Etrio, the electric vehicle (EV) start-up, has forayed into the B2C space by opening dealerships in six states, and by the end of FY22 it plans to expand to 15 states; it’s already present in the B2B space and its EVs are used by e-commerce and logistics players including Amazon, Flipkart, LetsTransport, BigBasket, GATI and Delhivery, among others. Deepak MV, the co-founder & CEO of Etrio, told FE that real EV adoption would only happen once a typical driver-owner sees EVs as the preferred option over petrol/diesel alternatives. “With the battle for total cost of ownership in the three-wheeler space being won by EVs, it’s time to build a presence on the ground,” he said, explaining the company’s decision to enter the B2C space.
Etrio’s journey started in 2017, and one of its initial focus areas was retrofitting, i.e. turning a petrol/diesel vehicle into an EV. In 2019, it turned a Tata Ace into an EV, which has been running last-mile deliveries ever since in the B2B ecosystem. Earlier, it also turned a Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire and an Alto into EVs. This process, he said, involves removal of engine, suspension assembly, exhaust pipe, rear axle and auxiliary components, and replacing these with a battery pack, power electronics, e-axle, etc, and testing these vehicles and getting certification from the concerned bodies.
However, going forward, Etrio plans to focus more on developing ground-up EVs. “We are shifting from being a conversion expert to a manufacturer of EVs,” Deepak said. It already has launched the Touro, the first such EV, in four configurations—Mini Loader, Max Loader, Mini Passenger and Max Passenger, with a claimed driving range of 105-115 km. “This range is more than enough for intra-city movement,” he said. Deepak added that while retrofitting is an easy way to enter the market, there are certain challenges. “A retrofitted EV is expensive, and it doesn’t get FAME subsidy either. For buyers, there can challenges in financing and getting such an EV registered (RTO guidelines in many states are ambiguous on such EVs),” he said.
Succeeding as an OEM may not be easy; the competition is established players such as Mahindra and Piaggio. But Deepak said the experience gained in retrofitting will help Etrio create world-class EVs. “We have gained a lot of technical expertise in the areas of powertrain design, battery packaging and assembly, system architecture, connected systems, and vehicle integration,” he said. “We also plan to launch a new electric four-wheeler next year; it will be an LCV in the one-tonne space.” However, as of now, the start-up won’t discontinue working on and selling retrofitted EVs. “If we don’t see a business case emerging for retrofitted vehicles over the next 2-3 years, we might totally shift to ground-up EVs,” he said.
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