This article is part of Inc42’s Startup Watchlist, an annual series in which we list the top startups to watch out for in 2020 from industries such as agritech, deeptech, logistics, healthtech, edtech and more. Explore all the stories from the ‘Startup Watchlist’ 2020 series here.
When 16-year-old Greta Thunberg addressed world leaders at UNs Climate Action Summit, she caught everybody’s eyes and ears. While people have spoken about going green for years and adopting environment-friendly practices, the reality is that we are running out of time and one of the biggest changes that’s needed is the transition from fossil-fuel-guzzling vehicles to clean and green electric vehicles.
But adapting to this change is not easy, and to sustain and grow, EV startups need a big push from the government and investors. Over the past year or so, we have seen plenty of EV startups make it big. India launched its first electric vehicle named Reva in the late 1990s, but electric vehicle development has progressed at snail’s pace. In the past couple of years, the country has seen electric vehicle startups take up the mantle. The fact that established automobile companies are also rampantly rolling out electric and hybrid versions, means that a big focus in 2020 will be on EVs.
A major catalyst for the growth can be attributed to the government initiatives in this sector with the introduction of policies. Reports state that India is forecasted to become the fourth-largest market for EVs by 2040. The present government has a $1.4 Bn plan to make India a manufacturing hub for EVs and cutting taxes to spur purchases.
Inc42 has curated a list of some electric vehicle startups that made it big in the past year or so and have the potential to set the pace in the burgeoning EV market in 2020.
Editor’s Note: The below list is in alphabetical order and is not meant to be a ranking of any kind.
Founded in 2016, ION Energy provides an electric battery intelligence platform for B2B that blends advanced electronics, IoT, analytics and AI with deep domain expertise in energy storage. ION’s platform leverages a two-way communication gateway that enables businesses to:
- Identify factors that are contributing to the abnormal degradation of the battery’s health
- Take appropriate actions like configuration changes over the air, drive profile changes or environment changes to continuously improve the life and performance of the battery
- Optimize costs and acquire better ROI through all stages of the battery life cycle
The company earns revenue through the sale, licensing and subscription of the battery management system (BMS). Cofounder Akhil Aryan told Inc42, “In the last decade, the auto industry has experienced technological breakthroughs that have transformed the automotive landscape. Keeping up with the growing demand, almost every major carmaker has launched or has plans to launch EVs. In the first 10 months of 2019, EVs took over 2.2% of the global vehicle market as new models were launched.”
He added that while EVs are relatively simpler to build, their components are more expensive. Not just that, EVs also use more electronic components than their ICE counterparts.
Having sold about 25,000 BMS subscriptions across 12 countries, ION Energy builds technologies that improve the life and performance of lithium-ion batteries. IONs Edison Analytics platform leverages battery data, blends advanced sensor data, data science, ML and AI to extend battery life by up to 40% and reduce the overall ownership cost, thereby boosting the return on investment for EV makers and consumers.
In the next 18 months, ION Energy envisions quadrupling the impact and delivering 10x growth by 2021 to 1GWh under management and generate $20 Mn in revenue. “Over the 5-year horizon, we see ourselves managing 10% of all Li-ion batteries deployed in the country,” Aryan said.
Founded in 2015 by Jeetender Sharma, Okinawa Autotech manufactures, manages the distribution and sales of electric two-wheelers. The company claims to have over 40K customers and is going after double of that tally in 2020.
Related Article: Startup Watchlist 2020: Showcasing India’s Most Promising Startups
In terms of market challenges, Sharma told Inc42, “The biggest challenge right now is the lack of awareness and several myths associated with EVs among users. People are having doubts about the efficiency of EVs when compared with petrol run vehicles. It is important to establish the fact that EVs are at par with the conventional fuel-run vehicles in terms of efficiency and style both.”
Okinawa Autotech plans to expand its dealership network from around 350 to more than 600 by 2021. With new product launches in the pipeline, the company is also looking at widening its market share.
PuREnergy not only manufactures electric vehicles but also provides high-performance lithium battery packs for other businesses and vehicle segments. Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Hyderabad, the company has a presence in 12 states across 47 locations in the country. It claims to have more than 1000 customers on board. PuREnergy aims to have more than 200 dealer points by the end of 2020.
Like many experts in the EV sector, PuREnergy also feels that a big challenge is providing the consumer with reliable battery packs and turnaround time. The company told Inc42, “The component ecosystem of two-wheeler is very much designed for Internal Combustion Engines, it needs to evolve to cater to the specific needs of EVs. We being a local battery pack manufacturer have a proven support record in this regard.”
Based in Delhi NCR, SmartE provides electric mobility three-wheeler services with a focus on first and last-mile transportation. Founded in 2014, the company claims to have served over 50 Mn ‘zero-pollution’ rides over the last 4 years of operations with a fleet of 1000+ electric vehicles.
Cofounder Palash Roy Chowdhury told Inc42 that more than 10K commuters daily across 20 metro stations access its services. “Very soon we are expanding our services to cover nearly 50 metro stations,” he added.
SmartE three-wheelers are equipped with GPS and sensors which are monitored in a control room in Gurgaon. This keeps them from being taken off-route and from overloading the capacity. “We have charging hubs near Metro Stations in multiple locations across Delhi, Gururgram, and Faridabad so that our drivers can have the facility of charging and parking their vehicles after their day is over,” Chowdhury added.
SmartE has signed partnerships with semi-public and public sector bodies such as Delhi Metro, Rapid Metro Gurgaon, Haryana State Industrial, and Institutional Development Corporation. The company charges commuters INR 10 for the first 2 Km and INR5 every Km thereafter. “We can afford to move people at these rates because we focus on volumes. Every passenger that uses our services, adds to our profits.”
For off-peak hours, SmartE has partnered with two online grocers and is doing about 2,000 deliveries on an average per day in the Delhi NCR region.
Founded in 2016, Ultraviolette Automotive unveiled its high-performance electric motorcycle – the F77 in November 2019 and plans to deliver the first batch of motorcycles by October 2020. The company told Inc42 that for electric vehicles to become mainstream in the near future there are two fundamental aspects that need to be addressed.
Firstly, electric vehicles need to be desirable in aspects of ownership and usage. Secondly, the range anxiety has to be minimised.
“At the outset, there are two ways to deal with this problem. First by providing a significant range on the vehicle — sufficient to cover the heaviest usage scenarios. Second by building a network of energy stations that would provide access to energy on-the-go,” they added.
The company plans to roll out the first batch of 100 F77 motorcycles by October 2020.
Offering mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) through smaller and efficient clean energy vehicles, Yulu has a presence in Bengaluru, New Delhi, Greater Mumbai, Pune, and Bhubaneswar.
The company uses IoT devices, machine learning, and cloud computing to deliver a seamless ride booking experience via a user-friendly app. Using IoT technology, the dockless vehicles can be rented seamlessly through smartphones and are unlocked via QR codes.
The company generates revenue through a subscription model and has more than 1.8 mn app downloads.
“Yulu has solved the chicken and egg problem faced by the electric vehicle ecosystem in India, where the lack of charging infrastructure influences the advent of EVs, and vice versa. Yulu has created a unique battery-swapping network by placing its proprietary IoT enabled charging box (Yulu Max) at hundreds of mom-n-pop stores across its operational areas,” the company told Inc42.
It further believes that the consumer adoption of EVs has been limited due to practical factors like range anxiety and availability. On the other hand, improving asset utilisation of the existing class of vehicles with shared-mobility platforms has not been able to reduce the dual problem of traffic congestion and pollution in a significant way.
On two-wheelers being the most optimal mode of transportation, Yulu said, “India is a country of bikers, a majority of car owners also prefer to use a two-wheeler to reach work. The rising trend of scooterisation in India will continue and two-wheelers will be more attractive targets for electrification in the short term.”
Founded in 2017 and headquartered in Gurugram, Zypp (earlier Mobycy) provides last-mile connectivity for daily commutes from metro and bus stations, townships, tech parks for a range of under 5 Km. The company also caters to B2B players for last-mile mobility requirements in delivery and logistics.
The company generates revenue by offering scooters on short and long-term rentals for B2B deliveries and through last-mile commute bookings.
Zypp claims to have 300K users along with B2B clients such as Zomato, Swiggy, BigBasket, Dunzo, Ninjacart, Amazon among others for last-mile deliveries. For 2020, the company plans to scale up to 25K electric vehicles.
“Zypp will be working on setting up 1000+ battery swapping and charging stations to run the same machinery across 5 cities,” the company said.
The Indian deeptech startups are selected for the Watchlist based on editorial criteria as well as the recent funding, stage, growth or scale achieved in the preceding year and how it has differentiated itself or its model in a competitive market.