Published: 26th June 2019
These start-ups in Hyderabad are changing the Electric Vehicle scene in India. Check them out!
When it comes to vehicles, there is no doubt about the fact that the future is electric. And here’s what start-ups in Hyderabad are doing to make it the present
Think about the tedious walk back home from the metro station after a long day at school or work. Won't you give just about anything to avoid it? Thankfully, a few metro stations in Hyderabad these days offer Electric Bikes as a solution to your last mile commute issues like the one in Begumpet. In fact, Electric Vehicles (EVs), at large, are being adopted worldwide to combat serious issues such as climate change too. When India signed the Paris Climate Agreement, it pledged to convert 30 per cent of the traffic on its roads to EVs. Initiatives by the government, such as the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) phase I and II, aim at encouraging private and public players to fast-track the shift to EVs. Here are some startups from Hyderabad who have taken the EV challenge head-on and are providing innovative and cost-effective solutions.
Electric engines that can thrill!
For Sathya Yalamanchilli, the driving force behind setting up India’s first certified EV retrofitting company lay behind making EVs affordable while reducing tailpipe emissions without adding vehicles to the roads. After a period of explorations and research, e-Trio came into being in 2016, becoming the first retrofitting company in India to have its kits certified. “The retrofitting exercise involves the replacement of old combustion engines with brand new EV powertrain. The vehicle would be as good as a 75 per cent new car,” says Sathya. He believes that retrofitting to EVs remains the only option to escape the escalating stringent emission norms on vehicles in different cities in India at an affordable price.
Time for a pose: Founder of e-Trio Sathya Yalamanchilli | (Pic: e-Trio)
By 2018, e-Trio had the distinction of being the first startup to gain approval from the ARAI (Automobiles Research Association of India) for retrofitting these car kits onto existing diesel/petrol models. Currently, the company has two such kits: the EV-150 and the EV-180 which have transformed standard cars into affordable electric vehicles that are easy to operate and have negligible maintenance costs.
In March this year, the second phase of the government’s FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and E-vehicles) policy was announced, which allocated a budget of `10,000 crore to provide incentives to companies and local manufacturers of components of EVs like the lithium-ion battery. With that in mind, e-Trio is partnering with local manufacturers to indigenise the procurement of components. Although FAME II also aims to provide incentives to charging station manufacturers, Sathya says that e-Trio’s focus is directed towards rolling out more EVs in the future.
Internal workings: The engines that they offer | (Pic: e-Trio)
When it started, e-Trio largely retrofitted vehicles for fleets, and the B2B market. However, the startup aims to venture into providing vehicles for the general public too. “We are planning to appoint franchise partners in major metro cities in order to address the services to our customers locally. We have currently offered our vehicles as pilot to a lot of drivers in Hyderabad and are in the process of building order books for Kerala and New Delhi,” says Sathya.
Providing solutions seems to be the USP of e-Trio and Sathya says that the firm aims to evolve as an EV solutions company for a wide range of vehicles, while venturing into the OEM supplies market.
Thumbs up: e-Trio vehicles | (Pic: e-Trio)
“Retrofitment is the low hanging fruit for EV adoption aided by government subsidies,” says Sathya. He believes that the EV ecosystem is gaining more investments, and will show major expansion in sectors such as employee transport and hyperlocal deliveries. The shift to electric vehicles is inevitable and perhaps e-Trio’s services of converting existing cars to these climate-friendly and affordable alternatives is the way forward.
The big swap
In 2011, Raja Gayam, a graduate from IIIT-Hyderabad took over his father’s bus-body building unit and upgraded it to produce traditional three-wheelers. “Although the aim had always been electric vehicles, the start-up produced Petrol/CNG auto-rickshaws for first three years to fund their R&D,” says COO of Gayam Motor Works (GMW), Harsha Bavirishetty. With the help of Raja’s brother Rahul Gayam’s expertise in EV components and technology, and Raja and Harsha’s background in Computer Science, GMW started indigenising the parts for the electric three-wheelers to optimise the cost of production. In 2015, GMW launched their first batch of electric three-wheelers.
The trio: The winning team of GMW | (Pic: GMW)
Gayam’s big break came later in 2015, when they got an opportunity to participate in an initiative by Asian Development Bank to replace diesel three-wheelers with EVs. Gayam’s vendor in Japan ran pilots in Manila, while the company also experimented in India to get feedback directly from the drivers. “Our major take-way was the lack of charging infrastructure. Plus, people were unwilling to wait for the long hours it takes to charge EVs. We went back to the drawing board and designed a battery swapping system for three-wheelers,” says Harsha. This move gave GMW the distinction of being the first in India to develop battery swapping technology for three wheelers. Harsha says that the vision is to have a network of battery stations where drivers can remove depleted batteries with fully charged ones on a subscription basis.
GMW recognised the potential of the B2B market and the logistics sector. Some of their clients include IKEA, Big Basket, Flipkart, Delhivery and ITC. “We established battery swapping stations in the hubs of these companies. They are looking at opportunities to reduce operation costs. Replacing diesel vehicles with EVs saved cost from `3.50 per km to 50 paise per km,” says Harsha adding that the company is looking to scale up operations to other metros along with increasing their exports. Recently, GMW also supplied GHMC with a fleet of electric-three wheeler for waste collection and disposal. Harsha believes that such moves from businesses and governments are testimony to the fact that the bus of shift towards EVs has taken off and it will be the mode of transport for the future.
Some of their options:
Their specs: Top speed: 50-55 KMPH, Life of battery: 3-4 years. Price: Rs 3 lakh | (Pic: GMW)
More about them: Special feature: Pedal Assist Mode: Motor assists manual peddling. Pilots being carried out by Uber Eats in Singapore, Hong Kong and San Francisco. Price: `30,000 | (Pic: GMW)
They are power-packed
For a group of four incredible youngsters from IIT-Hyderabad, last year’s summer was a time to put into practice all they had learned in class. Pradyumna Dinna, Ranadev Verma, Yoga Nivesh and Vidhan Jain approached their professor Dr Nishanth Dongari for an academic project in May 2018. Professor Nishant, who is also the founder and MD of the start-up firm PuREnergy, directed them towards the team at PuREnergy’s Electric Vehicles (EV) manufacturing division, PURE EV.
“We began with market research in the electric vehicles area and we understood that the problem was the customers’ expectations and the existing companies’ failure to meet them,” says Pradyumna, who is currently in his third year of BTech (Mechanical Engineering). Under the guidance of the team at PURE EV, the students performed a competition analysis between existing electric vehicle companies and started designing customized electric vehicles for comfortable city commute.
Their hard work: (From left) Varun, Sharukh Khan, Sneha, Pradyumna Dinni and Vidhan Jain | (Pic: IIT-Hyderabad)
Developed at the state-of-the-art facility established by PURE EV and co-located at IIT- Hyderabad, the most unique feature of this project was the high-performance Lithium battery packs, which were designed and manufactured on-site instead of being imported. The firm’s CEO, Rohit Vadera, a graduate from IIT-Bombay, stated that the company had invested significant resources in the development of these batteries and for road-testing the products for market readiness. Dr Nishang adds, “We have extended collaboration with other EV startups to develop and supply high voltage lithium batteries for three and four-wheeler applications.”
Bharadwaj Bollu, a Thermafluid Engineer and a PhD scholar working under Dr Nishang since December 2017, says, “It is crucial to control the temperature of the battery to improve efficiency and lifespan of the battery pack because EVs require high power discharge.”
Keen lookers: (L-R) Dr Nishanth Dongari, Assistant Professor, IIT Hyderabad, Prof UB Desai, Director, IIT Hyderabad, Dr VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog, & Mr. Rohit Vadera, CEO, PURE EV | (Pic: IIT-Hyderabad)
Chittineni Sneha and Mohd Shahrukh, Mechanical Engineering graduates from IIIT-Basara, who joined the project in July 2018, contributed at the manufacturing stage. Shahrukh, who was the technical core member says, “Most EVs in India do not match up to international standards. This is because the Indian conditions are so versatile. We are working hard on solving these problems.”
The project launched four models of high-performance EVs which are customised to suit various sections of people. Vidhan, a Civil Engineering who worked on the basic aesthetics of the models said, “We worked on better branding, graphics and wider seats, better hand-grips, and suspension. We struggled to find quality material because there aren’t enough indigenous producers.”
What does the future hold for EVs in India? Varun Perumalla, a second-year student of Engineering Science at IIT-Hyderabad, and who joined the team recently as a marketing intern, says, “We see strong growth and interest from clients on our social media platforms every day. However, we’re still catering to a niche audience of professionals who are interested in trying out EV and have launched only 10,000 EVs. There is a long way to go before the concept we can see it on the streets in India.”
EPLUTO: Premium electric scooter. Lightweight and portable battery with adapter-based lithium battery chargers. Single full charge in 3 hours gives 100 kms drive. 0-40 kmph in 7 seconds. Market Price: Rs 74,999 | (Pic: IIT-Hyderabad)
ETRANCE: “India’s first unisex electric scooter. Weighs 47 kg, with a load bearing capacity of 150kg. Single full charge gives 80 km drive. Better balancing with thick wheel radius and efficient shock-absorbing system. Market Price: Rs 56,999 | (Pic: IIT-Hyderabad)
EGNITE: Premium mountain sports bike. Removable 0.5 kWh battery that offers 60 km-long range at a top speed of 25 kmph. Suited for commute on city streets with the pedal assistance system. Market Price: `54,000 | (Pic: IIT-Hyderabad)
ETRON: India’s most economical long-range electric bicycle. Top speed is 25kmph. Load bearing capacity is 50kg. 0.5kWh battery with quick, portable charging. Perfect for consumers who want to reduce fuel costs. Market Price: Rs 25,000 | (Pic: IIT-Hyderabad)
On the list
The rest of the country is not to be left behind in the quest for pioneering the EV market in India. Here are some of our picks
- Ather Energy: Based out of Bengaluru, Ather Energy has the distinction of being the first manufacturers of intelligent electric scooters in India. Recently, they raised $51 million dollars in a round of funding led by Sachin Bansal. Its models Ather 350 and Ather 450 are powered by India's largest charging network for EVs. With several awards to its name, Ather Energy now plans on expanding to other cities in the country.
- ATI Motors: ATI's founding team comprises of a 15-year-old engineer, Saad Nasser, who skipped high school to pursue entrepreneurship. The startup is in the process of designing an autonomous electric cargo vehicle, revolutionising the way such vehicles are built in India.
- Tork Motorcycles: An EV startup based out of Pune, Tork Motorcycles recently announced the imminent launch of its new electric bike, the T6X. With a highly indigenised manufacturing process, the vehicle capitalises on the FAME II subsidies and is estimated to hit 85-100KMPH on a full charge.
- EV Motors: Established in 2016 with the aim of expanding EV infrastructure in the country, EV motors launched PlugNGo, an EV charging outlet late last year. Based out of Delhi, the startup plans to introduce 6,500 outlets in 15 Indian cities over the next five years.