Hopcharge aims to triple its mobile EV charging fleet
Hopcharge plans to raise funds under USD 10 million to support fleet growth, says Co-founder and CEO Arjun Singh.
Gurugram-based mobile EV charging start-up Hopcharge is firming up its plans to triple its two dozen-plus charging vans in Delhi and the NCR region by the end of FY 2024-25. The company says it plans to reach out to global climate funding organisations to raise funds under USD 10 million (over Rs 83 crore) to support fleet growth, and to expand its network to Bengaluru.
Hopcharge is also finalising terms to bring onboard two new electric passenger car manufacturers into its customer fold, Co-founder and CEO Arjun Singh informed Autocar India.
Hopcharge's mobile EV charging is nearly twice as expensive as a public charging station, but Singh claims that the "Delhi-NCR region is experiencing a surge in demand from EV owners due to the convenience and ease of charging electric passenger cars at home."Service excellence should be the goal of any service provider, he says, adding, "In the end, that is what you provide. We are not just selling kilowatt-hour charges.”
The company, which enlists Tata Motors, Mercedes-Benz, and insurance firm Acko as its prime clients, has the backing of its founders with over 15 years of experience in the energy industry. Singh spent a significant period with Schlumberger, one of the world's largest global technology firms driving energy innovation. He has also served as an advisor to the Delhi government in the development of its Solar Policy. Excerpts from an interview:
Can you walk us through the journey of the development of a "charging on the go" service for electric vehicles?
Hopcharge was founded five years ago with the belief that end-user mobile EV charging would be in high demand. When the conversation was only about fixed charging, we bet early on a 'charging as a service' model. We searched the local market for readymade solutions to implement this plan and obtain the necessary hardware for the service but came up empty-handed. We then broadened our search to the US and Europe, but we were unable to find a comparable solution.
That's when we decided to build our product from the ground up. Our engineering team spent four years perfecting it and applying for intellectual property protection, basis which we’ve received patents in India and the United States for the proprietary battery packs and rapid chargers we have developed. Before commercialising our mobile chargers, we put them through a nine-month road test to be sure that the product meets the consumer's expectations and is scalable.
Can you explain how your product development has progressed, given that your 25kW DC charger will be suitable for standard passenger EVs? Also for EVs sporting larger battery packs, particularly in the premium and luxury segments, is your service scalable?
We currently offer 25-30kW chargers for all vehicle types, but this does not rule out the possibility of doing more. We can pack more energy into different formats (30, 50, and 60kW), similar to a power bank, and these sizes can be introduced based on market demand. Furthermore, current electric mobility is focused on power ratings of 15-20kW, which is why we are in the 25-30kW range.
Premium and luxury EVs currently have larger battery packs, and they represent a small portion of the total passenger EV market. We can scale up to 90kW as demand grows.
According to recent research, most users prefer home charging for their EVs, indicating a lack of trust in public charging options. With more than a dozen passenger EVs on the way, do you see a greater opportunity for on-the-go charging?
In the case of the Tata Nexon category, which forms the majority of the EV users, the latest research says these are customers who purchased an EV due to their bungalow-type residences or have installed chargers in the office, warehouse, or factory. That is the category of fixed user groups. Residential EV charging is a major issue in the country, as 60-65 percent of Indians park their cars on the street, and many societies are still preparing to accommodate charging stations on their premises.
Other consumers who purchased EVs based on the increasing availability of public charging networks are finding it extremely difficult to work with the insecurities associated with public charging, such as the availability or operability of the charger due to poor maintenance from the operator.
However, with a Hopcharge subscription, consumers have peace of mind. When we arrive at their door step and charge their EVs, customers do not need to be concerned about range anxiety. We also provide emergency backup if a consumer falls below 20 percent or is stranded, and we usually do not charge the customer for an SOS because it assures them that we are there to help them.
Are you planning to launch a remote rescue service as a new product shortly?
The service can be provided, but it requires a large-scale operation to be effective. Resources may be under-utilised if there is insufficient demand. As a result, we decided to start with a subscription service model aimed at serving a city-based clientele, which we intend to scale as the country's EV penetration grows. It is also critical to be cash-flow positive, which we intend to be by FY 2023, while already crossing the milestone of being operationally cash positive in FY 2022 itself.
So, what are the key consumer takeaways?
There are two critical factors to consider: convenience and availability. We are a scheduled service, but we strive to be available when customers need us. Furthermore, with most 40kWh batteries, our 25kW chargers can provide a 20-80 percent charge in just one hour. Our subscription model is also advantageous because customers do not have to wait until their car's battery reaches less than 20 percent and enters Eco mode.
Additionally, according to our findings, many people are eager to switch to EVs, but it has been observed that relying on un-assisted public chargers can be a hassle while typical Indian consumers are used to someone filling the tank even without coming out of the car. However, the consumer does not have to be concerned about these issues when using our service. i.e. value added 24x7 assisted charging.
You can charge a premium because of your business model. How do you keep the customer coming back for more?
We have various revenue models, including a subscription model that allows for unlimited charging cycles for about Rs 50,000 per year, with the client paying around Rs 4.17 per km. Apart from the financial benefits, our service alleviates their concern about finding EV charging stations and provides them with the confidence to ride on an on-demand plug-and-play GRID Free mobile charger network. As additional new passenger EV vehicles are introduced, we hope it will strengthen the case for GRID Free mobile EV charging experience Hopcharge is providing. i.e. complementing the fixed infrastructure and peak load demand on the main GRID.
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