. If these things continue, then there should not be a problem,” said Babu.

Electric vehicle sales are low in India because of few available models and a lack of charging infrastructure. Sales rose 37.5% to 22,000 units in fiscal 2016 from 16,000 in the previous year, according to automobile lobby group Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV). Only 2,000 of these were, however, cars and other four-wheelers.

To overcome some of the problems for electric vehicles, NITI Aayog, along with Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, in their 2017 report on the future of shared, electric and connected mobility future in India, had suggested setting up “a manufacturer consortium for batteries, common components, and platforms to develop battery cell technologies and packs and to procure common components for Indian original equipment manufacturers”.

The report said that adoption of electric and shared vehicles could help India save $60 billion in diesel and petrol, along with cutting down as much as 1 gigatonne of carbon emissions by 2030.
 

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#62
Govt drops the idea of an India EV policy

New Delhi: The government has decided against formulating an electric vehicle (EV) policy in an apparent U-turn from its position so far, providing a breather to many carmakers that are unprepared for an abrupt shift to the clean-fuel technology.

“There is no need for any policy now,” Nitin Gadkari, minister for road transport, said at a press briefing on Thursday. He was addressing reporters along with Amitabh Kant, chief executive of government think tank NITI Aayog.

This is a remarkable volte-face, given that as recently as last month, Gadkari said the policy was awaiting approval from the union cabinet. He had earlier outlined the government’s ambitious plan to shift to electric vehicles by 2030. Companies such as Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd, the local unit of Toyota Motor Corp., have been publicly voicing concerns about the proposed India EV policy.

“What we need is just action plans,” said Kant, backing Gadkari’s stand on the policy.

“Everyday, new technology is coming into the market. Technology is always ahead of rules and regulations. And in India, it becomes very tough to change rules and regulations, so let there be just actions,” Kant said, explaining the reason behind the decision.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd chairman R.C. Bhargava said companies will now have the flexibility to choose a technology they want. “The fact that the government will allow the industry to work on any form of sustainable technology is itself a policy. So, if there isn’t a policy on electric vehicles, it is not a problem at all,” said Bhargava.

The government’s decision to have an EV policy had created uncertainty in the automobile industry for the past year, although several companies had outlined their strategies for EVs or lobbied the government to drop the idea.

“Implementing an EV policy package would need huge investments and with empty coffers, it is not possible for the government. So, the idea is left to the open market, manufacturers and the consumers,” a senior government official said,requesting anonymity.

Mahesh Babu, chief executive of Mahindra Electric Mobility Ltd, the country’s biggest EV maker, said the industry needs continued support from the government.

“We have already stated that the existing FAME (incentive) scheme should continue for another two years and electric vehicles should continue to be taxed at the current level. If these things continue, then there should not be a problem,” said Babu.

Electric vehicle sales are low in India because of few available models and a lack of charging infrastructure. Sales rose 37.5% to 22,000 units in fiscal 2016 from 16,000 in the previous year, according to automobile lobby group Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV). Only 2,000 of these were, however, cars and other four-wheelers.

To overcome some of the problems for electric vehicles, NITI Aayog, along with Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, in their 2017 report on the future of shared, electric and connected mobility future in India, had suggested setting up “a manufacturer consortium for batteries, common components, and platforms to develop battery cell technologies and packs and to procure common components for Indian original equipment manufacturers”.

The report said that adoption of electric and shared vehicles could help India save $60 billion in diesel and petrol, along with cutting down as much as 1 gigatonne of carbon emissions by 2030.

Idiotic. GoI should atleast given out a policy. Policy should start now if we are to implement it by 2030's. Charging infrastructure in all office parking locations, Apartments, Airports, R. Stations, Battery factories, Electric cars specs could have been mentioned. Without govt push car companies will never change and they will sell Mehran in India if it had the opportunity.
 

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#64
Isro set to transfer tech on low-cost e-vehicle batteries to industry: Chief

Giving thrust to the Centre’s ambitious e-vehicle project with the objective of reducing air pollution and crude oil import, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is in the process of transferring the technology of the cheaper version of space batteries developed by it to the automobile industry for commercial use in e-vehicles.

In another development promoting outsourcing of space components, Isro has given Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), a PSU, the contract to manufacture 10,000 space cells per year for space applications.

Talking to TOI, Isro chairman Dr K Sivan said, “We have identified (developed) the technology to reduce the cost of space batteries to be used for e-vehicle production. Now, we are in the process of transferring the technology on low-cost batteries to the (automobile) industry for its commercial use with the help of NITI Aayog.”

Dr Sivan said, “Isro has developed four types of cells for space applications—1.5Ah, 5Ah, 50Ah and 100Ah. Out of the four cells, Isro had earlier allowed Automotive Research Association of India (an industrial automobile research association) to use 50Ah and 100Ah cells for developing prototypes of an e-scooter and an e-car, respectively. ARAI was satisfied with the performance of these prototypes. Therefore, Isro is now working to transfer the technology to the industry.” ARAI last year demonstrated the use of 50 Ah cells in two-wheelers that could run up to 98 km with a two-hour charge with speed of up to 40-50 kmph.

Isro’s move comes as a huge relief for the industry as Li-ion batteries are currently not manufactured commercially in the country but are imported from Japan or ChinaIn its objective to involve the industry in space projects, the Isro chairman said, “BHEL is ready to mass-produce indigenous 10,000 space cells per year for our space applications. In one rocket like GSLV or PSLV, 500 to 700 space cells are used. These cells are also used in satellites as well. In fact, Isro’s heaviest rocket GSLV MkIII-D1 launched on June 5 last year and the heaviest satellite Gsat-19 carried by it used indigenous space batteries.”

In January this year, the committee of secretaries led by cabinet secretary P K Sinha recommended that the power ministry should initiate “requisite power tariff and access policies” for enabling development of charging infrastructure, in consultation with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission and other agencies, official sources said. The committee also firmed up the strategy for increasing use of zero-emission vehicles to lower India’s dependence on oil imports and improve the air quality. Currently, India shells out Rs 7 lakh crore annually in crude oil imports.

The panel had also advised that “Isro may consider transferring” its lithium-ion battery technology used in electric vehicles to interested parties on a “non-discriminatory basis for commercialisation with Make in India condition”, after obtaining approval of the Space Commission and other authorities.
 

Ashwin

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#65
Mahindras, Ford to co-develop SUVs, electric vehicle

The Mahindra Group and Ford Motor Company have decided to jointly develop new SUVs (sports utility vehicles) and a small electric vehicle.

The two have just signed five new memoranda of understanding (MoU) to further strengthen their strategic alliance and accelerate the development of key products for consumers in India and emerging markets.

The MoUs, which are non-binding, mark a movement forward since the two announced their alliance in September 2017.

Many summers after their separation, Mahindra Group and Ford Motor Company returned to the table yet again in September last to explore a strategic alliance covering a gamut of areas ranging from product to technology and distribution.

As part of the agreement then, they decided that teams from both companies would collaborate and work together for a period of up to three years. “Any further strategic co-operation between the two will be decided at the end of that period,” said a joint release in Septermber last.

Thursday’s MoUs must be read in the context of this broader alliance agreement penned last year.

Under these initiatives, Mahindra and Ford will leverage its strengths in the utility vehicle space to co-develop a mid-size sports utility vehicle (C-SUV). Built on the Mahindra platform, the new SUV will drive engineering and commercial efficiencies and be sold independently by both companies as separate brands. Mahindras and Ford have also agreed to evaluate co-development of a compact SUV and electric vehicle, along with sharing power-train portfolios, including the supply of Mahindra power-trains to extend Ford’s product range.

The two have also announced plans to co-develop a suite of connected car solutions for consumers.
 

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#66
@Ashwin

Did you read about an article/ report of the pilot project between ola and Reva for the use of electrical cars? ... Not giving a good picture

Im trying to locate the same . will post this once i find it
 

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#67
Mahindra & Mahindra to roll out an electric hypercar designed by Italian firm Pininfarina

ROME: The late Italian designer Battista Pininfarina’s dream to make a luxury car with his badge will come true under its new Indian owner – Mahindra & Mahindra. On Friday the company announced an electric hypercar in 2020, with a lofty aim to rival the Bugatti Chiron and Lamborghinis in the electric segment, the car under development will be sold “just under 2-million euros” in limited numbers.
The 88-year-old Italian engineering and design house Pininfarina is a subsidiary of the Mahindra Group.
 

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#69
@Ashwin

Ola's sputtering electric vehicle trial a red flag for PM Modi's plan

Indian ride-hailing firm Ola's pilot project to test a fleet of electric vehicles in Nagpur was expected to herald a coming revolution in the Indian autos industry. So far, though, it has only exposed fractures in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitions to make all new vehicles electric by 2030.
With an initial investment of about $8 million, SoftBank-backed Ola launched the project last year at an event that had all the trappings of a state function, including a big gathering and flagging off by Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.
But nine months later, the program has hit a snag: Ola drivers, unhappy with long wait times at charging stations and high operating expenses, want to return their cars and switch to fuel-guzzling variants.
Out of 20 Ola electric car drivers interviewed by Reuters in Nagpur, more than a dozen said they have either returned their electric taxis and switched to diesel, or are planning to do so.
Ola had said it would make 50 charging points available across four locations in Nagpur - a city of about 2.5 million people - for its fleet of 200 electric vehicles, but on a visit to the city in late January, Reuters found only about a dozen charging points. Ola has since added 10 additional charging points but is still short of its target.
Ola did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Getting infrastructure built in the world's biggest democracy where a not-in-my-backyard culture proliferates is a barrier for a lot of businesses in India. And it is proving to be the same for charging stations - Ola was forced to close one in Nagpur last year after protests by residents angered by traffic jams caused by drivers. It took more than five months to get government clearances to begin operating another station.
The hurdles faced by Ola in setting up sufficient charging stations for a fleet of expensive electric cars with a limited driving range expose the challenges the Indian government and automakers will face if they are to get anywhere near realising the 2030 vision.
REPEATEDLY WARNED
Global auto makers have repeatedly warned that India is not ready for electrification, saying the government must first lay down a clear, long-term policy, provide incentives to encourage manufacturing of electric vehicles to bring down their cost and create the charging infrastructure.
Gadkari added to uncertainty when he said last month that the government will no longer draft a separate electric vehicle policy. He did not comment on the 2030 vision.
The Ola project has not turned out to be economically viable for either the company or its drivers, said one industry source familiar with Ola's strategy.
"The project's not flying as of now and the economics is not working out," the source said.
Electric car sales in India, one of the world's fastest-growing auto markets, made up less than 0.1 percent of annual sales of more than 3 million passenger cars. The lack of demand is mainly because they are expensive - due to high battery costs - and as their range is limited and there isn't a charging infrastructure.
By comparison, in China in 2017, electric vehicles made up about 2 percent of annual passenger car sales of 24.7 million.
The Indian government had been determined to promote electric vehicle use, starting with public transport and taxis, to combat rising pollution and reduce the nation's dependence on imported oil.
India's 2030 ambition was part of a broader move by countries like China and the United Kingdom, which have set similar goals. This has spurred billions of dollars in investments by carmakers like Volkswagen and Ford Motor even as many in the industry say they are unsure who will buy the massive numbers of electric vehicles governments want them to produce.
MAGNITUDE OF CHALLENGES
Mahindra & Mahindra is the only electric carmaker in India and the high cost of even its entry-level model, which starts at 760,000 rupees ($11,665) is a barrier for many first-time car buyers, and a non-starter for taxi drivers who can get a diesel or gasoline propelled car for about half the price.
Ola has deep pockets and while it has tied-up with Mahindra for the pilot project, its struggle to make the fleet viable in a small Indian city with much less congestion and space constraints than the biggest cities like Mumbai, underscores the magnitude of the challenges.
A shortage of stations and the limited range of cars - about 100 kilometers - has meant longer queues to recharge. During summer months when batteries discharge faster and need to be recharged more, the situation may worsen unless more charging points are added, said several drivers, none of whom wanted to be named as they feared retribution from the company.
The cars are owned by Ola and leased to drivers for 1,000 rupees a day, but many complain that the amount is too high and they need to work for 12-16 hours to make a decent living, given they waste 3-4 hours a day on charging.
One of the drivers said that after paying Ola the rent for the car and shelling out 500-600 rupees per day for charging, he is left with about 500 rupees ($7.71) at the end of a 14-hour day giving him little time to rest or spend with his family.
"If they don't give us the (charging) facility, why should we drive these cars," said the driver, who had just spent an hour waiting for his turn to charge the car, and would have to wait for another 90 minutes while it charges.
Ola founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal told Reuters last April that the company would pilot a few thousand electric vehicles in several Indian cities in 2017 and then scale up in a major way. However, almost a year later it has still to take the experiment beyond Nagpur.
HUGE RISKS
At India's biennial auto show in February, electric cars took centre stage but most were at a concept stage or sold only in global markets as automakers like Toyota, Honda and Renault took a circumspect approach to the new tilt toward electrification.
"Once we make an investment there are huge risks," said Akito Tachibana, managing director of Toyota's India arm, adding as of now there is no clarity on who would buy such cars and what incentives the government will offer.
Charging infrastructure is a big piece of the puzzle that needs to be resolved for EVs to be viable - India has only about 222 charging stations with 353 charging points, according to a January report by global consultancy EY.
Analysts estimate it costs between $500 and $25,000 to set up a station, and that comes on top of expensive land purchases needed to build them. The ministry of heavy industries estimates a subsidy worth 140 billion rupees ($2.2 billion) will be needed to promote EVs and charging infrastructure.
Automakers argue in the near-term the government should make land available and invest in building stations, while over the longer-term it would need to offer incentives to private investors.
One additional problem is that, unlike in Western countries, most car owners in India do not have garages, or formal parking where chargers for cars could be installed.
Another issue is lack of a long-term policy, outlining incentives, which has helped countries like China push electric vehicle sales. Government wrangling over policy formulation in India is making it difficult for carmakers to plan investments.
"Any distraction from the single-minded focus to draw a plan for introducing electric vehicles is going to make this a long-lasting exercise that might not attract the attention of the right kind of investors," cautions Guenter Butschek, managing director at Tata Motors.

Ola's sputtering electric vehicle trial a red flag for PM Modi's plan
 
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#70
Local governments will have to be aggressive in promoting EVs for public transport. Most non air-conditioned buses ply for around 20-30 km at a time with a 10-15 minute breaks, ideal for short depth of charge charging to increase charge cycles. While Tata has a couple of EV models, local city corporations have weirdly purchased Chinese buses to demonstrate the viability of electric fleets, one being the BEST-BYD collaboration in Mumbai. Absence of tailpipe emissions is a huge positive but GHG emissions remain high because of energy intensive mining needed for cobalt/nickel/lithium, etc., not because of coal/natural gas sourced energy.
 

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Maruti Suzuki set to drive in biggest ever capacity expansion in India
Japanese carmaker Suzuki Motor Corp. plans to expand production capacity by as many as 2.5 million cars a year in the decade to 2030 as it lays the groundwork to maintain its dominance in India, where it sells one in two cars.

The capacity expansion, the biggest ever planned by Suzuki or its local unit in India, will be divided into two phases, two people aware of the plans said, requesting anonymity. Suzuki will first expand its Gujarat plant by adding capacity to make 750,000 cars starting 2020. In the second phase, it will build a new plant, Suzuki’s fourth after those in Gurgaon, Manesar and Gujarat. The new factory, location of which has not been identified, will have a capacity of approximately 1.5 million units and is expected to be announced around 2025, the people said.
On completion of the two phases, Suzuki’s total vehicle manufacturing capacity in India will be about 4.5 million or more than double the 1.75 million vehicles it makes now (1.5 million in Gurgaon and Manesar and 250,000 in Gujarat).

The management of Maruti Suzuki told some suppliers about the expansion plan at a recent meeting in Abu Dhabi.
Maruti Suzuki plans to sell 5 million passenger vehicles annually by 2030, Osamu Suzuki, chairman of Maruti’s parent, said at a post-earnings conference call earlier this month. An email sent to Maruti Suzuki on Tuesday remained unanswered till press time.

By 2025, Maruti Suzuki aims to sell 3 million units—about the current size of the Indian market.
“Suzuki plans to invest in expanding its existing capacity in Gujarat, otherwise it will be difficult to meet the three million-mark by 2025. The company is also planning how to maintain the dominance beyond that period, for which they need another plant,” said one of the two people cited above.

Production of the new version of the Ciaz—a mid-size sedan—expected to be launched in 2020, will be shifted to the Gujarat plant as well, this person added. According to the second person, who was also present at the annual vendor conference, the management has told vendors about its plan to hold on to its 50% market share and implicitly, this means that investment in the future capacity is in the offing.

Suzuki intends to invest $1.5 billion in research and development, mostly to ward off competition from Korean and European rivals in India. Mint reported earlier that Suzuki is also looking to invest in developing a range of hybrid vehicles and more efficient gasoline engines for the domestic market in the next decade.
Maruti Suzuki set to drive in biggest ever capacity expansion in India
 

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#74
To encourage the growth of the electric vehicle (EV) industry in India, the government has developed a two-pronged strategy aimed at both buyers and manufacturers: $1.4 billion in subsidies are to be offered, followed by a hike on import tariffs within the next year to spur domestic companies to build the vehicles.


The new policy, which was cleared by the cabinet late last month but the details of which were not available till now, kicks in with the new financial year in April. The scheme promises to lay out $1.4 billion in subsidies over three years for electric buses, three-wheelers, four-wheelers that are registered as commercial vehicles as well as private motorbikes and scooters.


Unlike other countries where the incentives for EVs has been focused on personal vehicles like those produced by Tesla, India, where less than four million cars are sold annually, is instead focusing on its public transport system. Hence the primary aim of the policy on subsidies for buses and three-wheelers as well as two-wheelers, a hugely popular, and affordable, mode of transport.


While EVs are still a negligible component of the country's current transport system, several Indian companies, including Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland among others have begun making electric cars, autorickshaws and buses (as well as two-wheelers) that run on lithium-ion batteries.


The latest policy is meant to boost that industry.


Of the $1.4 billion, about $1.2 billion has been earmarked for subsidies, $140 million for charging infrastructure and some $5 million for administrative expenses and advertising. The balance $50 million is money that was committed in the existing policy which expires March, 2019.


Of this, subsidies are available for up to one million two-wheelers, 500,000 three-wheelers, 35,000 cars, 20,000 strong hybrids (vehicles that can run on petrol, electricity or both) and 7,090 buses. To ensure that the subsidies are not being used for high-end vehicles like Teslas (not that it is currently available in India), the policy stipulates a price cap for each category of vehicles. For instance, cars that cost more than $21,000 are not eligible for the subsidies.


Subsidies are also available for plug-in hybrids and strong hybrid four-wheelers and will be capped at 40% for buses and 20% for all other vehicles.


Since the cost of batteries is what makes EVs prohibitively expensive for most consumers, the policy offers subsidies based on battery capacity–$140 per per kilowatt-hour for all vehicles excluding buses. The latter will get a subsidy double that amount.


State governments, too, are expected to offer a combination of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to further encourage the adoption of EVs. Non-fiscal incentives include a waiver or reduction in road taxes, toll tax, parking fees, registration charges, among others.


As part of its push to encourage local manufacturing, the government has also laid out a phased manufacturing roadmap. "The intention is to substantially increase value addition and capacity building within the country," according to a statement from the government.


Under this, for instance, customs duty on imported buses and trucks will be doubled to 50% from April 2020, while those on passenger vehicles and three-wheelers that are imported as partially assembled units will be doubled to 30% from the same period. Similarly, a 15% tariff will be imposed on lithium-ion cells and battery packs as well as parts intended for use in manufacturing EVs including chargers and electric compressors from April 2021.

India Offers $1.4 Billion In Subsidies To Support The Domestic Electric Vehicle Industry
 

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#75
Tata Motors Starts the Supply of 40 Electric Buses to AICTSL
Tata Motors, after Lucknow (LCTSL) and Kolkata (WBTC), has recently started the supply of 40 units of the Ultra 9m AC Electric buses to the Atal Indore City Transport Service Limited (AICTSL) in a phased manner and will be delivered over the next 2 months. The first Ultra 9/9m AC Electric bus for Madhya Pradesh was recently flagged off in Indore by Jaivardhan Singh – Cabinet Minister of Urban Development Minister and Housing, Jitu Patwari - Cabinet Minister for Higher Education, Sports and Youth Affairs of Madhya Pradesh, Ashish Singh - Commissioner Indore Municipal Corporation Indore, Sandeep Soni - CEO, Atal Indore City Transport Service Limited (AICTSL) along with dignitaries from Tata Motors.

Manufactured at Tata Motors and Tata Marcopolo Dharwad plants, the Ultra Electric buses will have a travelling range of up to 150 kilometres on a single charge. The company has installed a charging station at the Indore main bus depot for fast charging of buses. The indigenously developed vehicle offers a superior design with state-of-the-art features. Li-ion batteries have been placed on the rooftop to prevent breakdown due to waterlogging. The batteries are liquid cooled to maintain the temperature within an optimum range and ensure longer life along with better performance in tropical conditions.

The Ultra Electric buses are air-conditioned, have modern interiors and comfortable seats for 31 passengers. As an industry first, there will be air suspension for both front and rear axles to make travel more comfortable for the commuters. Integrated electric motor generator with a peak power of 333HP can deliver 197HP continuously ensuring effortless driving in congested roads and frequent start stops needing no shifting of gears. The critical electrical traction components have been sourced from internationally known best-in-class suppliers in USA, Germany and China offering proven products. The buses have been tested and validated by Tata Motors across states including Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Assam and Maharashtra to establish performance in diverse terrains.

The company has tenders to supply 255 electric buses to six public transport undertakings including WBTC (West Bengal), LCTSL (Lucknow), AICTSL (Indore), ASTC (Guwahati), J&KSRTC (Jammu) and JCTSL (Jaipur). In addition to this, the company is also working on developing its electric mini-bus segment in the near future.
Tata Motors Starts the Supply of 40 Electric Buses to AICTSL
 

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#76
IIT Hyderabad-Incubated Startup Set to Launch High-Performance Electric Two-Wheelers
By
Longjam Dineshwori -April 30, 2019

1556975677599.png

Picture credit: PuREenergy website

The company aims to deploy over 10,000 electric vehicles on road during 2019-20. It has established a new facility at IIT Hyderabad campus for large scale production of electric vehicles and electric batteries.

PuREenergy, an Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad-incubated startup, has developed long-range, high-performance electric two-wheelers specifically designed for Indian conditions and plans to commercially launch them across the country next month.

Pure EV is the electric vehicle vertical of PuREnergy that manufactures high performance Lithium batteries. It is launching four models – Egnite, Etrance, Epluto and Etron.

The startup, which aims to deploy over 10,000 electric vehicles on road during 2019-20, is developing a network of channel partners to commercially launch the vehicles across the country.

The company has also established an 18,000-sqft state-of-the-art facility, co-located with IIT Hyderabad, for large scale production of electric vehicles and electric batteries.
Collaborating with other EV startups
PuREenergy founder Nishanth Dongari revealed that they are working on further development of active thermal management systems, vehicle aerodynamics and lighter weight faster chargers.

This, he said, will enable them to launch high-speed electric vehicles in the future.
The company has extended collaboration with other EV startups to develop and supply high voltage lithium batteries for three and four-wheeler applications, according to Nishanth Dongari.

Meanwhile, Rohit Vadera, Chief Executive Officer, PURE EV, informed that the company has obtained Automotive Research Association of India approvals for electric bikes and two-wheelers.

“Our electric vehicles offer cost savings over traditional ICE vehicles with running costs as low as 5 paise/km. We are working actively for channel development and aim to deploy more than 10,000 units of our various models in the current financial year,” he told The Hindu.

PuREenergy Set to Launch High-Performance Electric Two-Wheelers
 

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#78
Electric two-wheelers becoming mainstream by 2025 is easily achievable: Ather Energy founders

Ather Energy founders have an ecosystem approach to solve India's EV issues. Here's how they plan to do it.
Nimish SawantJun 14, 2019 12:22:16 IST

India’s Electric Vehicle (EV) ambitions are always in a flux.

While earlier government regulations hinted at 100 percent electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2030, that target now stands at 30 percent. Last year, then transport minister Nitin Gadkari and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant were quoted as saying that India does not need any EV policy at the moment, but just action plans.

The roads are still dominated by fossil fuel guzzling vehicles and two-wheelers. In the latest report from CNBC TV18, the transport ministry is planning to release a draft which ensures that the government only allows the sale of electric three-wheelers from April 2023 onwards and only electric two-wheelers from April 2025 onwards.

While these back and forth government notifications continue to bubble up on our news feed, we are seeing the rise of electric scooter startups in India. It looks like existing two-wheeler makers are too attached to their core markets to experiment with electric two-wheelers. As recently as this week, scooter makers, Bajaj and TVS Motor Company expressed displeasure at the government's over-ambitious plans regarding electric scooters.


Ather Energy

In such a scenario, it's the EV startups who are evangelising the adoption of electric bikes in India. According to this study conducted with around 2,178 participants across the country, around 87 percent of two-wheeler drivers were willing to switch to an EV.

Bengaluru-based Ather Energy is easily one of the hottest among the electric two-wheeler startups. Its founders, Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, feel that having only electric two-wheelers on Indian roads by 2025 is 'eminently doable.'

The Ather 450 electric scooter is already seen on Bengaluru roads and has impressed auto reviewers with its performance. Along with their Ather charging stations and a connected dashboard on each scooter, Ather has created a smart connected ecosystem. It’s no surprise that Ather is managing to get sustained funding. From 2014 to now, Ather has raised a sum total of $91 mn, with a majority of it coming from the latest Series C funding from Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal amounting to $51 mn. In the past, Hero MotoCorp has also invested Rs 180 crore in Ather Energy. After starting off in Bengaluru last year, Ather Energy is now all set to enter Chennai from this month.

We spoke to Ather Energy founders Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, former IIT-Madras alumna turned cleantech entrepreneurs about Ather’s journey so far and its plans for India’s EV future.

Edited excerpts from the interview follow.

tech2: Tell us about the journey of Ather Energy from a concept to a well-funded company.

Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain (Ather Energy - AE): We started in 2013 and back then, we believed that the batteries were the bottleneck for electric vehicles (EVs) and thought that using lead-acid battery technology didn’t make a lot of sense if you wanted to be a serious player. Economically, it didn’t make sense as it kept going bad every six to eight months. So initially, we thought we would address the battery technology problem. But as we got deeper into this, we realised that the complete vehicle experience itself was the problem. There was no clear technical understanding as a lot of the EVs were just an assembly of components being bought from China and assembled in India. These vehicles were difficult to fix when something went wrong and things would go wrong quite often. So eventually, it meant that people were not really thinking of EVs seriously. For most, it was just a toy. In such circumstances, it wouldn’t make sense to just work on battery tech as the market would be insignificant for that.

We started with the intention of creating battery tech, but that lasted for two months. We took jobs after graduation, but we were still looking at the EV space even when in college and had also done some projects around it. Tarun was quite interested in this space. Eventually, we discussed further and decided this was worth following.


Swapnil Jain and Tarun Mehta, co-founders of Ather Energy. Image: Ather Energy

tech2: This was around 2013-14. Were there any international implementations in this space you were looking at, apart from Tesla?

Ather Energy: Well, there were a lot of niche players in the segment who were making really expensive vehicles, but there was nothing for the mass market. Tesla was the only known name, but Model S was launched in 2012, so it was still catching up even in international markets.

One thing we wanted to address was the performance gap. People did not like EVs as they would not give a comparable performance with their petrol/diesel counterparts.

But as a startup, you cannot really just offer a replacement for existing technology, because there is always an inertia to move from a comfort zone of using a petrol powered vehicle to an electric vehicle. There had to be something disruptive. Coincidentally, at that point in time, even though it was not very clear, there was a slow rise in the interest of connected and smart vehicles. We had seen how connectivity and an operating system approach had completely disrupted the mobile phone industry. But that hadn’t translated well into automotive. Yes, there was something happening on the four-wheeler side, but absolutely nothing happening with the two-wheelers. We saw a gap there as technologically nothing new was happening with two-wheelers.

We realised that whatever was happening in the smart and connected tech in four-wheelers (which was itself at a slow pace), could be rapidly adapted to two-wheelers, which could completely change the ownership experience around the vehicle. Once you have connectivity and operating system on to the vehicle, there are so many things you can do. In 2014, we came out with our second prototype which had connectivity. Our first prototype before that had a rudimentary GSM connectivity as well.

We started off with one very simple feature which we wanted on the vehicle and that was navigation. In the current setup, you have to use your phone for it, and if you are on a two-wheeler, you either look at the map when you are riding (which is dangerous) or stop the two-wheeler at regular intervals and navigate the path. With our earlier prototypes, we just had a Nexus 7 tablet as our dashboard, double sided taped to the vehicle and we were driving with it around Chennai.

People would notice that it’s electric and even those that didn’t, saw a tablet and understood that was meant for navigation. That’s something everyone connected with. So that was like our first driving use-case. Now navigation requires connectivity, a good amount of processing power and a good interface. Once we had these three things in place, we realised that there was so much more we could do such as a digital speedometer, connecting power-train to our central processor, battery performance tracking and much more.

Then we started figuring out more use cases for the end user — tracking your vehicle in real time, tracking the health of the vehicle, health of the components, putting your driving license on the vehicle’s display, toggling between riding modes and much more. It basically lets us push a ton of personalisation on the vehicle catered to your needs.

tech2: Has there been a tremendous change in battery technology over the years in this space?

Ather Energy: Battery technology has changed significantly in the past 10 years. There has been a fall in the cost of battery, not just because of scale, but also because there have been innovations in this segment pertaining to battery chemistry, ease in manufacturing technologies and so on. We are seeing more energy-dense batteries, that means what would require a 500-cell battery can now be done by a 200-cell battery. Which means you have suddenly become more efficient. The amount of effort required to make one cell remains constant, but now you are able to get more out of it. This is something that is not very well known to everyone.

At Ather, we are trying to adapt these cells to the Indian conditions as they are not very well designed to work in the Indian context, especially in this heat which is a variable. The other challenge for a two-wheeler maker like us is that it also can’t be expensive and we have to pay attention to the thermal management of the battery. You can’t just strap a cooler to do that as that will increase costs.

Now that our vehicles are on the street, it is even better to understand what kind of performance people expect from us and where we need to fine tune it. While designing the Ather scooters, we just went by gut feeling and tried to match the gasoline pattern with the EV pattern. That’s not a correct way to go about it, but we didn’t have enough data back then. Since the scooters are connected to our secure cloud, we have enough data to play around with now and push relevant fine-tuned OTA updates to our scooters. So it's a combination of both the inherent technology of the battery and how the data which is coming in and helping us to even reinforce that and make it even better.

tech2: How many Ather scooters are out on the street?


Ather 450 dashboard. Image: Ather Energy

Ather Energy: We can’t reveal exact sales numbers, but we have been delivering a few hundred scooters since January. Since March, there has also been a price drop thanks to new FAME II guidelines which raised the subsidy on EVs. These vehicles would be cumulatively clocking over a million kilometres every month, in Bengaluru. We must actually be collecting more data than probably any OEM before this, as there haven’t been any connected two-wheelers before us.

(Also Read: FAME II Guidelines: Can the auto industry match up to govt's drive towards an EV future?)

tech2: What is done post the data collection?

Ather Energy: First of all, from the customer point of view, we try and fix any failures that may have been there and try and address what the customer wants. We are analysing the vehicle data that is coming to our servers and fine-tuning the algorithms. So, for instance, initially, we had certain set rules as to how quickly the fan should cool the battery in order to ensure not too much power is used. But after getting vehicle data, we realised that it does not affect the battery or range that drastically, so we tweaked the settings.

We can change the battery management settings (BMS) which increases the depth of discharge. This means you can effectively increase the total range that you can get as an end customer. So a lot of stuff around the system models has improved.

Since launching over the air updates, we have changed the UI, added more driving modes, given more information around efficiency and have been able to resolve a whole bunch of bugs. In the latest update, we can allow you to track every single ride which we have noticed has started changing people’s driving patterns. So for instance, every time you ride, you will see what was your efficiency for the previous ride and if you don’t like that, how can things change and what range will you get. So we are trying to gamify the user experience. We have also noticed that while earlier our average range was around 64-65 km per charge, now that has increased to 70 km. This is just the third month and we have an 18-month pipeline with almost 100 updates and all of them get delivered to the end customers.

tech2: What are some of the challenges you have faced since launch or before launch?

Ather Energy: India is a very different market and luckily, we don’t have a car infrastructure like in international developed markets. In India, 80 percent of the vehicles on the road are two-wheelers and they will bring about a change in this electric sector. The good news is that setting up the charging infrastructure for two-wheelers is ridiculously simple as compared to cars. The overall investment to create that capacity is also significantly lower, so we will leapfrog in the sense that there is no worry of replacing cars and there aren’t that many cars on Indian roads to begin with.

We think the major roadblock is the lack of good products. You need credible replacements. We think customers need electric vehicles that are better than their petrol counterparts, that is the main barrier. And that isn’t a very high barrier. Not everyone is riding 1000cc bikes on our roads, they are all 100cc bikes which is an entry-level market.

The second thing is just pure capacity. You want to quickly ratchet up to 25-30 million annual capacity for electric two-wheelers. In the short term that is going to be the real limiting step. If we are able to manage, then 100 percent electrification of two-wheelers by 2030 is very easily doable because the minute cost economics work out, the market can transform in 3-4 years.

tech2: Could you elaborate on what you mean, when you say it is much easier to set up a charging infrastructure for scooters as compared to four-wheelers? Give me a rough comparative cost breakup.

Ather Energy: Scooters don’t need the kind of power that a fast-charging electric car would. For instance, fast-charging an electric car could be a 100-200 kW setup, which means an investment of Rs 1 crore or more. Fast charging an electric scooter is like a 6-7 kW setup which would cost in multiples of Rs 10,000. So that’s the difference we are talking about. The cost of the hardware is significantly affordable for electric two-wheelers. So right now we have around 33 charging stations in Bengaluru and we plan to have 200 stations in the next couple of years. This is eminently doable because of the low cost of the hardware.


Ather charging station. Image: Ather Energy

tech2: Don't you have worries about big name scooter makers competing with you in the electric two-wheeler space, thanks to their massive manufacturing plants and distribution channels across India?

Ather Energy: We think in today’s world, manufacturing is becoming a commodity and we don’t think that’s a limiting factor any longer. We think what matters is what customers love and building a solid ecosystem for them, so that they will really value and buy into your vision. Manufacturing is required yes, but it doesn’t decide things. A lot of people thought that we will just design and won’t be able to set up a plant, but we have done it, of course with its set of challenges. We are able to ramp up our production now and reduce waiting times.

As a company, what becomes really valuable for us is the experience we are uniquely positioned to deliver. Which is why we have an extreme focus on batteries and charging infrastructure, focus on software and upgrading experience because that is something no one else is offering and we see a value there.

If you can build that out very well and if people get used to this idea that vehicles improve over time, that the operational costs are lower, the resale value is far higher as compared to petrol vehicles because the batteries are phenomenally built and the charging infrastructure is ubiquitous, then that’s an advantage we have over others. We want to make an infrastructure where you are never far from a charging point, and we want to get down the charging times to a few minutes. If we can pull this off, then we have built a solid ecosystem that all works together. That’s why our company is called Ather Energy and not Ather Motors, as we don’t think our job is to manufacture vehicles, that is just one of our tasks. We want to make sure the larger ecosystem is good and the ones building it will get a lot of value.

tech2: So are you saying that Ather Energy would be open to licensing its technology to other mainstream brands?

Ather Energy: At this point in time that is not the focus.

tech2: Do you plan to continue going through the retail sales route or are you planning to get into electric two-wheeler fleets which can be used by establishments such as delivery startups?

Ather Energy: I think whoever does a lot of km daily, electric is a great fit for them. Delivery businesses could see sufficient operational efficiencies if they switched to electric scooters. I think the ride-sharing segment needs electric vehicles like this. Ather is a very strong consumer brand, so we will only go after opportunities where we can maintain that final touch with the consumer as that’s important to us. So maybe building electric scooters for food delivery businesses may not be a right fit for Ather. Ride-sharing a phenomenal opportunity. So yes, there are different segments but today we are focussed on the consumers.

tech2: In building the electric charging infrastructure, does Ather Energy plan to build all the charging points or are you looking at partners who would build that infrastructure and offer Charging-As-A-Service?

Ather Energy: We don’t want people to look at charging as a separate service. We have decided that we will build the charging points but it has to be looked at as an infrastructure which the location is providing. So with our partners, we have a clear understanding — we won’t charge you anything, you don’t charge us anything. The only thing the customer will pay for is the electricity which they consume and nothing other than that. We don’t want to offer that as a service, as then it will be difficult to scale up

tech2: But wouldn’t it assist with scaling up the setting of charging infrastructure, if someone who owns a space just comes forward and offers to take care of the setting up of the infrastructure for you which will be Ather branded?

Ather Energy: At the start, when you are still creating a market if you have too many folks who are dependent on economics in the early stage, you ironically kill the market before it takes off. Either you can subsidise everybody and give everyone an economic concept to work with and pay everyone a fixed amount so that they don’t deliver a bad service. Or you change the incentives in the early days.

So instead of incentivising them with regards to how many people will use the charging points, we are focussing on the brand association. That’s why Ather charging points look the way they do. We want to project that we are a cool brand and the place where our points are, say a coffee shop, you may very well park your Ather scooter for charging and go in and have a cup of coffee, so the locations are earning that way.

The first thousand or so people who buy Ather scooters are going to be these really early adopters, who any place who is associated with Ather charging stations would like to know about their place. So that’s the incentive we are looking at with partners. We are helping them with positive word of mouth and indirect business.

tech2: Ather battery, is it removable or fixed? And say if I am not near an Ather charging station, how do I charge it?

Ather Energy: The battery is fixed. Ather Charging stations provide fast charging which takes one hour. But if you are not near a station, and you are fine with slow charging with takes around 2.5 hours for the full charge. You can charge it on any 5V socket, the same that you use for your mobile phone is good enough.


Ather Energy Plans

tech2: What are the additional costs after buying an Ather scooter?

Ather Energy: Charging is free at Ather Charging stations for the first year. We do have subscription plans for all our data and connectivity capabilities. There's a plan called Ather One which is around Rs 700 per month or Rs 8,400 a year and offers service around your vehicle which includes home charging, public charging, vehicle servicing and connected services. In addition to this, there are data-based features such as over the air updates offering a lot of personalisation and UI improvements. Then there is remote or road-side assistance. This plan ensures that everything is taken care of after you purchase your scooter. It is always connected, upgraded, completely serviced consumables agreement. We also reimburse you when you don’t charge at Ather stations.

tech2: You say Ather scooters are made in India, but do we have the infrastructure to make all the parts that go into an electric scooter?

Ather Energy: The only part that needs to be imported in the forseeable future is lithium-ion cells. We manufacture the batteries locally in our assembly plants, but cell manufacturing requires dedicated plants which is a multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment. So that may take a while to happen in India. We have some good electronics manufacturers and obviously, the automotive supply chain is a well-oiled machinery.

tech2: Are scooters the only products that will come out of Ather or are you also looking at electric bikes for instance?

Ather Energy: I think the ultimate aim is to build these technology stacks and for consumers, we are building a strong experience. After we have stabilised with the scooters we want to take it to every form factor. I think once our stack is stable, we can scale it to all form factors.

tech2: When you say stack, do you mean from an energy perspective?

Ather Energy: There are two parts. There’s the entire power frame that is the battery, battery management system, charger, motor controller and so on. A super stable stack is not something that’s just more efficient but also a lot cheaper than everybody else.

The second has to do with the data and connectivity, right from the OS and how the data gets uploaded and how it is processed. We are planning to build an ecosystem, so we are getting a lot of requests from developers who want to build a layer on top of our OS. For example, a location-based checklist which drops a pin on a map. This can be associated with a task that you have to do as you cross those points, such as picking up groceries from the supermarket on your way home as your scooter approaches it. So basically building an architecture on which anyone can plug in their apps.

tech2: What are your views on the FAME II guidelines? Is subsidising EVs the only way forward? Any scope for improvements that you feel are there?

Ather Energy: One shouldn’t just look at the demand subsidy on the FAME guidelines, which by the way are very good. But it is actually incentivising a lot of strong behavioural changes among OEMs. For example, the list of qualifiers clearly mandates that you have to move your production locally. That creates a requirement that if you don't have all the technologies available locally, the supply chain has to be created, so a lot of local intellectual property (IP) will have to be created if you can't import vehicles, right? It very strongly incentivizes a certain battery size, which in turn has an impact on what kind of performance these vehicles have. So by mandating a certain kind of battery size and a certain type of battery, you've created all of those requirements together. This will have long term implications for the industry and the kind of companies will come up. For battery chemistry, which we have always been investing in, this is massive. So there is an incentive towards better battery chemistry and a bigger battery that directly benefits the kind of products that we want to build. If you incentivise local production, then you also indirectly incentivise local IP creation and local engineering which is the right thing to do. This will ensure that the auto companies coming out of India will be very different from the earlier generations.

tech2: Since the battery module is fixed in the vehicles, what are the kind of charge/recharge cycles we are looking at?

Ather Energy: We have done north of 50,000 km on the vehicle that’s holding up very strong. We can’t share exact numbers but we offer more charge/recharge cycles than we have promised.

tech2: How many kilometres of tests had you done before launching the Ather 450 in the market?

Ather Energy: Anywhere from 0.5-1 million km. There are various ways in which we test, such as on-road testing, in-lab testing which represents on-road conditions.


Representational image of a scooter factory. Image: Reuters

tech2: How do you see this space evolving over the next couple of years given the strong fossil-fuel-powered auto lobby in India? Do you feel that there is a resistance to switch to EVs or you see more players entering the EV space?

Ather Energy: Incumbents will always have resistance to changing the status quo which is working for them. Two-wheeler makers, we feel, are seeing the writing on the wall. We will be surprised if any board members of two-wheeler companies are still on the fence about electric scooters. As soon as the consumers start adopting electric vehicles, that’s it, the market will start flipping. You can’t hold the customer back. If customers like our product, everything such as supply chain, production, etc will fall in line.

tech2: What happens if there is an issue with your electric bike? Who does your consumer go to?

Ather Energy: Right now, you don’t go anywhere. We will come to you to resolve any issues. Once the number of vehicles on the road crosses 10,000, we will have multiple points in the city where you can get your vehicle, but that’s still a while away. That infrastructure is quite stable now.

tech2: Do customers have the option to opt out of data sharing?

Ather Energy: We have an incognito mode. Vehicle based data will be collected, as we need that to send you the right updates and ensure the vehicles are giving you the right mileage. But we don’t store personally identifiable data. We are not in the business of selling your data for ads, so we don’t need to know that.

tech2: Do you feel India is ready for an electric bike/scooter sharing ecosystem yet?

Ather Energy: Yes definitely. Electric scooter sharing will be huge as it brings down the high upfront cost of owning a vehicle and you only pay kilometre wise. This is quite attractive as compared to paying for petrol or diesel. We don’t think any electric vehicle company tomorrow, you can’t just be building pure EVs, you will have to build a complete ecosystem. You will need connectivity as that is what opens up a lot of actual values. If you don’t offer the upgrades on time, your EV will always look stale in comparison. The sharing ecosystem needs EVs for the economics and the connectivity for its vehicles to allow the thousands of assets to be seamlessly distributed along with allowing tracking and monitoring.


Electric two-wheelers becoming mainstream by 2025 is easily achievable: Ather Energy founders- Technology News, Firstpost