It was in September 2017 that Tata Motors, which didn’t have a single electric vehicle (EV) in its stable then, sprang a surprise by bagging an order from Energy Efficiency Services Ltd, to supply EVs. Partner to this achievement was an entity called Electra EV. The powertrain of the winning model, Tigor EV, comes from Electra EV, a firm backed by Ratan Tata.
Around 2,000 units of Electra EV-powered vehicles have been sold so far. Not a big number, but neither is the share of electric cars in the Indian EV industry yet. In a market, which grew by 20 percent in 2019-20 to 156,000 EVs (excluding three-wheelers), only 3,400 were electric cars. Industry players bet that the market is set to grow further, with 2020-21 possibly being an inflection period. A good part of the optimism is also fuelled by the cleaner, clearer environment during the ongoing pandemic-led lockdown.
Electra EV eyes “exponential” growth in the next few years. The company clocked a turnover of around Rs 115 crore during the last financial year. Its target is to touch the Rs 1,000-crore mark in three years or so, failing which Samir Yajnik, Electra EV’s executive director, says he will be “surprised”. That’s because, he says, “We have the solutions, we have the optimisation capability, we are investing (in R&D, build various capabilities)”. Yajnik cites three pillars — optimisation, design and development, and charging infrastructure — on which Electra EV’s overall growth strategies are based on.
Electra EV’s first project was the Neo EV, in other words the battery EV version of the Tata Nano. It was supposed to be built by Coimbatore-based firm Jayem Automotives. That project faced hurdles as India adopted new safety regulations which the vehicle wasn’t engineered to meet. There’s still a possibility for the Neo to be introduced in favourable markets which do not have any regulatory hurdles.
In contrast to the 48V system developed first for the Neo, Electra EV now wants to develop and provide 350V systems for PVs like the market favourite SUV, as they need more ‘juice’, in terms of performance and driving range. It offers four voltage options — 48, 72, 96, and 110. “All of them are applicable to four-wheelers but also applicable to quadricycles. The 48V is also applicable to three-wheelers ,” says Yajnik. So, the approach is to “optimise it, make it more energy efficient, more sound-free, and enhance range.” This was done with the Tigor EV powertrain. In October last year, an ‘extended-range Tigor EV’ with the powertrain tweaked to deliver a claimed driving range of 213km in a single charge rolled out. That’s around 52 percent more than the first Tigor EV.
Alliances for growth
As the global electrification megatrend gains traction, the strategy of collaboration is becoming almost a necessity. Electra has struck an alliance with a Swiss EV charging infrastructure firm, Green Motion.
What started as a relationship to help the foreign player understand India is now set to power Electra EV’s global ambitions too. Green Motion has 22kW and 44kW AC, DC EV chargers, and also a 3.3kW personal charger option. “We will add more value to it to make it far more efficient and usable in India first, and then also globally,” reveals Yajnik.
The local EV solutions supplier has also joined hands with academia and some firms to design and develop new motor and battery solutions. As the EV industry evolves, Electra EV, also one of Ratan Tata’s “favourites”, looks to script a much bigger story.
This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's July 1 Issue- The annual 'Connectivity & Electronics Special.'