The battle to roll out green and clean electric vehicles is growing in India. In a bid to capture the local market, several Indian and global manufacturers have been pushing their most eco-friendly solutions over the past few months – be it Terra Motors, Clean Motion or Kinetic Green Energy and Power.
Not to be left out of the reckoning, in early February, Sweden’s Clean Motion had flagged off commercial operations of its electric commercial vehicle to provide last-mile connectivity in the DLF Cyberhub in Gurgaon, Haryana under an agreement with DLF.
Operational for the past month, Clean Motion is now expanding its footprint to Jaipur, Noida and Agra over the next three months based on a cluster approach. In Agra, it is tying up with five-star hotels to offer trips to the world famous Taj Mahal; in Jaipur a partnership with the Jaipur metro as well as to provide exclusive services within the walled city to decongest traffic are in the pipeline. In Noida, the company’s association with its format partner will be extended from the DLF Mall of India to the metro station.
Come September, the Swedish firm will expand its reach to the cities of Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bangalore through a franchisee model for which it is currently in discussions. “In Bangalore, realty developers have approached us,” Anil Arora, Country Head, Clean Motion India, told Autocar Professional in an exclusive interaction.
Clean Motion has so far invested over $1 million (Rs 6.3 crore) in its Indian operations and is mulling an additional investment of another $10 million (Rs 63 crore) by 2017 for expanding its pan-India penetration. The company is currently listed at the NASDAQ in Sweden and has also initiated an IPO there for raising a capital of $5 million (Rs 31.58 crore) that will be expended on its manufacturing facility at Faridabad in Haryana as well as on capital expenditure for running the Indian operations.
Apart from this, another round of fund raising will mop up another $10 million for capex requirements as the company grows in the country. For this it plans to access private equity through several green funds in India for which talks are underway.
While the company’s Faridabad facility will feed the northern consumer demands, micro-partners will be roped in for extending the reach further into the country.
Under the agreement with DLF, Zbees will function from various retail formats in Delhi-NCR. But Arora says restrictions exist in operating the electric vehicle in Delhi, this related to a cap on autorickshaws. Since CNG and electric autorickshaws have been all clubbed under the same category, the existing status quo will continue until there is a clear segregation.
Local manufacture in the offing
Homologated by ICAT Manesar and certified by government authorities as an electric vehicle with a registered numberplate, about 100 Zbees per month are slated to be locally assembled at Faridabad but later local manufacturing is being envisaged. The Zbee is currently imported as a CKD kit from Sweden.
Thanks to a fibre reinforced plastic body, this EV is lightweight at around 270kg, which enables it to strike a balance between its light body structure and safety requirements.
The Zbee comes with an advanced lithium ion battery and a full charge that allows it to be driven for up to 50km. It can be recharged within two hours. Subsequently, a rapid charging device will be introduced that will facilitate a recharge within 30 minutes. The company claims that three Zbees can be fitted into a single parking space, thereby saving space.
Energy efficient and environment friendly with zero emissions, the Zbee’s operating cost is claimed to be 30 percent of that of a fossil fuel vehicle. It can seat two passengers and the driver and has a top speed of 45kph. In addition, it comes with a parking brake to prevent thefts.
“We all know that fossil fuel-run vehicles have contributed significantly in adding the carbon footprint and emissions in our environment. To combat this, we started developing technology which is lean, clean and safe and can be a potential alternative transport solution and this led to the Zbee,” Goran Folkesson, CEO of Clean Motion, had said at the launch on February 10 in New Delhi.
The company’s target is to achieve about 70 percent localisation of parts over the next 6-8 months so as to bring down the production cost by 2017. At present the Zbee costs Rs 5 lakh and with indigenisation the product cost is expected to come down by 50 percent within a year.
The Faridabad production unit can roll out around 3,000-5,000 units annually and a new modern manufacturing plant is expected to have an annual production capacity of 5,000 units as well. The target is to set up multiple micro-factories for producing the Zbee in close proximity to its customers as it expands across the country.
At a rough estimate, each micro factory will require an area of 500-1000 square metres and involve an investment of Rs 4 crore, producing 5,000 units annually. Franchisees will be tasked with marketing the Zbee.
At present, many components like the windscreen and tyres are locally procured while the lithium ion battery is imported. Going forward, while battery cells will continue to be made by large Korean and Japanese companies overseas, packaging will be handled in India. These big cell manufacturers have a packaging partnership in India and over the next three months Clean Motion is looking to wrap up some agreements with them. With new developments in the lithium pack trimming 40 percent cost, 30 percent weight and upping 30 percent performance are expected to be made possible.
Interestingly, controllers of the Zbee, drawn from an American firm and manufactured in China along with the motors, could be next on the indigenisation list. “When we localise the components in India, we want to make them global. For instance, we plan to export the locally made windscreen from India to Indonesia along with some other components. Others that cannot be made locally will continue to be imported,” says Folkesson.
That means that Clean Motion is developing India as a hub for its Indonesian operations while keeping a tab on quality standards. Simultaneously, it does not want to lose its global supply chain.
It is understood that at present the Zbee is selling in small numbers in Europe while in Indonesia it will roll out soon as it has just received type approval and registration plates in adherence to the existing legislation.
The Swedish firm has also been closely working with Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System in India and has inked an agreement with them for training drivers. About half of the Zbee drivers will be women who will then be recruited by Clean Motion.
Through the India-Sweden Joint Working Group for Smart Cities, Clean Motion is also looking to tap the potential of its Zbees in the initial 20 smart cities planned by the Union Government as part of its Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles programme.
As the Swedish manufacturing footprint expands in the country, so will the number of product offerings. “We are looking at a number of product additions, maybe one will be a cargo vehicle with a payload capacity of 500kg and another a larger vehicle offering more room for passengers,” sums up Folkesson.
With its Zbee e-autorickshaw, Clean Motion has evinced keen interest to be a long-term player in India. Rest only time will tell. n