Battery swapping won't work in India: Ather CEO

The electric two-wheeler startup stumbled upon operational challenges while testing out some prototypes.

Battery swapping won't work in India: Ather CEO

According to Tarun Mehta, founder and CEO of Ather Energy, battery conversion, as opposed to EV charging, is unlikely to succeed in India with the added cost of infrastructure, labor and other batteries. The two-wheel electric starter ran into operational issues while testing some of its models.  

While building the model, we encountered many challenges that were not present during the conceptual phase. The first problem we encountered was the weight of the battery. Lifting the 10 kg battery is manual. Change is not easy for adults. Be sure to push gently without falling. Mehta told Fortune India: Battery switching, the transfer of a discharged battery to a charged battery, is used in two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles.

Traditionally, Indians expect more support and assistance and may not be willing to deal with dangerous batteries, Mehta said. If a company sends volunteers to replace batteries, it will only be economically viable if they put 200 batteries in the replacement station. And it takes up more space, half the size of a gas pump. Then the cost of the infrastructure suddenly increased. Mehta explains. Also, he estimates the cost of attendants and security to maintain the expensive lithium-ion batteries that support replacement at ₹500-600 per customer per month. For every 100 scooters, 30 more batteries are needed.

Such costs must be recovered from the buyer. he said Adding the cost of infrastructure, people, security, and other batteries, the average cost for a customer traveling more than 1,500 km per month is about 2.8 per km, which is more than the cost of replacing petrol ( ₹2.5 per km). CEO Ather said: In addition to cost and management issues, there are other considerations.

Consumers who just bought a new scooter may not want to replace their new three-year-old battery at a replacement station, Mehta said, along with Ather co-founder Swapnil Jain,  who filed India's first battery-switching patent. And I am a strong supporter of transfers, even of party members who may not agree with the idea of ​​transfers. While I've always been a fan of battery replacement, I took a different turn when this EV was built. Mehta agrees.  

Recently, several battery transfer stations targeting B2B chargers have arrived in India. Considering the battery replacement and widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the country, NITI Aayog, a government and public policy think tank, is holding discussions with stakeholders. However, the ecosystem remains complex because it includes many technologies that are still evolving.

NITI Aayog, Bureau of Indian Standards, Ministry of Science and Technology and other agencies are conducting further deliberations on the draft policy to come up with a battery replacement policy that encourages electric vehicles and does not affect the technology of the i hate When it comes to comparing batteries, Mehta believes the industry needs to find its own way. If the switch is coming, you need to calibrate the batteries. But before you start deciding on batteries, there may be a new chemistry or style that is cheaper and has a better life. Mehta says: If you know for sure that the innovation will be very slow, you can benchmark it.