UK-based electric vehicle start-up Helixx is a young brand that aims to disrupt the Southeast Asian markets including India with its innovative modular platform-based product approach. Founded in 2022 by Steve Pegg, who has over 25 years of vehicle engineering and conceptual vehicle design experience with global automotive manufacturers, along with hypercar designers Jowyn Wong and Jakub Jodlowski.
The start-up has plans to introduce four models in its line-up – the Helixx Cargo commercial delivery van will offer optimised cargo space, while the Truck pick-up is designed to meet the needs of construction businesses. The open-body Tuk (autorickshaw replacement) and the closed-body Ride are designed as modern replacements for ride-hailing and taxi fleets.
In an exclusive interaction with Financial Express, Pegg says that, unlike the traditional CAPEX-heavy system, Helixx aims to focus on being a technology company, wherein it would license its products and manufacturing to customers. It will provide all the necessary technology, manufacturing tools, and supply chain partnerships to these players to be able to manufacture and sell them in the region.
The vehicles will be locally manufactured in licensed Helixx Mobility Hubs and offered on a business-to-business fleet subscription basis for commercial users from $0.25 per hour (Rs 20 per hour), it will enable and encourage local enterprise.
The digital-first Helixx ecosystem is designed to transcend existing automotive manufacturing models. Scalable, low-cost, low-carbon, licensed Helixx Mobility Hubs, which can be deployed virtually anywhere in the world, will enable local businesses to rapidly progress from an empty building to finished vehicles being delivered in just 180 days.
He further states that the company will empower businesses not only to manufacture but also to supply, maintain, and recycle urban service vehicles through its proprietary technology aggregation and enablement platform. This will ensure that the products can be rapidly brought to market with a minimal environmental footprint and an exceptionally low barrier to entry.
Chennai as a potential manufacturing hub
One of the key aspects for any company globally is to consider manufacturing and the supply chain ecosystem. India with its robust automotive manufacturing and supplier chain has global as well as local companies continuously investing and expanding production in the country.
Pegg says the company is having discussions with potential customers and investors globally including India. But the idea is to first roll-out the demonstrator vehicle before entering into any partnerships.
“We are speaking with potential investor customers in Chennai, and it is probably the introductory market for us in India. The reason for that specifically is the local government in Chennai has a strong focus on new mobility and technology. Then there are a lot of smart city developments going on. The conversations currently are about if we can bring this technology to India.”
He says that the company is not looking at having giga factories, but regional partners who would license the product(s) as per their requirements.
Range, uptime and Global NCAP
Helixx vehicles are based on a single proprietary common lightweight platform with an integrated smart electric drive and swappable battery modules. They are engineered to comply with L7e heavy quadricycle categorisation and will fulfil all regional regulatory requirements and exceed the product category’s minimum recommended safety requirements.
When queried about the safety of the vehicle, Pegg says Helixx plans to get its vehicles crash test rated by Global NCAP, to ensure that the vehicles are robust.
In terms of performance, the Cargo commercial goods vehicle has 2,100-litres of cargo space and the capability to carry the majority of ISO pallets. With a 1.64-metre square bed, the Truck pick-up is ideal for construction businesses. The closed-body Ride and open-body Tuk can carry four occupants, offer a top speed of 50mph (80kmph) and an electric driving range of 70 miles (112km per charge). Operators can also subsidise revenue streams through the company’s Data-as-a-Service model and on-vehicle digital advertising.
To ensure a higher revenue stream for its customers, the vehicles are powered by rapidly swappable Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) battery packs minimising the need for high voltage charging and ensuring that any vehicle can operate almost uninterrupted for 24-hour duty periods with near-zero downtime and flexible range-on-demand. A 12kWh battery configuration can facilitate a range of up to 200km. Servicing and maintenance will also have minimal impact on operational time and profitability, with Helixx hubs fulfilling the role of service centres.
When queried if the company would set up its own battery-swapping network or look out for partnerships?
“It absolutely makes sense for us to, to jump on the back of an existing network rather than trying to reinvent a low-value wheel. We are speaking with established operators in the Asia Pacific region and they are implementing our batteries in their network,” says Pegg without revealing the name.
Investments and business case
Till date the young start-up has raised 500,000 sterling pounds (Rs 5 crore) and it aims to raise another 500,000 sterling pounds to further its time-to-market. Pegg says unlike traditional automakers, Helixx is an asset-light company. The 18-member team works like an agile company.
From the looks of it, Helixx aims to offer its customers a ‘Lego’ experience, wherein it would provide the technology, the know-how and the technical license to produce it for the regional market. These customers would then manufacture and operate/sell the vehicles under their own branding.
“This is what we promote so that the vehicles get better cultural and commercial integration into the marketplace. Secondly, because is the way we have designed our vehicles and the way the systems and components are sourced. It’s up to the customer, but you potentially can have a different shape of the vehicle. It doesn’t have to have that style that we’re launching with and we can even look at developing new shapes, new styles for those regions so that they become very distinctive,” he says.
The start-up says a potential partner will need to invest around 20 million pound sterling (Rs 200 crore) to start manufacturing the vehicles. The idea is to get serious partners on board, while this may be a steep investment for a new entrant in the automotive industry, contract manufacturers or component players could easily join the bandwagon with a much smaller investment. As these players would already have a manufacturing shopfloor, which would just need an extension of the line.
“We have a mix of potential customers that we are talking to. There are customers that are already in the last-mile delivery, or ride-hailing business and want to add some vertical integration into their business with their own product, or they are in the industry already at some part of the supply chain. And these are industrial partners, we have we are talking with partners in Asia-Pacific, who build vehicles for other manufacturers. Also, what this allows customers like that to do is to use space within their facilities to put an additional product line without having to invest hugely in the new set-up,” reveals Pegg.
Going forward, the company aims to roll out the first demonstrator vehicle in 2024 and accelerate its plans to enter the Asia-Pacific region, including India soon after that.