Updated: August 24, 2021 11:50:38 am
What can delivery partners do when their electric vehicles (EVs) are about to run out of charge and they are short on time? A Pune-based startup has a solution: swap the battery for a charged one at one of the many stations operated by it in Pune and Delhi.
The smart battery-swapping station is BatteryPool’s flagship product and is present in 55 locations — five in Pune and 50 in Delhi. “When we started the company, we bought a fleet of 20 electric two-wheelers and gave these to small business and delivery boys who use EVs for commercial purposes. For the first time, we got an insight into issues around charging and daily maintenance. A delivery boy might travel 90-100 km in the city but the vehicle does not have the range to cover the distance on a single charge. The driver might not find a charging point in public and, even if he did, the battery might take up to three hours to charge. That downtime lost revenue for the driver,” says Ashwin Shankar, an electrical engineer who founded BatteryPool in 2018.
At BatteryPool’s battery-swapping stations, set up at a couple of BigBasket hubs in Pune, “a driver can come and change the battery packs in 30 seconds”.
“We have set up battery charging stations at convenient locations frequented by the users of electric vehicles, such as parking lots and basements,” he adds.
Significantly, the swapping stations are battery-agnostic since the company has built its product around batteries that fleet operators already use.
India has set ambitious targets for the adoption of EVs. This was the sense that Shankar also got when he spent a year working with a public policy think tank, which was focussed on technology policy, especially in the manufacturing industry. Pune’s manufacturing industry, particularly the automotive sector, allowed him to plan for the future. “It became clear in 2016-17 was that the world was headed towards electrification. This aligned with my background as an electrical engineer,” says Shankar.
The pandemic of 2020 created an upsurge in the demand for last-mile delivery. The buzz around EVs had prompted many companies to use these.
“Fleet operators were looking for solutions that we were building, such as battery swapping stations and charging packs. We realised this had a lot of potential for fleet operators in other parts of India and the world so we started to give out this charging pack to commercial vehicle users in other parts of the country,” says Shankar.
BatteryPool has now raised an undisclosed amount of growth capital as part of its seed funding round. “With this funding, we will step on the gas in developing the business further. We are looking to build partnerships with battery manufacturers, among others, to give a comprehensive solution to fleet operators. Increasing products in our portfolio is an important part of the plan since swapping stations makes sense for vehicles that use swappable battery packs but not if the fleets have vehicles whose battery packs are not swappable. Three-wheelers, especially, have large batteries that are difficult to swap. For that, we are developing smart plug points,” he.
Support for the company, in the latest seed funding, came from the Indian Angel Network (IAN) and Pune-based Venture Center under the NIDHI-Seed Support Scheme. Lead investors included Arjun Seth and Harshavardhan Chitale.
In an official statement, Arjun Seth has said, “The EV ecosystem in India is evolving rapidly. The use case of going electric is well-known as running costs for fleet operators’ contracts. By 2030, the fleet and commercial vehicle charging market size is set to reach $2.7 billion, as these will become electrified. BatteryPool is walking on a path to capture a huge opportunity with India witnessing a rapid shift to electric mobility in the 2&3 wheeler segment, which is where EV adoption will see tremendous velocity. We will offer our proprietary software and hardware solutions and embrace a collaborative platform as we build on our partnerships with OEMs and fleet operators.”
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