Covid-19 has led to a realisation that localisation is the way to go as far as parts supply (in electric vehicle supply chain) is concerned, says Akhil Aryan, co-founder & CEO of ION Energy. “It may not be entirely possible—in a lithium-ion battery a lot of raw material comes from China or is managed by Chinese companies—but it can happen in electronics,” he says, adding, “India has some of the smartest engineers in the world, and a strong tier-1 supplier base for the automotive market.” ION Energy is a battery management system (BMS) and intelligence platform. It builds technologies that improve the life and performance of lithium-ion batteries that power EVs, energy storage systems. Over the last three years, it has become the largest BMS company in India, and over 30,000 vehicles on Indian roads are running on its BMS. Even though the company has products for high-voltage vehicles, such as electric cars, its focus is on lower-voltage products—in the two- and three-wheeler space. “Any company in India big time into electric two- and three-wheeler space is either working with us or we are doing proof of concepts with them for their next product line,” he adds.
For the record, ION Energy is tier-1 supplier to Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor, the two major Indian OEMs that have entered the EV segment, which, Aryan believes, is set to grow after Covid-19. “Covid-19, and the resultant focus on environment, has shown that the mission of making the world all electric (in terms of mobility) is meaningful. There will be operational battles—the shift to BS6 and the investment incurred, FAME-2, investment required for electric infrastructure and so on—but electric mobility will see an uptake,” he says. The reasons he offers include e-commerce and home-delivery picking up, in addition to people trying to maintain physical distancing in a post-lockdown world. “Personal mobility will see a spike because people will always want to move around. We may need more financing options for electric two-wheelers, however. And for commercial usage electric two-wheelers are significantly cheaper per km compared to petrol ones.”
The challenge, he adds, is more on the product side and not so much on demand side. “You need vehicles that have a decent range, enough power to maintain maximum permissible city speeds,” he says. Aryan says he foresees a lot more of electronics, software, lighting, plastics, motors, BMS, motor controllers, telematics, IoT systems being developed in India. “Over the next couple of years we have to build a local supply chain for all the critical parts of an EV. It must happen,” he says.