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Sun Mobility’s Chetan Maini says battery swapping can make EVs safer and cut cost

Chetan Maini, co-founder and Chairman of Sun Mobility believes swapping can address three key challenges of EV adoption. It will help cut down lithium imports too.

Sun Mobility’s Chetan Maini says battery swapping can make EVs safer and cut cost
Chetan Maini: "Battery swapping solves three important issues. It lowers the upfront costs, which as you rightly said is a barrier. It reduces the refueling time from five to eight hours to a couple of minutes. It resolves the big issue around range anxiety."

Sun Mobility co-founder and chairman, Chetan Maini expects electrification of at least 50 percent of many vehicle segments over the next 3-5 years. If supply headwinds ease off, he is hopeful of seeing million units of EVs by the end of this financial year.

Here are excerpts of his conversation with Express Mobility on the growing EV adoption across the country and the challenges therein-

How do you see EV adoption panning out in India?

Energy Security is a large challenge for the world. For India, oil prices are high. The cost of renewable energy is significantly lower, it’s equivalent to probably $7 per gallon of gasoline.

In India, in the last few months, over 50 percent of all three-wheelers sold were electric and the sale of electric two-wheelers is at 8x levels. We still have a long way to go but it’s a good start in the last 12 months post pandemic.

Investments are going up, awareness is increasing and new products are coming out. I think that in the next three to five years, many segments will see 50 percent plus electrification, which would really make a huge impact, as we think of the two big challenges that the country is facing- that of climate change and energy security.

The ecosystem is coming up, right. Hope more and more people adopt electric to accelerate this race of sustainable mobility.

Whenever we talk of sustainable mobility, affordability is a big point of concern from the Indian perspective. How do you see this these two factors balancing themselves out?

You are seeing EV growth rates of 8x from last year because it’s actually, for the first time, making business and economic sense for someone to step up on this front.

I think the segments that I would call a core of energy or mobility are buses and trucks that consume 40 percent of our fuel. Two- and three- wheelers comprise 85 percent of transportation. These are the ones that I think will accelerate very well and it makes business sense too.

The segment that probably will take a little longer in India is going to be cars, especially the lower cost cars, because the batteries still constitute a very large portion of that. And, and so it will start in taxis and other areas where it still makes a lot of sense because people drive a lot. In case of electric, the moment you drive a lot, and you save a lot.

In this context of viability, how do you see battery swapping impacting EV adoption?

Battery swapping solves three important issues. It lowers the upfront costs, which as you rightly said is a barrier. It reduces the refueling time from five to eight hours to a couple of minutes. It resolves the big issue around range anxiety.

At a country level, you know, battery swapping uses smaller batteries, so you use less lithium, less imports as a result. The life of these batteries that are swapped are significantly longer as they are temperature controlled in the stations.

At Sun Mobility, when the batteries go to the air conditioned stations, it actually helps in cooling these down. The challenge in India is that when the batteries are inside a vehicles all day long and charging with temperatures, especially in summers, going up to 50 degree celsius and even higher.

The other thing is that when the battery goes to the station, we undertake 100 checks before we dispense it. These add another level of safety.

The third thing the charging processes in the station is completely away from the vehicle, so a lot of risk is reduced.

When it comes to battery swapping, does that approach, ‘one size fits all’ work for electric vehicles?

As we are at the early stages of EV adoption, the technology is still advancing. So the the requirements of the different vehicles are fairly significant. As a result, in the early stages, it’s good to have multiple solutions and then as the industry matures, you start seeing just a few of these. A SIM card a good example of this.

The complexity in case of EVs is 100 times more. There’s a time for standards, which is early stages, and there’s a time for standardization, which is the later stage of development. And between the two is when you want innovation to drive it. By standardizing too early, you have an option of curtailing innovation. We shouldn’t do that it’s at a very nascent stage at this point.

What is your estimate for FY2023, in terms of battery swaps and overall EV adoption?

I think there’s an opportunity if the next half doesn’t have supply chain constraints, we could get to a million units. I think that’s a good starting point for us considering where we were last year. The delivery segment, at least 10 -15% of that space, I see will be adopters of electric of swapping today. And that will increase over a period of time as more infrastructure is set up.

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