Singapore-based entrepreneur Bhupendra Kumar Modi of the Smart Group is all set to enter the pure electric vehicle segment in India under his brand Smart Dreams.
The company has tied up with the Hong Kong-based BYD Auto Industry Company which is engaged in electric vehicle manufacturing and is an investee company of investment guru Warren Buffet.
Smart Dreams has inked a technology partnership with BYD for transfer of technology for manufacturing electric vehicles, namely e-buses to start with. This will be followed by production of cars for use as e-taxis and later a separate plant will be set up for manufacturing electric cars, BK Modi said at the unveiling of one of the e-buses. His focus is on contributing to public transportation through the e-bus and e-taxi offerings and is keen that the government exempts the segment from taxes.
The Smart Dreams plant is coming up at ModiCiti, near Moradabad, with the first two buses procured from BYD and given for a three-month trial to Delhi Transport Corp. The company is in talks with several state transport undertakings (STUs) for city electric buses and is hopeful of bagging multiple orders soon.
The Smart Dreams e-bus is air-conditioned and powered by a lithium iron phosphate battery with a life duration of more than 4,000 recharging cycles. It can cover a distance of 250km on a fully charged battery. A full charge takes 5 hours of recharging.
“Today countries like China have put air quality on the same priority as core sectors like infrastructure and defence and it is about time India did the same. The Indian government will have to take bold steps and incentivise citizens and industry players to adopt electric vehicles. One of the ways we could encourage the industry is by making it a zero tax industry,” says Modi.
Modi is non-committal about the investments in the manufacturing facility or the number of e-buses to roll out from the plant, saying it will be similar to what bus plants usually attract. He is equally reticent about the bus pricing saying it will be at par with similar buses.
Smart Dreams has also started electric vehicle manufacturing operations in Singapore for e-buses along with BYD with volumes expected to be based on demand.
In India, the target is STUs in macro-cities and the upcoming 100 smart cities where an efficient public transport system is the need of the hour. The e-vehicles will also contribute their bit to cutting pollution.
The e-buses will start production with a 50 percent localisation content that will be steadily built up to 75 percent with the battery to be indigenised last over the next 3-5 years. BYD is a leader in battery manufacturing and has a bouquet of advanced technologies for the product.
BYD by bit
At present BYD is training the workers of Smart Dreams in e-bus manufacturing. The company had earlier also entered into an agreement with Mercedes-Benz for manufacturing cars and launched the Denza all-electric sedan in 2014. Smart Dreams hopes to leverage this expertise when it explores car manufacture in India. A second plant will be envisaged for manufacture of car once the e-bus and e-taxi plant picks up steam.
Liu Xueliang, managing director of Asia Pacific for BYD Auto, says that 16 years ago the company had planned electric vehicles for China and today have been able to achieve this through consistent efforts. “India is a big market for us, and with the business environment being favourable we feel it is the right time for us to capture the e-vehicle market of the country. We are proud to collaborate with Smart Group in this endeavour in India.”
BYD has an electric bus manufacturing facility in USA and has a contract to supply electric buses to the Los Angeles county. In the last two years, its e-vehicles have been sold in many countries including Uruguay and Jakarta.