'India must think like China in battery tech'

by Sricharan R 27 Apr 2022


“India recently gave the PLI approval for 40 GW hours of battery capacity. It should have done it 10 years ago. Today, China has a monopoly and can choke India’s EV industry. If India really wants to be a major player in the EV space, we need to think at that level. We have to change the chemistry,” said RK Misra, Co-Founder, Yulu.

He was part of the panel discussing EV market dynamics on Day 2 of Autocar Professional’s Two-wheeler EV Forum. Other panellists included Prabhjot Kaur, Co-Founder & CEO Esmito, Akash Gupta, Co-founder and CEO, Zypp and Ranjtha Ravi, Co-Founder, Orxa Energies.

In his view, Mishra felt that the government erred by not including low-speed electric vehicles in FAME II when it “was there in the FAME I”. He elaborated by saying “If it had been, there would not be any fly-by-night operators."

Misra said the company he co-founded gets its cells not from China, but from Japan. He reiterated that the company has ensured it makes quality products adding that most of the recent fires (involving e-two-wheelers, were all high-speed and not low-speed vehicles.

Standards are key
So will the standardisation of products ensure that there are reduced mishaps? At this point, Ranjitha Ravi, Co-Founder, Orxa Energies entered the debate saying that ‘standards are good and standardisation is not’.“OEMs have a lot of advantages from an engineering standpoint and this leads to safer products, better range, more power which are good for the electric vehicle,” she said. So, such an early-stage standardisation might not be good for the electric vehicle growth, she said.

The panel then discussed the battery swapping policy, a draft of which had been released by NITI Aayog. The policy states that swapping will come under the broader umbrella of Battery as a Service (BaaS), where customers can purchase an EV without the battery. This would reduce the upfront cost with minimal downtime, and lower space requirements, and encourage greater EV adoption.

Sharing her perspective on swapping, Prabhjot Kaur, Co-Founder & CEO Esmito, said, “The problem associated with the policy is that the standards are still not out. Standardisation is a very complicated subject without knowing the kind of vehicles there are and what might be the right fit. There are challenges in standardisation and without standardisation, and there is a need for standards to align to the policy.” Ravi added that the plan to monitor developments is a good move by the government.”

She said that in a nascent market, with products evolving, swapping was the need of the hour. “India is not as rich as nations that have adopted EV chargers. For commercial purposes, delivery of e-commerce and many more, swapping will be ruling the game,” she added.

Adding his perspective, Misra said he welcomed the government’s approach on swapping. “Earlier, it was going to define the plug, connectors etc. The industry is just evolving and we do not make most of the battery cells. Innovation needs to be given an opportunity,” he said.

In his comments, Akash Gupta, Co-founder and CEO, Zypp said that the EVs are getting a lot more attention now. With the B2B and rental segment being key for the customers' need, the response has been good. He spoke about how EVs play a key role as last mile-delivery contributes to 44 percent cost for the entire logistics. “People want the EV as a service and that is where we see the opportunity,” he said.

Ownership costs driving EVs
Misra said the pandemic had been a big booster as individuals stopped moving but cargo movement was required. “People look for something that does the job, and that is where Yulu had an important role to play during lockdowns. Covid, technology and even fuel prices pushed the EV growth.”

Kaur said that the EV is an advantage given the high fuel import bills and the dependency on other countries for crude imports. “Moving to electric makes sense,” she said.

According to Ravi, the total cost of ownership is what drives the EV. With new products coming in, the level of engineering has improved and product reliability has gone up,” she said.

“High quality, but reasonably priced products is what consumers wants,” said Misra. In the electric segment too, around 75 percent of sales have been of low-speed vehicles which is where the focus needs to be,” he added.

In his view, Gupta said that the low-speed electric vehicles are unregulated and there is no RTO registration. This brings in a lot of poor quality to the market. Companies entering the EV fray import kits and build bikes without the requisite knowledge about the Indian conditions, he said.

“If the government could help by way of some regulations, the best OEMs could come forward with the best vehicles for India,” he added.

The co-founder of Orxa Energies said, “There is a demand for a well-engineered product. And, the time has come for electric vehicles to replace ICE. People see the point of EV, but it has to be a minimal change of habit etc.” With regard to her company, she said, “We build performance motorcycles and all our employees are bikers” and suggested that there was an opportunity for eco-tourism, among other things, with motorcycles.”

Gupta dwelt on the role of telematics plays a role saying that any fleet operator who has more than 200 plus vehicles, telematics would be required to manage operations. According to him, technology is very critical from EV point of view as these vehicles are tech-enabled products.

“There is battery, power and other aspects which have to be monitored in order to optimise the product. Also, predictive maintenance and product management is where technology plays a huge role. Telematics helps power technologies like keyless entry, theft alarm, geo tagging, TPMS and more.”

In the last 12-18 months we have seen a lot of people coming into the last-mile delivery space. But, the one thing that differentiates the scale player from the rest is tracking and technology,” he signed off.

The feature was published in Autocar Professional's  May 1, 2022 issue.


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