Tata AutoComp’s ‘Make in India’ push for EVs

As part of their ‘One Tata’ approach to manufacturing electric vehicles, Pune-based Tata AutoComp has played a pivotal role in the localisation of components for Tata Motors. Autocar Professional offers insights into how TACO aims to be the preferred supplier for electric vehicle makers in India.

By Ketan Thakkar, Shahkar Abidi and Amit Vijay M calendar 28 Apr 2024 Views icon23964 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Tata AutoComp’s ‘Make in India’ push for EVs

In 2017, after taking charge of the Tata Group, Natarajan Chandrasekaran had mooted the ‘UniEVerse’ initiative, keeping sustainability at its core. As part of the plan, the group had Tata Motors at the heart of the EV ecosystem, working closely with sister companies like Tata Power, Tata Chemicals, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Tata Digital, Tata Elxsi, Tata Motors Finance and Tata AutoComp — the latter being the biggest ally in the conglomerate’s EV journey to ensure accessibility to latest drivetrain technology.

“E-Mobility is an irreversible megatrend and an imperative to address pollution and generate job opportunities in India,” the chairman of the group had said back then.

The idea took shape when the EV momentum was picking up globally. Tesla was rapidly expanding its reach and portfolio, and the Volkswagen Group — hurt from the ‘diesel gate’ scandal — had committed huge resources to pivot to electric cars. Back home, Mahindra & Mahindra was the sole player. It was braving through inheriting the loss-making Reva while Tata Motors just had a few R&D concepts of the Vista and Nano electric. 

In a period of 18 months, the Tata Motors Electric Mobility Division was set up. Tata AutoComp (TACO), the second largest EV component supplier in the country, rapidly started developing in-house capabilities for its sister company, from which even outside clients benefitted.  

The ‘One Tata’ approach

Today, Tata Motors is the largest electric car maker in India, with a whopping market share of over 85% and offering EVs starting from the sub Rs 10 lakh category to Rs 25 lakh. Tata AutoComp was instrumental in the mainstreaming of EVs, offering end-to-end solutions across segments and everything that may be required in an EV, barring the cells — truly executing the ‘Make in India’ story the government is pushing for.

Under the UniEVersal mission, the ‘One Tata’ approach bore fruit rapidly, as other companies under the group played their critical part in this journey. Tata Power was mandated to create a charging infrastructure despite low EV penetration; TCS offered their software services; Tata Chemicals started exploring cell localisation; Tata Elxsi and Tata Technologies offered design and engineering services. And all of this was carried out at an arm’s length.

Arvind Goel, Chairman of Tata AutoComp, told Autocar Professional that since Chandrasekaran took over, there’s been a huge emphasis on simplification with synergies, with a key focus on technology and customer centricity.

“Because of the support of Tata Motors — the passenger and commercial vehicle business, along with JLR — we were able to build the whole ecosystem for EVs,” he said. “Today, we cater to the entire EV market. EVs account for over a quarter of our business, and the order book is swelling.” When Tata Motors began preparing its EV portfolio, TACO was mandated to support the car and truck making arm with technologies requisite for the EV drivetrain. With a captive customer in Tata Motors, AutoComp started augmenting its portfolio over time to meet future EV requirements.

In less than seven years, Tata AutoComp now produces battery packs and BMS, battery thermal management systems, electric compressors, integrated motors, controllers and reducers, on board and off board chargers, vehicle and power electronics like DC-DC converters, bus bars, PDUs and many more components for EVs.

TACO’s customer base has grown and extended beyond Tata Motors. It now includes rivals in the car market as well as OEMs from the two-wheeler, three-wheeler, truck and bus segments. The latter two have witnessed a much stronger traction in the industry due to the government’s FAME (Faster Adoption of Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles) policy.

Rapid localisation of components

Given the newness of EV technology and reliance on global joint-venture partners for tech support, there’s been a fair degree of imports over the years, but Goel believes they have aggressively localised. “As a group, we have a clear mandate of localisation from our chairman, who led the B20 [part of the G20] and was a flagbearer of ‘Make in India.’ We want to quickly move to 100% localisation, barring products like magnets and some types of semiconductor chips.” The company pitches itself as a strong alternative to all global players in India that are looking at local sourcing.

“Making EVs affordable is the key to transition to zero-emission vehicles,” Goel highlights. “Localisation definitely helps in reducing costs, and Tata AutoComp can support all global vehicle makers in India.”

Goel’s vision statement for Tata AutoComp involves wanting the company to be the “most trusted mobility components and systems partner,” with an aim to “deliver value to all stakeholders by differentiation through safety, quality and constant innovation.”

And to cater to the needs of the EV ecosystem, the company has strategically relied on the group’s subsidiaries.

Battery packs and BMS

Besides Li-Ion cells that are imported from their partner Gotion, TACO has localised the entire battery pack and BMS network. The battery tray is made with extruded aluminium, sheet metal or composites; the cover uses RFI-compliant composites; the cooling tubes are manufactured at their sheet metal plant; the plastic modules required as cell and module carriers are made at their plastics division and bus bars and BMS at their electronics division; the composites division handles insulators and separators; and wiring harnesses and other child parts are sourced locally.

Electric drivetrains

TACO has localised all the mechanical parts, including the motor and controller housings, covers, complete reducer, harnesses, etc. In fact, the company invested in a cleanroom to assemble the controllers. They have also laid lines to manufacture the stators and rotors in house; these are expected to be operational soon.

Battery thermal management system: The company has achieved over 80% localisation in this regard and has even started local assembly of e-compressors.

Power electronics

All bus bars are made in-house. TACO also exports these to OEMs in the US and Europe.  Moreover, Tata AutoComp developed their battery management software with TCS and also built a three-in-one — a PDU, DC-DC converter and onboard charger, all housed in one unit.

The company has set up a dedicated electronics division to manufacture these products, in addition to off-board AC and DC chargers. Essentially, Tata AutoComp today offers an entire gamut of products for the overall automotive market — right from two-wheelers to trucks, three-wheelers to buses, cars to mini trucks — reinforcing its status as India’s largest end-to-end supplier of EV components. 

Leveraging group capabilities beyond EVs

Tata AutoComp has been working on the 6S principle that allows the company to deliver with ‘Simplicity, Speed, Synergy, Scale, Sustainability and Supply Chain.’ TACO has already engaged with over half a dozen group companies in some way or the other.

For instance, Tata Steel has good relations with the Indian Railways. They have leveraged this relationship to supply seating systems to the railways, which is why the Vande Bharat range of trains have seats from Tata AutoComp. In fact, to deliver better seating solutions to the railways, TM Automotive Seating System — a joint venture between Magna and Tata AutoComp — entered into another JV with FAINSA.

Moreover, TACO supplies battery energy storage systems to Tata Power, capitalising on their knowledge of making battery packs and BMS. They have already started supplying to Tata Power’s 120MW Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) facility in Chhattisgarh. This will be their first integrated green energy solution, where solar power will be harnessed and stored at their BESS.

Furthermore, Tata AutoComp is exploring ways to develop certain products in composites that would offer better electro-thermal resistance as well as light-weighting. Plus, TCS has helped TACO to develop a range of vehicle and power electronics that are ready to be supplied to customers. These efforts have not only enhanced the company’s portfolio but also contributed to their growth.

Working with Tata Group companies, Goel says, has helped TACO bring in new technologies, with significant upgradation in systems and processes. He adds, “That’s created a lot of confidence in employees, and the new processes we have learnt, have helped us get businesses from other OEMs, as well.”

Supporting cleaner alternatives

Given the wide variety of automotive parts that the company caters to, a major chunk of their products can be used for other alternative powertrains.

In case of hybrids, the company can offer its battery pack and BMS as well as e-compressors. As for CNG or ethanol vehicles, they have a range of exhaust and emission after-treatment solutions. The company has also started working on hydrogen fuel cells with a few OEMs and thermal management solutions.

Even though the powertrain mix is an evolving space, vehicles will still need basic components like interior and exterior plastics, mirrors, seating systems, thermal management, sheet metal components and aggregates, command systems, etc. These are fairly well established, and Tata AutoComp is looking to enhance the rest of the portfolio, with their focus on higher tech, light-weighting and localisation. 

For the near future, Tata-Gotion has a collaboration with Tata Agratas — the group’s cell manufacturing arm — in the pipeline. This would ensure a strong vertical integration of all companies, bringing to life the chairman’s vision for UniEVerse. 

Charging ahead

Established in 1995, Tata AutoComp has grown confidently over the past two-and-a-half decades, with 16 legal entities and nine successful joint ventures with global auto component specialists at present. Over 20,000 people are employed worldwide, half of them with an average experience of about a decade, which ensures the right mix of generations to deliver future solutions. Tata AutoComp ended FY23 with a turnover of USD 1.9 billion, growing at a CAGR of 33% over the past few years. The company was the second biggest auto component maker in India. The EV business accounts for over 30% of the total turnover of TACO, and given the rate at which it’s growing and thanks to captive demand from Tata Motors and JLR, it could very well touch 50% in the coming decade. As global vehicle makers continue to look beyond China for an alternative, their global business potential increases. Currently, the company has 56 facilities, including eight overseas in North America, Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Poland and China, and presence in over 20 countries. There are several new plants in the making in India as well as abroad.

Open to partnerships

For a significant part of its existence, TACO generated a majority of its revenues from Tata Motors, but over the past five years, the figure has dropped to 35%. People in the know reveal that action at Tata AutoComp has never been as dynamic as it is today. Thanks to diversification on account of the industry transitioning to EVs, TACO is reaching out to non-Tata customers as well as non-automotive businesses (like railways, aviation, tractors, etc), exports, two-wheelers and three-wheelers. 

In this context, Goel says he’s open to more partnerships, alliances and joint ventures, though he didn’t share where their interests lie. The company is currently engaged in over half a dozen conversations with multiple potential partners in both the automotive and non-automotive space.

“Technology changes are underway everywhere. We’re always open to opportunities. Any areas where we can get technology or access, we are happy to partner to help drive localisation on EVs,” he adds.

Future strategy 

Tata AutoComp's strategy for the future seems solidly grounded in the trends of electrification, safety, and the premiumisation of models. Their focus on sustainability, comfort, and safety aligns well with the requirements of buses, metro rails, and trains, in which TACO has a stake through its seating, HVAC, and powertrain ventures.

Nonetheless, Goel says that 60% to 70% of their business is drivetrain agnostic, and if the transition to an all EV-future were to get deferred, the company would still be relatively insulated. Wary of competition, he’s aware that Japanese and Korean companies prefer vendor partners from their home base, which is why the Tata firm needs to be at the “forefront of technology” and not be seen as a commodity player. 

The head of TACO says that each unit of the company has its own R&D centre that develops solutions for both local and global needs. This, instead of importing costly solutions or delivering lower priced products for global markets. Tata AutoComp was the first to get into the battery packs field way back in 2018-19, when they started developing their own chargers. TACO will soon start making cameras.

Way forward

Power electronics and chargers are big focus areas for TACO for the near future.

Goel says: “We are currently setting up a plant that will manufacture LVDS cameras. We’d be the first to make cameras in India. This will be an advanced green facility with a high level of automation. We’re also investing in building our electronics facility with an SMT line to manufacture power electronics products.” Over the past five to seven years, Tata AutoComp would have easily spent several hundred million dollars to transform itself into a specialist EV supplier.

Now, they are in the process of setting up four new plants: one each for BESS, EV electronics, e-compressors and cameras. “There’s a lot of investment going on in capacity building, technology and products, and it will continue, given our swelling orderbook,” he adds.

“We’re growing in all businesses, not only EVs. This is needed because the pace of transition to an all-electric industry is still not clear. There are a lot of developments and expansion projects in the works. We are confident that we will perform much better than the normal automotive industry growth rate.”

This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's April 15, 2024 issue.

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