Gearing up for the big green leap

Gearing up for the big leap


Mahindra & Mahindra which had ventured into electric vehicles (EVs) With Bljll three-wheeler n 2000 and has a special arm,Mahindra Electric, is ready with technology and products to make EVs mainstream in a big way.It is ramping up investments for the next generation of EV technology and products.

“The time has now arrived for EVs to become mainstream and Mahindra has the right technology and products for that. We will actively engage with the State and Central governments, municipal bodies and other private players for setting up a robust EV ecosystem. We are also ramping up our investments to develop the next generat on of EV
technologies and products that Wlll cater to the smart Cities of tomorrow,” Dr Pawan Goenka, Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, and Chairman, Mahindra Electric, said.

Encouraged by the push from the government, which has recognized e-mobility as the future of the automotive industry, Mahindra Electric released a roadmap early last year aptly cal ed EV 2.0 It will see the company making investments to ramp up manufacturing and charging infrastructure and to develop new, high-end electric power trains, motor controllers, systems integration and battery technology.

“Mahindra began its EV drive in 2010 with its focus on sustainable mobility. We decided to invest in electric moblity for the future.That’s how Mahindra acquired the Bengaluru-based Reva Car Company From 2010 to 2013, we invested on lithium technology, battery C20 vehicles and on a plant, which was then India s first automobile plant to be rated as ‘Platinum’ by the Indian Green Budding Council (IGBC). The idea was to be sustainable in manufacturing, and to bring a sustainable vehicle and a proven electric technology to the market.That was the intent and we have been investing during these 10 years on electric mobility,” Mahesh Babu, CEO, Mahindra Electric, told Automotive Script.

The company has been churning out products at regular intervals, which include E20 Plus, E Verito in the passenger car segment, E Supro in the passenger van and cargo van segment and E Alfa in e-rickshaw segment. Recently, Mahindra Electric displayed new and exciting products, which will be rolled out in the next couple of years. The company unveiled ts new electric compact SUV, the E-KUV100, which combines the benefits of an SUV with the unique advantage of an electric vehicle.The vehicle is like the fossil fuel-powered KUV100, except that in the place of the Internal combustion engine is an electric motor. The company also launched E20 NXT, a new version of the E20 Plus Apart from these, Treo, the low maintenance Lithium-ion battery-powered three-wheeler and E-COSMO
Electric Bus, its first in the e-bus segment, were also displayed.

Mahindra’s EV journey has not been without problems. “We were expecting that the Union Government would offer subsidies on EVs in 2013 but it did not. The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) scheme was notified in 2015 This was a period between our launch of E20 and it took us a bit of time to recalibrate ourselves. But, since we have been committed to EVs, we never looked back. We were skeptical about our decision. We always believed it was the right decision and it is only a matter of time to prove it,” he said.

The market for these vehicles also has not been picking up as people are still reluctant to buy an EV “An electric vehicle, if run less than 100 kms a day, will not pay back within four or five years. People also think it is difficult to drive an EV. The drivers of cha lenging,” Mahesh Babu CEO Mahindra ElectricMahesh Babu fleet for shared mobility Ola or Zoom, who use EVs, will confirm that it is easier than conventional vehicles and it has hardly any exhaust or noise pollution. We are trying to create awareness. Recently, we drove from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.That took 21 days and we met several customers on the way. We stopped in Chandigarh, Delhi , Indore, Mumbai and other places. This was to prove the point that an EV can run on all terrains, and climates. All one has to do is to charge the vehicle at regular intervals. Still the conversion in personal segment is very low as India is a very value-conscious market and very challenging,” Mahesh Babu said.

Since EV is not yet a preferred mode of personal mobility, Mahindra Electric has shifted its attention to the fleet operators. “The fleet operators look at the total cost of operation, and not at the initial acquisition cost alone. Since the fleet companies are financed, they pay EMI. For a normal car, you pay the EMI and you pay for the fuel. But, in the case of EVs, the cost of the fuel comes down. For the fleet, it doesn’t make a big difference on the operating cost and hence, we felt that fleet for shared mobility is the right way. So, we interacted with fleet operators, we gave them cars and asked them to run it and experience it,” he said.

As a pilot project, the company supplied 100 vehicles to Lithium Urban Technologies in Bengaluru, which run electric cars for employee commute. “We proved that electric cars are not Just environmentally-friendly but also economically viable because they reached operational break-even within 18 months. This also confirmed that we could get into fleet,” Mahesh Babu said.

Mahindra Electric then tied up with fleet management companies like Ola, Uber, Zoom, Bhagirathi and many more. Zoom has employed around 500 cars across various Cities and with Ola; they have their first project in Nagpur with 100 cars. The decision they took seems to be right as the cars that had been employed in the fleet have crossed around 1,75,000 km.

This is also the reason why Mahindra Electric changed its strategy and started rolling out
multiple vehicles. “Autos make sense because we see that three-wheelers will be the first one to convert into electric quickly. Cars, in fleet,world environment day will become electric and that’s why we have tied up with Ola, Uber and Zoom. So our actions are based on what we learnt from the market and customer feedback”, he said.

The interest in investing its energies and resources in the fleet segment does not mean that the company has given up on the personal car segment. The company feels that to make EVs popular, there needs to be mass-adoption. It has also to recognize the problem areas and work on them. “One is the anxiety of charging and the other is the anxiety of range. We have to work hard to get down the technology cost. That will happen only when we have mass manufacturing.We also need to maximize infrastructure. So, that is a business challenge; that is our role and we will do it. We have been working actively with the Government for this. I think by and large, the perception in the Government, in the public and in the industry has shifted substantially in the last one year from ‘Do we need EV’ to ‘How we do EV’. That is a very important shift,” Mahesh Babu said.

Right now, the vehicles that Mahindra manufactures can be charged overnight from
15 amps plug point. For apartments, the company has tied up with its dealers, who will come and run a line for a minimal cost. For E Verito and E20, there are two models, one which runs for 140 km and the other for 110 km.

“Cars in the city are run for about 100 km daily.This can be managed by the overnight charging. But going forward, for intercity rides there has to be charging points in between. We are for promoting EV corridors. The EV piolicy of Karnataka Government says that an EV corridor will be created between Bengaluru and Mysore; Maharashtra wants to do between Mumbai and Pune. Plans are underway for similar corridor between Delhi and Jaipur. There will be EV corridors on several stretches. We are working with the Government and other stakeholders on how we can make this happen,” he said.

Mahindra Electric has invested in a big way on its research and development activities.
“We are the first ones to have R&D facilities for EV and we have opened an innovation centre. We have over 250 engineers working for it. We have also announced that we
will increase the R&D footprint in Bengaluru; we will invest Rs 300 crore only on technology development and R&D.” Mahesh Babu said.

Mahindra Electric is expanding its plants in Bengaluru and in Chakan, Pune, Maharashtra
The Chakan plant is manufacturing the normal cars. The plan is to set up a small EV manufacturing plant adjacent to the main plant. In three years the company will be having capacity for 70,000 EVs including three wheelers, cars and buses.

Positioned right at the top, Mahindra Electric is willing to lend its expertise to companies that want it. “We at Mahindra Electric are happy to supply our technology to anybody, even to a competitor. Though right now the volumes are quite reasonable in the market, our aim is to increase the demand for EVs and create the market. We have an electric kit which consists of the motor, power electronics and the battery pack. We send it to the plant in Nasik where it is fixed into the Verito. If I can give it to Verito, I can give it to any other Sedan. Right now, more people should adopt electric vehicles and we are aware that we will not be the only player,” he said.

Mahesh Babu feels that even if 30-40 percent adoption happens by 2030, it would be a big achievement. He said “the change is inevitable, and it is not a choice anymore, but a compulsion. I think if all the stakeholders work together, we can reduce the impact of the change. For a consistent growth, the government should have a clear FAME 2 policy at least for two to three years. Then, there will be investment on technology, manufacturing, skilling like what Mahindra is doing today. Once you invest, adoption will be faster. I a so think both BS-VI and EV will co-exist. Fossil fuel vehicles will not die; it is not going to happen in the near future, ” he said.

Along with the new technologies, there will be a need for skilled people. For this Mahindra Electric has taken up an initiative called eBAJA, an intercollegiate design competition, with SAE INDIA Teams of students need to design and build electric powered ATV. What started off with five teams three years ago, has reached 150 this year. “This year 150 teams competed. There was so much enthusiasm among the students that they wanted to take all the regular cars and convert them into electric. With students being introduced to the concept of EVs at the college level, there will be enough skilled experts,” Mahesh Babu said.

With everything going right, Mahindra Electric is looking forward to an ‘electric future.’//



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