Commercial vehicle major Ashok Leyland and SUN Mobility have entered into a strategic alliance to develop electric buses, said officials of the two companies here on Tuesday. “We have entered into a strategic alliance to develop electric buses with ‘swap and charge’ battery technology. We have to decide on firming up the agreement into a joint venture,” Vinod K. Dasari, CEO and Managing Director, Ashok Leyland, told reporters. Dasari said the two companies may invest around Rs 100 crore in the project and the first prototype vehicle is expected to be rolled out by January 2018.
The Bengaluru-based SUN Mobility is an equal joint venture between Virya Mobility 5.0 and SUN New Energy Systems. SUN Mobility is led by Chetan Maini who pioneered the battery operated Reva car. The company making Reva car was later sold to Mahindra and Mahindra group. Declining to comment on the investments SUN Mobility would have to make for the tie up with Ashok Leyland, Maini said his company would set up the infrastructure — battery charging and swapping stations and others.
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According to Maini, in the last 20 years the electric mobility faced challenges like higher acquisition cost, longer battery recharge time and others. He said SUN Mobility now has the smart batteries. The officials said the solution that is being developed is to replace a battery that got discharged with a fully charged one so that a vehicle is always on the move. Dasari said the initial focus will on city transport sector and talks are being held with State Transport Undertakings.
Maini said the solution is suitable for all kinds of vehicles and the tie-up with Ashok Leyland is on exclusive basis. “Now the focus is on bigger vehicles.” He said the charging stations to be set up by his company would predominantly be powered by renewable energy and would refuel a vehicle at a cost that is lower than the conventional fuel.