A host of new entrants, both domestic and foreign, are working on creating an ecosystem of swappable batteries aimed at drastically cutting the time needed for charging electric vehicles, thus enabling faster adoption of electric mobility in the country.
First among the pack are Chetan Maini-led Sun Mobility, Gurgaon-based Exicom Power Solutions and 22 Kymco, an alliance between startup Twenty Two Motors Pvt. Ltd and Taiwan’s Kymco Global. They are working with their respective networks for setting up battery swapping stations across select cities. Battery swapping stations allow users to replace a used battery with a fully charged one, doing away with charging their batteries—a process that can take several hours.
According to Maini, co-founder and vice chairman, Sun Mobility, the Bengaluru-based venture has secured at least 10 partnerships, working with different vehicle manufacturers as well as fleet operators to supply tailor-made battery solutions along with providing them with a network of battery swapping stations.
“We have moved from technology development stages to commercial deployment. We have been working with multiple OEMs across the ecosystem including two-, three-wheelers and the buses. We are seeing gradual deployment, one-by-one," Maini said.
Sun Mobility is currently working with Ashok Leyland on its pure electric buses plying in Ahmedabad and Delhi-based e-rickshaw startup, SmartE.
The company expects the existing fleet of 10 Ashok Leyland electric buses to be scaled up to 18 in phase-one in Ahmedabad, where it has installed a fully automated battery swap station. Sun Mobility said the swap station is installed with a robotic arm, which swaps the 600kg battery within three minutes.
In Delhi, it provides swap solutions to SmartE’s fleet of 45 electric three-wheelers. “This will be ramped up to 500 e-rickshaws," Maini added.
Sun Mobility is also working with Pune-based Piaggio Vehicles Pvt. Ltd to co-develop a business model around electric three-wheelers. While Piaggio’s plan is to bring down the cost of electric three-wheelers by separating the battery, which typically accounts for about 40% of the vehicle cost, Sun Mobility has the mandate to supply batteries to Piaggio apart from offering swapping solutions.
“The customer won’t be obliged to buy the battery when buying the vehicle. They pay every time they swap the battery. Our target is that the money to be paid per swap should be less than what one pays at an average at the fuel stations. This is what we are working on," Diego Graffi, CEO and managing director, Piaggio Vehicles.
The running costs, according to Maini, are compared on a per kilometre basis. “It definitely works out better than petrol, diesel, CNG, LPG," he added. The company claims that every swap station, which has 15 battery slots, can offer up to 200 swaps in a 16-hour shift.
Priyank Agarwal, vice president - mobility vertical, Exicom Power Solutions, said his company has an order book to set up about 120 battery swap stations in Delhi NCR over the next 18 months. “The majority of these stations will cater to the electric two- and three-wheelers with commercial applications," he added.
In the personal mobility space, 22Kymco, which recently launched the iFlow electric scooter, plans to set up about 240 swap stations (and fast charging units) across six cities including Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Kolkata by March 2020. “Our infrastructure is to help in EV adoption and remove range anxiety from consumers’ mindsets," said Allen Ko, chairman, Kymco.
Sun Mobility and Kymco’s battery swapping stations will offer open architecture for wider EV adoption as both plan to provide smartphone apps to locate the closest swapping unit.
Ola Electric has already announced plans to bring one million EVs on Indian roads by 2022 and set up an ecosystem involving battery swapping stations. The cab aggregator has said it will focus on electric two- and three-wheelers to achieve this milestone. Meanwhile, Panasonic India Pvt. Ltd, which is committed to setting up 100,000 EV charging stations to power an estimated fleet of 500,000 electric two- and three-wheelers in five years, is conducting pilot programmes on battery swaps in the National Capital Region.