Tej Naik: ‘We are bullish about the US ATV market that accounts for 70% sales globally’

by Ujal Nair 19 Feb 2020


In an exclusive interview with Autocar Professional at the NATRiP facility in Pithampur during the Baja SAE India endurance race, Tej Naik, the co-founder of Powerland Agro Tractor Vehicles, demonstrated the capabilities of its new electric ATV as a track marshal vehicle. He revealed the company's strategies for the electric off-roader and the opportunities that lie in store for this niche product in India and abroad.

What are the USPs of this new electric ATV?
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have always been our most promising product because they are highly in demand with farm owners abroad. An ATV is neither too big like a 4x4 jeep, nor too slow like a tractor. It strikes the right balance. An electric ATV makes the segment even more appealing.

Powerland's electric ATV can be charged using a regular 15A socket. Powerland is providing a fast charger set at a premium of Rs 30,000-35,000.

It is powered by lithium-ion batteries and is driven by in-wheel motors. The indigenously developed VCU (vehicle control unit) enables 900Nm of torque and in the 4x4 mode and with the boost mode enabled, you will be able to experience top-spec acceleration, which is 0-60kph in 4.5 sec. The VCU also enables torque vectoring and zero-radius turning. We have opted for a full digital monochromatic display that supports Bluetooth connectivity and provides all the information related to the vehicle. With a 7.5 kWh pack that charges in 2-3 hours and gives a range of 160 km, it is the best choice for the farmland owners and off-road enthusiasts. We have also calculated the average operation cost of this vehicle which comes to around Rs 0.75 as against diesel which is Rs 5.8 per km.

What are the biggest challenges electric ATVs are facing in India?
There is hardly any demand for it here (in India). That is why we are developing it and pushing it aggressively in the European and the US markets. The new FAME-II policy does not have any points to support the development of electric ATVs in India. However, we are developing an electric utility vehicle for the logistic industry and also for transporting passengers that does find its mention in the new policy.

The biggest stumbling block is the overall homologation process for EVs,  which is difficult for small companies. The mandatory electromagnetic test for the cells is very expensive at around Rs 500,000-600,000. Then there are other tests for the motors and components. The entire homologation cost itself comes to around Rs 15-17 lakh, which is a lot when you consider the miniscule size of the electric ATV market, which is only about 300-400 units.

Abroad, there is the IVA (Individual vehicle approval) which any company can approach for certification and is much simpler in its process. In India, the tests for electric vehicles are done at ARAI in Pune and at iCAT in Gurugram.

The homologation tests are feasible for big players like Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra who have a vehicle parc of more than 20,000 units per annum.

What is Powerland’s business strategy for its global and Indian market?
From induction, our products have been focused towards the farm sector and the niche off-road segment. As per demand, we have diversified into the defence sector, police, oil exploration and other sectors. We have delivered our diesel ATVs to a Russian company that is working for ONGC for seismic surveys. However, today, the volumes in India are very low and hence we are majorly focussing on the exports to the European and the US markets. We are also targetting the low-speed vehicle market for exports and we have developed a Tata Ace-size electric logistic and passenger vehicle with a 2-seater, 4-seater and even a 6-seater option.

For the next 4-5 years, we would continue to focus on certain niche sectors like the off-road and utility vehicles where the big automotive players would not venture into because of the low volumes.

L-R: Tej Naik with his father and founder of Powerland Agro Tractor Vehicles, Narayan Naik, at the Baja SAE India event in Pithampur

Currently, we are developing, importing components and assembling our vehicles at our plant in Verna, Goa. It is from here that we are delivering our vehicles from Kashmir to Kerala and also export to some European and the US markets.

We currently have four active touchpoints in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and one in Kerala. We will be tapping into the multi-billion US market which accounts for more than 70 percent of total ATV sales across the globe.

Our Made-in-India products enjoy certain cost benefits in comparison to other global ATV counterparts. As the volumes go up, we would be increasing our localisation levels which would further bring down the production costs and enable us to look into developing more products. If all goes well, then we would be one of the first companies in the US to showcase a lithium-ion powered, in-wheel motor-driven electric ATV at the local expos that will be held in June and November there.

Also read: Powerland’s new tech-loaded electric ATV set to tap into niche US market