Large companies bet on small EV start-ups for electric mobility 

by Sumantra B Barooah & Ajit Dalvi 19 Feb 2018


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As new megatrends take shape in the automotive industry, there's also a growing trend of collaborations. These are not the conventional collaborations between equals, but between parties with a wide age gap but equal in terms of value they each offer for mutual growth. 

The latest example of this growing trend in India is homegrown global auto component major Bharat Forge's investment in Tork Motorcycles, a start-up which is preparing India's first electric performance motorcycle. Bharat Forge will pick up a 45 percent stake in Tork Motorcycles with a cumulative investment of Rs 30 crore.

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The Tork T6X showcased at the Bharat Forge stand at the Magnetic Maharashtra event in Mumbai, Pune pavilion (Photo: Uddhav Dalvi).  

The start-up, founded by a youngster Kapil Shelke, is in the closing stages of prototyping and certification for the T6X, which is slated to become the first mass-market electric motorcycle in the country. It is powered by a 6KW lithium ion battery and manages an impressive 27Nm of torque and a range of 100km in a single charge. The top speed is limited to 100kph at present and the battery is good for 80,000-100,000km, the company claims. The bike’s battery can reach 80 percent capacity with just one hour of charging, and gets fully charged in two hours.

This investment is part of Bharat Forge's transformation strategy to realign itself to tap the emerging megatrends in the automotive industry. Bharat Forge company is currently the world's largest forging company, but with the advent of megatrends like mass scale electric mobility, autonomous driving, it is making efforts to venture into new business areas as some traditional business verticals will see a gradual decline due to technology shifts in the industry.   

Hero MotoCorp and TVS invest in EV start-ups 
In another instance of a well-established company investing in an EV start-up, Hero MotoCorp, which is also the world's largest two-wheeler company, invested Rs 180 crore into Bengaluru-based electric two-wheeler start-up Ather Energy for stake of around 30 percent. This funding formed the bulk of an overall Rs 205 crore investment from Hero MotoCorp. The funding marked the third round of investments in Ather Energy, which is slated to launch the S340 smart, electric scooter later this year. This investment, made in October 2016, was the first such deal of a large organisation investing in an EV start-up in India.  

Another homegrown organisation, TVS Motor, has also made a similar investment. In December 2017, it announced that it had picked up a 14.78 percent stake in a Bengaluru-based Ultraviolette Automotive, an electric two-wheeler and energy infrastructure start-up which was just a year old then. TVS showcased an all-electric scooter concept at the recently concluded Auto Expo. It is expected to launch an electric scooter soon in the market. 

Given the Indian government's heightened focus on electric mobility, two-wheeler OEMs and other vehicle segment manufacturers are stepping up their activities to prepare for an era of electric mobility. For large organisations, collaboration is seen as the fastest, less capital intensive and less complex growth strategy. It’s a win-win situation for both – while the EV start-up gets a new charge and an improved roadmap to production reality, the well-established automaker does not have to reinvent the wheel. 

Bharat Forge's UGV catches the eye 
Bharat Forge also has a UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) on display at its stall in the Pune section of Magnetic Maharashtra. This four-wheeled ATV, which is designed to perform security, safety and security missions, has a skid-steer mechanism. It is a multi-tasker – it can carry riot control, weapondry, surveillance, fire extinguishing equipment, CBRN detection and containment systems and cargo.

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The UGV has autonomous operation with video motion detection and a multi-functional, multi-sensor (positioning, mapping, path planning, obstacle detection) platform for a wide range of payload. This all-terrain and amphibious vehicle has a speed of up to 20kph on manual drive and 10-15kph on autonomous missions. It can climb a 30deg slope and can endure up to 48 hours of continuous operations (combining battery and generator).  

Photography: Uddhav Dalvi


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