According to experts, Pune Electric is the future of mobility. Electric vehicle (EV) users are currently concerned about the lack of charging infrastructure. One of the popular solutions used in the industry is battery replacement.
However, not all EV manufacturers have a common battery specification.
Founded by Ashwin Shankar, the Pune-based Battery Pool startup can lead to EV downtime through its flagship Internet of Things (IoT) -based, intelligent battery replacement station for fleets and commercial electric vehicles. It solves the problem of sexual battery replacement.
After studying at Loyola High School, Shanker earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and Stanford University, respectively. After that, Shanker returned to India in 2015. For a year, he worked at the Innovation Economics Research Center (CTIER), a technology policy think tank, exploring technology and innovation in the automotive industry.
At the same time, awareness of EVs increased after the Indian government announced that it would be fully electrified by 2030.
Shanker says, we were looking at technology policy in the context of India. In Pune, we were looking at the automotive industry in terms of innovation and technological progress. With all the learning, experience and skill sets I’ve collected over the years, the EV looked like an interesting space. I was thinking about entrepreneurship and decided to set up my own start-up company. Battery Pool was founded in January 2018.
Lessons from the fleet
BatteryPool was initially launched by the Ministry of Science and Technology under the National Initiative for Innovation Development and Utilization (NIDHI) program, Entrepreneurs to foster ideas and innovations for successful knowledge-based, technology-driven startups. -Funded through the in-Residence (EIR) program. ..
Mr. Shanker had the opportunity to interact with the NCL Venture Center while I was working at a policy think tank. I subscribed to the mailing lists and learned about fellowships through them. It seemed like an interesting arrangement, as there aren’t many programs that make it possible.
After the DST Fellowship, BatteryPool also received several other grants that would allow Shankar and his team to experiment. He says these grants helped us understand EV space. In India, we have noticed that EV adoption is done in commercial and fleet operations. I wanted to understand the challenges faced by fleet operators. So I put my money into a fleet of 20 EV motorcycles. We have provided those EVs to Pune delivery professionals and small businesses.
We operated this fleet for a year and identified the problem directly. There were existing bottlenecks, from vehicles that ran out of charge in the middle of delivery to drivers who couldn’t find a charging point when they wanted to charge the battery pack. On the back end, he recalls, he was building hardware and software products that would help address these operational challenges.
Pivot to Technology First
Within a few months of launch, Shanker realized that the fleet business was operationally heavy. It was financially intensive and managed people and cars. Therefore, around June 2020, Shanker decided to pivot.
During the operation of the fleet, Shankar learned that delivery professionals cannot tolerate downtime. They need to be in motion at all times. One important recognition was that fleet operators do not have a standard battery pack. Every car manufacturer has its own battery standard, so it doesn’t make sense to have a replacement solution that forces the end user to pack the battery. I also noticed that fleet operators have their own applications. Therefore, it makes much more sense to use the application programming interface (API) first than to push the app to the end user. I realized that there is a market for swap solutions. The fleet was also coming to other parts of the country.
Shankar develops charging solutions for fleet and commercial vehicle applications. Delivery professionals can’t afford to wait 3-4 hours a day to recharge the battery. The flagship product in this segment is a battery replacement station that allows drivers to replace battery packs in seconds. The uniqueness of the battery replacement station is that it is battery independent. It does not push the battery pack against you. We avoid the specifications of their battery packs.
We usually work with large fleet customers or large battery operators. We are a software-first hardware product. That is, these fleet operators or existing battery replacement operators simply connect the application to the replacement station. There is no need to download a separate application. According to Shanker, you can access the station using an existing API.
Battery independent, but not interoperable
Being battery agnostic does not mean that people can bring any battery to any station for charging. Shanker doesn’t just have the ability to use hardware and software with different types of batteries.
He adds that traditional battery replacement operators in today’s market have specific battery standards that they seek to push to end users. The fleet operator will need to modify the vehicle to ensure that the vehicle is compatible with the battery pack. Our business model and hardware can accommodate different types of battery packs. Our entire hardware, software and technology stack is compatible with your battery. It’s not interoperable, but it’s an agnostic in the sense that the hardware works on any battery.
Fleet operators also have their own applications for drivers. Our swapping stations are tied to those applications. He added that delivery experts are using the existing last mile delivery application to access the station.
Shankar initially built the hardware first, but knew he needed software because it wasn’t just a hardware-like mechanism. I wanted to know the status of the station from the point of view of diagnosing the swap station. Is the accumulated battery healthy? Therefore, software was needed to communicate with the battery. The software then decides which doors to open and close and which batteries to accept. The hardware communicates with the battery to make sure there are no incompatible batteries stored.
It took a year for the product to be ready for delivery to our customers. Software development started immediately in two months. It’s been iterative, and new versions of the software are emerging based on ground feedback and the development of the entire EV ecosystem.
Market and development
Shankar claims that Delhi NCR is Battery Pool’s largest market. Recently, we have signed a large contract / PO with one of India’s largest e-Rickshaw fleets. He also said he plans to introduce smart plug-in chargers for fleets / commercial EVs without replaceable battery packs in the near future.
Commercial EVs are increasing in the last mile delivery, shared mobility and e-rickshaw segments in the Delhi region. In Pune, we see demand for last mile delivery applications in the motorcycle segment. Bangalore is also an important market for us, and there will be some developments soon, Shanker said.
We are also expanding to East African countries. In fact, our first customer is from Kenya. A major EV company there was looking for an exchange station, so I received an order.
From the product side, Shankar says everything about how users operate swapping stations. Indian consumers interact very differently than in the West. There is a problem of poor network coverage and power outages. With these challenges in mind, we had to build a lot of hardware and software swapping stations. I noticed the magnitude of this problem when I deployed several stations.
The Internet (IoT-based device) is required to access the intelligence to swapping solutions. Coverage may not be good even in the city, which hindered the use of the network. We have tried to reduce our dependence on internet connectivity locally. That’s why I used EDGE for computing. This means that the hardware itself creates a lot of intelligence, rather than relying on the Internet.
What if the power goes off in the middle of a swap? Shanker has no solution to this so far. Another solution is to record the swap, but not the station backup. We plan to provide a small battery backup that at least allows you to open the door and access the battery even if you don’t charge it. You can manually open the swap station door. It also provides training for operators and super administrator access to operators. There are standard operating procedures for how to install the station and how to verify that the station is functioning properly after deployment.
India’s EV ecosystem is evolving rapidly. Use cases that use electricity are well known as running costs for fleet operator contracts. By 2030, the fleet and commercial vehicle charging market is expected to reach $ 2.7 billion due to electrification. BatteryPool is on the path for India to seize great opportunities as it witnesses the rapid transition to electric vehicles in the 2 & 3 wheeled segment, where EV adoption is seen at tremendous speeds. Based on partnerships with OEMs and fleet operators, we offer unique software and hardware solutions and adopt a collaboration platform. -Arjun Seth, Principal Investor of Indian Angel Network
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