Ola’s EV gambit calls for a silver bullet on wheels
As Ola bets big on taking our streets electric with a facility to roll out battery-run scooters by the million, its challenge is to pack power and mileage into a widely-affordable product
As petrol-fuelled vehicles attain ever higher levels of villainy in popular perception for their role in climate change, the urge to go electric could catch on swiftly across India once attractive options come along. Covid precautions have made public transport a last resort for many urban commuters, a shift that might endure for years as the virus continues to play hide and seek with us. Together, these two factors can spell a mass market for electric two-wheelers. This is a clear business opportunity. But still, the bet that Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola Electric Mobility has taken on flooding Indian streets with battery-run scooters is in a class of its own. Consider the audacity of it. As a name, Ola is familiar as a ride-hailing service. Founded in 2017, its electric vehicle (EV) arm bought a Dutch firm called Etergo last year. This gave it access to EV designs. Today, backed by SoftBank and others, it is setting up the world’s largest e-scooter factory on a 500-acre plot in Tamil Nadu. With an investment of $330 million, this plant hopes to start production this June with an annual capacity of 2 million units and then aims to crank out 10 million units every year from 2022 onwards. Even if exports take up large volumes, its domestic supply would have to grab a sizeable chunk of a fiercely competitive two-wheeler market estimated at less than 24 million units. In short, what Ola needs is a rip-roaring success, a silver bullet on two wheels, no less.
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