Over the past decade or so, India has established itself as a reputable hub of cost-effective but well-built automobiles. However, as far as being on the cutting edge of automobile technology goes, well, we missed that bus. You can’t really blame the manufacturers – they build what the nation wants/needs and the acceptance of high-performance, high-tech vehicles is only now starting to pick up steam. Sadly, this comes at a time where the internal combustion engine is being pushed out of contention by its silent and cleaner successor.
In this upcoming paradigm shift, it’s not just the traditional manufacturing giants who have their hands in the pot. The switch to EVs is providing bright young innovators a rare opportunity to join the fray, and for the first time in ages, the need to be an established player is not an imperative to break into the scene. These are technical experts who found solutions to existing EV roadblocks, and then with the aid of funding, have assembled a team of talent from different sides of the industry to create an EV manufacturing business.
Ather Energy is the best known example, alongside Ultraviolette Automotive whose impressive prototype we rode last month. There are others too, including Tork Motors and their long overdue electric motorcycle, but it’s not just the vehicle manufacturing space that’s in the limelight. We also have plenty of tech start-ups doing fascinating things, including Bengaluru-based Log9 Materials, who say their water and aluminium-powered metal-air battery could go as far as 1,000km, or Mumbai-based Gegadyne Energy who is developing a supercapacitor that they claim can replace Lithium-ion batteries altogether.
These start-ups are also far more flexible than any traditional manufacturer could imagine. For example, Ultraviolette is even considering contract manufacturing, similar to how Apple contracts Foxconn to build its products. The big players are paying notice, and Hero already owns a 32.31 percent stake in Ather, while TVS has a 25.76 percent stake in Ultraviolette, despite the fact that both these giants are simultaneously developing their own EVs. In fact, almost every big player is doing so, and Bajaj’s highly anticipated Urbanite EV sub-brand is expected to be the first to debut in a few months time.
There’s still a long way to go, but a look at the number of patents applied – 47 in India and 11 internationally for Ather and nine (at the moment) for Ultraviolette – reveals that there’s some path-breaking stuff happening in India. What hasn’t changed is the intense focus on value. And with those two factors hand-in-hand, it’s not hard to see that we could very well emerge as a global superpower in the EV race.