‘By 2025, EVs will account for 50 per cent of two-wheeler sales in India’: Simple Energy’s Suhas Rajkumar

‘By 2025, EVs will account for 50 per cent of two-wheeler sales in India’: Simple Energy’s Suhas Rajkumar

‘By 2025, EVs will account for 50 per cent of two-wheeler sales in India’: Simple Energy’s Suhas Rajkumar

As great and diverse as the four-wheeler EV market is in India, the two-wheeler EV market is where the real action is taking place. To say that this segment of the Indian automotive scene is cutthroat, would be a gross understatement.

In a market that is dominated by startups like Ola and Ather, as well as legacy automakers like TVS and Hero, it is very difficult to launch a whole new EV brand and find your footing. However, the two-wheeler EV maker, Simple Energy has managed to do just that. Clearly, Suhas Rajkumar, CEO and Founder of one of India’s most rapidly growing two-wheeler EV brand has an idea and the know-how of creating a space for themselves in an already saturated market.

We sat down for a chat with the EV maker to gauge what EV startups have to go through in India, and just how difficult it is to go up against established startups like Ola and Ather, as well as legacy automakers like TVS and Hero.

What kind of product cycle will Simple Energy have in India? How many EVs will the company launch in 2023, and next year?
Simple Energy was conceptualized in 2018 of making e-mobility solutions more accessible, secure, and comfortable to the end customer. We believe in innovating and developing everything in-house while adhering to high standards of integrity, quality, and transparency. Our entire team spent the first four years working on our maiden product offering which was completely ‘Made in India’, the Simple ONE electric two-wheeler, which we launched recently.

The road ahead looks promising, as we have commenced deliveries of the Simple ONE and we plan to introduce two attractively priced electric two-wheelers in the market. These new 2-wheelers are part of our overall plan to have a portfolio of three scooters, one performance bike and possibly a battery-powered four-wheeler within the next three years.

Ather and Ola had the first movers’ advantage in the two-wheeler EV segment in India. How difficult is it for a startup to break into the two-wheeler EV scene?
The electric two-wheeler industry is at a nascent stage in India, and it definitely takes a lot of courage and patience to break in when you are a startup. The opportunities created by the industry have led to an influx of new players and the innovations that they have to offer. In the four years since we established Simple Energy, we were busy ramping up our production capacity, complying with the safety norms, and fine-tuning the crucial elements of our products.

It is not easy to do so since there were also major changes that had to be done to the battery pack, altering the overall composition of the battery and make it even safer. We might be considered to be slower than other players but, we have invested our time, energy, and resources to create a remarkable product. The industry today is a complex myriad of new and legacy players, which does pose a challenge. But we aim to address these through a disruptive product strategy.

Why is it that legacy brands like TVS, Honda or Hero haven’t been that successful in the Indian EV scene yet? Were they complacent?
Like the numerous startups that have been active in the electric two-wheeler sector, legacy players too have had to deal with ever-changing regulations, increased research and development, technological advancement, and other issues. After all, the technology is new for them as well. However, their experience, manufacturing capabilities, and brand equity can be leveraged to foster growth and contribute positively to the EV ecosystem in India.

I can say with experience that it is an arduous task to gain a piece of the EV market pie. But startups and legacy players have to deal with the continuous technological shift that is sweeping the industry. We welcome healthy competition and collaboration with all stakeholders, including legacy brands, to collectively drive the growth of the Indian EV market and achieve a greener and more sustainable future.

From a technological point of view, what are the challenges of manufacturing an EV in India? What are the things that are easier here?
The primary challenge that the EV industry has to grapple with is the availability of lithium and cobalt in India. These minerals are crucial elements in the development of the battery packs that power our electric vehicles. Importing them does lead to a rise in the cost of the final product, but we can offset that by establishing a reliable domestic battery manufacturing ecosystem and developing indigenous capabilities for battery production, including raw material sourcing, cell manufacturing, and battery management systems.

There is enormous potential in the automotive market of India. Our country is an automotive manufacturing powerhouse, and we are in an enviable position to leverage it to create economies of scale and cost reduction. Moreover, Simple Energy has established its own in-house R&D department that harnesses the talent of the skilled workforce that is readily available. The constant support from the government in helping companies indisputably plays an integral role in strengthening the EV ecosystem in the country and shift to green mobility seamlessly.

Where do Indian manufacturers stand in terms of battery tech? What about the BMS or battery management systems?
A majority of the electric two-wheelers available in the market do not offer the kind of batteries that are able to extract even 20-25 per cent of extra range.  When it came to developing our products at Simple Energy, we took it upon ourselves to manufacture the battery packs, design and produce the systems that power our products, in-house. This enabled us to have end-to-end control of the energy systems that we have developed. The government too is helping the industry with initiatives such as encouraging local manufacturing of the batteries through battery chemistry-linked FAME incentives and augmentation in import duties.

We have seen the four-wheeler EV industry in India unofficially adopt the CCS 2 port as a standard. Most two-wheeler EVs have their own charging standards. Has there been an attempt to standardize EV charging ports in two-wheelers?
Sometimes, charging ports used by various companies may or may not be compatible with specific charging stations. This can cause issues when owners try to top up their electric two-wheelers at public charging stations. We would be certainly elated if the government comes up with a standardized system for charging ports of electric two-wheelers in the country. Personally, I think it’s something the industry is eagerly anticipating because it will aid in boosting consumer adoption.

How would you say has the adoption of two-wheeler EVs been in India? Given how popular two-wheelers are in the country, shouldn’t the adoption have been faster, or are we adopting EVs at a rate that the industry was expecting?
Although it has been positive over the past eight months, EV penetration appears to have levelled off, especially after the reduction of the FAME II subsidies that helped drive the adoption of electric two-wheelers on a larger scale. Buyers have started taking EVs into consideration since they offer better features, improved range efficiency, exciting features, and other factors as well.

I believe that by 2025, EVs should account for 40 to 50 per cent of two-wheeler sales. However, if the market sentiments and scenario improve, we should expect further penetration in the electric two-wheeler segment. But I believe that is only a matter of time before the ecosystem will be thriving.