The indian subsidiary of Swedish e-auto rickshaw maker Clean Motion is looking to source lithium-ion batteries from a local supplier Exicom Power Solutions and other vendors in the country. The commercial launch will take place over the next 12-18 months.
The company is also likely to sign a MoU with a Sri Lankan industrial group in January 2018 for export of 100 e-three-wheelers, better known as Zbees, monthly from India. This will spur the setting up of a second manufacturing facility in India, besides the existing one at Faridabad in Haryana.
The second manufacturing location will be either at Chennai or at Pondicherry in close proximity to the port for shipping supplies to Sri Lanka. The southern island country has banned diesel three-wheelers and is giving incentives for boosting their electric counterparts.
About 90 percent government funding is on offer to companies operating electric three-wheelers. Indian three-wheeler companies like Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor Company are strong contenders in the Sri Lankan market selling over 2,000 units.
In comparison, India offers complete duty exemption on import of core electric drivetrain technology of batteries, motors and controllers with the rest of the component imports drawing 30 percent duties.
Meanwhile, at present, the lithium-ion batteries that power the Zbee e-auto rickshaws in India are imported from Malaysia. The next lot of new Zbee’s will use the locally-made lithium-ion batteries saving costs.
Plans are to locally assemble the Zbee’s out of the Faridabad plant in Haryana. Clean Motion India is mulling an investment of around Rs 70 crore for the next phase of expansion, marketing, branding, cluster operations and assembling of rapid chargers and DC chargers. Some part of it will be funded by the parent company and the rest will be raised through private equity, Anil Arora, country head –India, told ETAuto.
“The batteries and chargers have been tested according to world standards.”
So far the Nasdaq-listed Swedish firm has invested Rs 20 crore in its entire Indian business spawning proof of concept, marketing and operation of the Zbees on certain routes in Gurgaon and Noida in the National Capital Region.
The Zbees are currently operated directly by Clean Motion and with the next tranche of funding is looking at tying up with operators on a profit-sharing basis when about 100 Zbees will be on the roads.
Currently, about 50 Zbees provide last mile connectivity in the Cyber City in Gurgaon as well as in Malls in Noida and Gurgaon. A few are running in a premium hotel in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
The company has been operating the Zbees in the NCR for the last two years. Clean Motion had earlier indicated a plan to step up the number of cities on the radar of the e-auto rickshaws as well as roll-out other cargo variants of the Zbee within a year of its launch. The Zbee had been launched in India in March 2016.
“We have been localizing the components that have taken more time than we expected so we will be doing a few more cities in the next financial year,” Arora explains the delay.
“The Zbee has a composite material body and its granules were not available in India so it took a long time identifying a vendor to bring in the raw material, fabricate and mould the body. Initially the finish and quality of the locally made body were not up to the European mark. Now the first set of samples have been prepared and sent to Sweden for approval. After receiving the green signal we should start making the bodies by February,” he elaborates.
Similarly, the cargo version has also been delayed and will be sent to the Automotive Research Association of India for homologation. That process should be completed within 6 months once the vehicle body is localized. It is likely to be launched by September next year.
Meanwhile, as part of the expansion plan, next on the radar are the cities of Jaipur and Chandigarh as also Amritsar, all being in the north and within close proximity to the NCR. Clean Motion will also be expanding its cluster in Gurgaon as it has received a strong response to the existing Zbees there. The company plans to cover a larger part of this city over the next few months shoring up the volume to 100 Zbees by March 2018.
Unfortunately, the Zbees have not received permission to operate in Delhi under the existing auto- rickshaw category. A cap on the number of three-wheelers that can operate on the roads and permission to allow only individual operators to register their vehicles has put restrictions on corporate operators in running fleets.
At present, the company’s Faridabad facility has an installed capacity of 30 vehicles a month. Production will commence once the locally made bodies are approved. The other critical drivetrain components like the motor and the controller are sourced from Sweden. The plant’s production capacity can be stepped up to 200-300 units monthly after adding more shifts. Moreover, once the body is localized, moulds can output a larger volume daily.
The body has been completely locally developed around composites to make it lightweight. This will make the Zbees environment-friendly and create a new category of connected vehicles offering the first mile and last mile connectivity claims the company.
Clean Motion India has trained drivers on its payroll and uses advanced telematics to monitor the vehicles online. At present 100 Zbees operate in Sweden with an order for 300 vehicles in progress and forming part of the smart city initiative in Germany.
On an average, the existing Zbees are generating a revenue of Rs 20,000-25,000 per month for Clean Motion in India and with 4-5 cities expected to be added in the next one year, 500 Zbees should be on the roads.
Source- ET Auto