The automobile industry has largely been fossil-dominated, but in the last few years, there has been a significant change, with companies looking for alternatives to the smoke-guzzling vehicles.
The excitement around electric mobility started with Tesla in 2014. While electric vehicles were a distant dream in India back then, people couldn’t stop raving about what they say online!
Cut to 2020, the landscape looks quite different. Electric Vehicles are increasingly being produced, and with the government’s push towards electric mobility to combat rising pollution, we are a step closer to realising this ambitious dream.
It is also in line with India’s vision to have at least 30% of electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2030.
In the last two years, more than one million electric vehicles hit the road in India. Over 350,000 units were sold in 2018, while 750,000 units were sold in 2019.
While auto bigwigs like MG Motor, Honda, and Mahindra, are working towards launching new EV models, there’s no way we can undermine the work of startups. In fact, startups are playing a pivotal role in the evolving electric mobility space in India. Charging infrastructure and mobility services are the key opportunity areas for startups with the emergence of various new business models.
Here’s a look at some of the most promising EV startups in India.
A Bengaluru-based EV startup, Ather Energy was founded in 2013 by two IIT Madras graduates, Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain. The company develops and manufactures its own e-scooters, and offers charging infrastructure through the ‘Ather Grid’, its electric vehicle charging infrastructure. It provides consumer services that include cloud software upgrades and new ownership models such as subscription and leasing.
Ather has raised funding from Flipkart Co-founder Sachin Bansal, two-wheeler manufacturer Hero MotoCorp , Singapore-based InnoVen Capital, and American hedge fund and venture capital investor Tiger Global.
The electric vehicle startup has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tamil Nadu government, as a part of its new EV policy. Ather’s new facility in Hosur, Tamil Nadu will create job opportunities in the region, with the company confirming that over 4,000 employees will be trained on electric vehicles as a part of this initiative over the next five years.
Another Bengaluru-based startup, Yulu, that maintains a partnership with Uber, was founded by InMobi Co-founder Amit Gupta in 2017. The leading shared and sustainable micro-mobility platform was formed to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, and has its fleet of human-powered bicycles (Yulu Move) and lightweight electric two-wheelers (Yulu Miracle) powered by innovation technologies like IoT, ML and AI.
Using IoT as the backbone of operations, the vehicles can be rented seamlessly on a pay-per-use basis. Users can book a ride via the iOS or Android app and the smart bikes can be unlocked via QR codes.
Yulu provides an eco-friendly UMaaS – Urban Mobility as a Service which is an affordable, sharable and scalable solution commute option for the first mile, last mile, and short distance commute (TechCrunch).
They have developed a vertical stack needed to run its EV fleet. From design and ownership of the assets to charging the batteries to on-ground operations, Yulu has a little dependency on external factors.
With more than 14,000 eco-friendly vehicles and 1.8 million users, Yulu runs India’s largest EV-led micro-mobility platform. Yulu’s mission is to create sustainable cities of tomorrow by revolutionising the way people commute. Currently, it is operational in Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai and Bhubaneswar.
Yulu Miracle is a unique battery operated, lightweight, easy to ride, small 2 wheeler, and has a maximum speed of 25 kmph. It comes under the exempted category where there is no requirement for a driving license or helmet. The vehicle has been enabling individuals to take eco-friendly rides at pocket-friendly prices and reduce carbon footprint.
Yulu has created a unique battery-swapping network by placing its proprietary IoT enabled charging box (Yulu Max) at hundreds of mom-n-pop stores across its operational areas. The same app shows the set of vehicles that have a battery-charge level below a defined threshold along with their real-time location. This method is low cost and highly scalable.
In November 2019, the EV startup raised USD 8 million in its Series A round, led by leading automobile manufacturer Bajaj Auto Finance.
Yulu plans to expand to a fleet of 100K EVs across 5-7 major cities in India by Dec 2020. In the long run, Yulu aims to be present in 100+ cities to become the most dominant micro-mobility player in India.
Founded in December 2015 by iraj Rajmohan and Narayan Subramaniam, Ultraviolette Automotive is an innovator in sustainable mobility and energy infrastructure. Its electric motorcycle – the F77 offers an acceleration of 0-60 kmph in 2.9 seconds, top speed of 140 kmph, and a range of 150 km on a single charge. The F77 is powered by Ultraviolette’s ‘Modular Battery’ technology.
According to the company, their battery pack is much beyond just a power module. It is a self sustaining advanced electronic device that comes with it’s own processor, memory, wireless communication, GPS module and more.
Besides, the battery pack can withstand rough handling, rugged environments, extreme shock and vibration. It is designed and tested to withstand over 2 tonnes of load, and is also IP67 rated dust and waterproof.
The F77 comes with the standardized Combined Charging System (CCS) Type-2 charging interface to work with upcoming public infrastructure.
In December 2017, TVS Motor acquired a 14.78 percent stake in the company, and later made an additional investment of Rs 6 crore in the startup.
Founded in 2017 by Nishchal Chaudhary, an Airtel executive, BattRE Electric Mobility manufactures affordable e-scooters. The startup differentiates itself from its competitors for its IoT connected electric scooter, which uses cloud-based GPRS to connect with a mobile app and store all vehicle-related data online.
Using the app, vehicle users will be able to locate the nearest charging points, and also predict the scooter’s maintenance-related requirements.
The startup said the scooter runs on lithium ferro phosphate batteries (LiFePO4) (2000 charge cycle life) instead of the lead-acid batteries, thereby providing superior performance and longer operational life.
BattRE has divided the markets into feeder hotspots and consumption areas. The company began its operations in South India, Maharashtra, and Gujarat in June 2019. The product was launched in Uttar Pradesh just before the lockdown. At present, it has more than 50 dealers in six states.
Its first product BattRE-One includes a connected instrumentation, keyless ignition, anti-theft alarm, and a USB charger.
BattRE has also confirmed that it raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Former Tata Motors’ President Gajendra Chandel. The startup will use the funds for launching new models, increasing production capacity, and scaling up the distribution and service network.
The company offers easy finance options to the users, and a three year extended warranty on the product. It also ensures direct to home delivery of electric scooters through Amazon India.
Okinawa, based out of Gurugram., was founded by Jeetender Sharma and Rupali Sharma in 2015. It claims to be a 100 percent Indian electric two-wheeler company, and has a manufacturing facility in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan.
In November 2019, Okinawa launched Lite, a new low-speed electric scooter. Available in two colour options, the electric scooter comes with an LED headlamp, LED turn indicators, and an LED tail lamp. The scooter has a steel frame body and rectangular type front suspension. It is a low-speed scooter which means the speed is limited to 25 km/h and it has a claimed range of about 50-60 km between charges.
It is powered by a 1.25 kWh lithium-ion portable battery that comes with Anti-Theft Mechanism ‘which makes the battery get locked inside, ensuring safety from theft and damage.’
The startup also showcased its first cruiser-styled electric scooter at the Auto Expo 2020.
Okinawa reported revenue of Rs 200 crore in the financial year 2018-19, and is planning to set up a second facility, which will be commissioned towards the beginning of 2020-21. It has a target to sell one lakh electric two-wheelers in India by the end of 2021.
India has the dual responsibility of ensuring growth while reducing green-house emissions for the survival of our future generations, which will require a quantum leap in efforts. Small initiatives in driving electric mobility can pave the way for creating a sustainable society.
A new analysis released by the World Economic Forum shows there are ten states and union territories building a momentum for electric vehicle usage across manufacturing, infrastructure and services sectors. This is a promising proposition, and has paved the path for the future of electric mobility in India.
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