In India, a country that is more densely populated and has lower rates of car ownership, rickshaws and other two- or three-wheelers play a central role. While many auto rickshaws on India’s roads are already electric, they tend to rely on lead-acid batteries that need to be replaced every six to 11 months.
Power Global, a two-year-old startup, wants to disrupt the automotive rickshaw market by offering an upgrade kit for diesel-powered vehicles and an interchangeable battery pack to transition from more common lead-acid to ion-ion batteries. lithium.
Power Global was founded by Porter Harris, who had previously designed the batteries for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft. He also worked as a chief battery engineer at electric vehicle startup Faraday Future. So far, he estimates that Power Global has been 95% self-financed, thanks in part to the sale of its SpaceX shares.
“I’ve been looking at the Indian market for about five years,” he told TechCrunch in a recent interview. The opportunity is certainly ripe, with some market research companies He estimates that the electric rickshaw market in India will grow to $ 1.3 billion by 2025. It’s also terrible: Last year, 15 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India, according to the air quality technology company. IQAirand many of those emissions are due to transportation.
By offering two separate products for electric or diesel rickshaws: the upgrade kit, which Harris claims fits more than 90% of current models, and the interchangeable “eZee” battery, Power Global aims to capture nearly the entire rickshaw market. automatic. .
Harris says the company already has about 48 dealers ready to sell its products, largely thanks to Power Global co-founder Pankaj Dubey’s long track record working with Indian dealers during his career with Hero Motors, Yamaha and Polaris. And that’s a real benefit, because so much of the Power Global plan relies on an extensive dealer network that can get people to sign up for the swappable battery subscription model and help drivers purchase and install the battery kits. upgrade.
The main source of revenue will come from drivers on the energy-as-a-service monthly subscription model through Power Global’s “eZee” interchangeable batteries.
“It’s a totally different business model,” Harris said. “We cannot translate gasoline or gas solutions and try to make that work for electricity, it is really something completely new. Our point of view is: many kiosks, a small number of [battery] modules by location “.
The company wants to launch on the outskirts of New Delhi, the National Capital Region to start, with the ultimate goal of planning a kiosk every three kilometers or so. Drivers will also have the option of taking the battery home and charging it with a Power Global home charger.
On the user side, the company is also developing an app that will allow drivers to view statistics such as how many kilometers they traveled that day, the remaining battery life, and where they can find the nearest battery exchange kiosk.
Power Global expects its batteries to last four and a half to five years. The company plans to use the batteries for stationary energy storage applications once they are removed from the eZee ecosystem. Harris said there are plans to connect those batteries with small solar panels to provide power to rural areas. Once the battery is completely depleted of its entire useful life, Harris said it will be sent to a recycler.
The company aims to launch its eZee interchangeable battery product in the first quarter of next year, followed by upgrade kits. It has opened a battery production plant in Greater Noida, India, which it anticipates will produce about a gigawatt-hour, or about 10,000 Model S packages, this time next year. That will make it one of the largest domestic lithium-ion battery manufacturers in the country. By the end of 2022, Power Global aims to have at least 10,000 vehicles on the eZee interchangeable system.
While Power Global is in talks with some US-based companies interested in the eZee product, Harris said the focus is ultimately further east. “Do we really need another solution for the top 10% of the world? No, we don’t. Let’s focus on the other 90% of the world and make a difference. “