One of the main advantages of simulators is their ability to provide accurate feedback to users when designing real world systems. It is very expensive to actually make all the potential designs of a particular product, in order to assess its performance. In an interaction with the Baishakhi Dutta of Electronics Bazaar, Dhivik A., executive director, Go GreenBOV, shares his experience of working with simulation software and how it has improved the efficiency of his company’s products. He also talks of how the Indian EV market is positioned today.
EB: What important role does simulation software play in the manufacturing process?
I strongly believe that the need of the hour is not just to set up manufacturing companies, but also ensure they use simulations. And instead of merely telling people to use simulation software, we should actually demonstrate cases of companies that have adopted it and benefited tremendously from doing so. Simulation software is going to play a very critical role, going forward, in validating a manufacturer’s idea and performance. This software has a very bright future in the electric mobility space.
EB: Do tell us a little about your company’s journey so far.
We have been in the market since 2011, and manufacture electric two-wheelers. Our manufacturing unit is at Kolar in Karnataka, and our output is around 600 vehicles per month.
EB: What is your strategy for marketing and revenue generation?
It’s very hard to sell an electric vehicle to a consumer because of what lead acid batteries did to the EV industry, which has lowered the level of customer confidence. No matter how much you try to convince consumers about your product, they are not going to believe you until they are convinced about the chances of it succeeding in the market. That mountain is too high to cross at this junction.
So instead of targeting the B2C (business to consumer) market, we hopped into the B2B (business to business) sector. We started going to some renowned companies in the e-commerce, food and grocery delivery business and showed them the benefits of using our two-wheeler EVs. If these companies start buying the two wheelers, those in the B2C segment will also start looking at e-bikes in a positive light.
There are two ways to sell a product—from the company’s perspective or you can have a consumer speak about it. In a new, untested market segment, people are likely to buy based on the latter option more than just believing what a company claims.
Today, in the electric vehicle industry, companies are pushing themselves onto the consumers. But the way forward is to create the ‘pull’ effect by having more products out there in the market. So we believe in the pull strategy rather than the push strategy. We want our satisfied consumers to speak on our behalf rather than us going to new customers with our products.
EB: How have you made that possible?
We have approached about 16 companies that make batteries for two wheelers and have done a complete audit of their manufacturing lines. We measure 400 odd parameters to evaluate every stage of the manufacturing process, down to even how the battery cell is picked. For example, we scrutinise all the chemicals used, particularly with regard to their manufacturing dates, rejecting any that haven’t been used for too long a period. Because, if those chemicals are used, the performance levels of the battery will not be up to the mark. So we go down to minute details to analyse a potential vendor’s production capabilities.
We do this because an EV is all about getting the right set of products. If we cannot get that right, the e-bike manufactured won’t be a success. We are probably the only Indian company that does not buy cells from anywhere in South East Asia.
EB: At present, two- and three-wheeler EVs are more popular. Is this market well developed in India? How do you see it grow further?
It is true that the two- and three-wheeler market is taking shape in India but what we’ve neglected to address is what kind of batteries are being used here. In the three-wheeler EV segment, everything runs on lead acid batteries, while all four-wheeler EVs run on lithium-ion. But in the Indian two-wheeler EV segment, 80 per cent of the market uses lead acid batteries and 20 per cent uses lithium-ion.
So why or how did the three-wheeler EV market (that uses lead acid batteries) even take off in the first place? The reason is that buyers could make a lot more money using lead acid batteries and, at the same time, generate more power in the three-wheeler. This has worked from the commercial standpoint. In my opinion, the numbers are going to be much higher, in terms of adoption, if these EVs move to lithium-ion. Though, for now, there is no company in India making lithium-ion batteries for three-wheelers.
EB: What is your take on the scope for four-wheeler EVs in India?
From the volume perspective, the first big EV sales will be led by two-wheelers in India, followed by three-wheelers. Then will come the four-wheeler fleet, electric buses (due to the huge push by the government) and lastly, personal mobility. From the last-mile perspective, on a commercial scale, electric vehicles are suitable for intra-city commuting and not inter-city travel. In that context, three wheelers will be the first off the block followed by two wheelers, while four-wheeler fleets are not going to feature anywhere in this segment soon.
EB: Are there sufficient EV charging facilities available across our country?
For two- and three-wheelers, people are comfortable charging at home. Personally, I don’t see the need to deploy a large number of charging stations. Most EV players, including us, believe that people would prefer charging their batteries at home. There are challenges with charging stations as well as with battery swapping, so I believe we still have a long way to go in this segment.
EB: How have you benefited by using simulation software?
With any simulation software, we have been able to shorten the time required to get to market because you can simulate systems and test them. Using simulation software, we have been able to improve the battery life of our two wheelers by at least 30 per cent.
EB: Can you describe the subscription model of the software you use?
The software is expensive because only a limited number of people can use it. Just the basic version costs around ₹ 300,000 but the positive thing is you can use it for eternity, using just one computer, though that is a challenge too. We have purchased the software.
EB: What do you believe will happen in the EV industry over the next five years?
In five years’ time, maybe 15 per cent of the vehicles sold in India will be electric. Ours is not like the US market which is highly developed in terms of technology. What matters now is who makes the first move. Once consumers start witnessing success, they will be motivated to adopt EVs too.
EB: Any expansion or investment plans coming up?
We have identified land on the outskirts of Bengaluru (Kolar), but things are still at the preliminary state. Eventually, we hope this will become the biggest two-wheeler EV manufacturing plant to come up. However, it will take another six to eight months for the official announcement to be made. Our short term goal is to increase our EV output from 600 to 1500 per month in the next five to six months. And a production capacity of 1500 to 5000 vehicles a month is our target when the new plant comes up next year. However, I believe consumer awareness is seriously lacking in the country and that needs to be worked upon in order to promote EV adoption in India.
EB: What more can be done to create a strong ecosystem?
Talking about charging stations, even there, there is no unity among manufacturers regarding what type of plugs should be used. The reason why charging stations are not being rolled out in the market is because there is no clarity when it comes to rules and regulations.
India is known for smart engineering, which is why the automobile sector has flourished in the country, with nearly all the auto majors of the world having operations here. With EVs, the number of locally-made components used in manufacturing has gone down slowly and the government has realised a bit late that this is where its focus should have been. We may have missed the bus.