Story by:

Sricharan R

With an eye on the proliferation of e-rickshaws in India, Lucas TVS has begun the manufacture of electric drive motors at its plant at Puducherry. The first phase of manufacture would involve 60,000 units with an investment of Rupees-six crore. The second phase would involve a capacity hike to 120,000 motors. Planning to supply the e-rickshaw drive motors to 50 customers in the next six months, the company has chalked out a strategy to increase its reach in the domestic e-rickshaw market that is estimated to grow to 935.5 thousand units by 2024 according to a market research report published by P&S Intelligence. Majorly driven by government incentives and environmental policies, e-rickshaws in India are produced by a large number of unorganised players.

The organised players, that include Lohia Auto Industries, Kinetic Green Energy and Power Solutions Ltd., Hero Electric Vehicles Pvt. Ltd., Terra Motors Corporation, Clean Motion India, and Saera Electric Auto Pvt. Ltd., are said to account for a mere 15 per cent of the market. Their number is however growing.

Confident of the demand for quality e-rickshaws picking up against the current scenario where a majority of e-rickshaws with a 1,000–1,500 W motor range are built by sourcing low-cost parts from China, Lucas TVS, according to Babu KSV, Business Head of e-mobility, Exports and Cooling Solutions, “Has already supplied motors in smaller quantities to 10-12 customers.” To increase its target for the supply of motors over time, and as production picks-up, the company is leveraging its experience and knowledge in the manufacture of automotive electrical parts and motors since 1962.

Established in 1962 as a joint venture between Lucas Plc UK and the TVS Group, Lucas TVS has also gained good knowledge and experience in servicing of automotive electrical parts through its service arm, Lucas Indian Service. If this is expected to prove advantageous, the company is banking on the premise that three- and two-wheelers will be the first to go electric.

Total cost of ownership

Also into the supply of diesel engine parts, Lucas TVS entered the electric motors business two years ago. It pursued the development and integration of products in vehicles and equipment from the design stage and up to the application, manufacturing and service stage. Said Babu, that the company has developed traction motors of one-kWh, three-kWh, and five-kWh. Of the opinion that people are looking at ease of commuting, Babu averred, “There is also a concern for total cost of ownership among e-rickshaw operators.” Stressing on legislative compulsion as one of the components driving the rise and spread of e-rickshaws, Babu explained, “It is imperative that the customer enjoys the comfort factor”. Revealing that they are also looking at e-two wheelers, many of which are currently employing lower capacity drive motors of 250 W or 500 W, Babu stated, “Riding or driving pleasure is also a factor that counts.”

After observing that e-rickshaws with Chinese motors have worked well in parts of western India and Delhi NCR, Lucas TVS, averred Babu, has identified two areas based on an analysis it carried out. These were the need for a low price point and low running cost. “Looking at an opportunity, we decided, with immediate growth potential in mind, to enter the market. After analysing the market potential, we bench marked the best-in-class and the cheapest-in-class products coming from China. The three parameters we kept in mind were the Indian market demand, reliability and afford-ability,” he explained. Confident of the one-kWh, three-kWh and five-kWh traction motors powering e-rickshaws and e-autos, Lucas TVS is confident of providing a superior product range.

Maximum efficiency

Concentrating on efficiency and Indian weather conditions, Lucas TVS benchmarked against Chinese products. It focused also on safety. Informed Babu, “During the developmental stage, we did a lot of benchmarking. We concentrated on two main aspects – to achieve maximum efficiency, to withstand the Indian monsoon conditions, and to be safe.” The motors the company has developed have thus been tested to withstand dust and water. They are IP67-certified. In terms of safety, the rotors with magnets have been engineered from a point of safety. This was specifically done to counter the problem of magnets flying off and spoiling the motor.

Lucas TVS has come out with a new set-up where the magnets are rigidly protected inside a cage. The company terms the design as ‘Interior Permanent Magnet’ (IPM). Incorporating brake energy recuperation technology by having the motor and controller together, the company is also looking at developing motors for mini and light e-LCVs in the future.

Pointing at how the motor acts as a generator and charges the battery on a flat or downhill road by acting as a generator to charge the battery, Babu said, “We are looking beyond the domestic market to quickly ramp up.” Fielding inquiries from many SAARC markets, the company has designed the energy recuperation technology in its motors such that around 15 to 20 per cent of energy could be scavenged depending on the road condition and braking behaviour. Waiting to get some clarity from SIAM (or the auto sector) on the nature of their requirement, Lucas TVS is looking at collaborating with India Nippon Electricals Limited for the strong electronic component manufacturing capability, it possesses. Gauging the readiness of OEMs to outsource the controller and motor, the company is keen to expand the range of motors for e-vehicles. Looking at products like e-transaxle and e-axle that are about plug and play, and include the motor, controller, differential, etc., Lucas TVS is looking at a substantial up-take in EV components.

Light-weighting

Closely following the developments in the market, Lucas TVS focusing on light-weighting in a big way. It is making changes in the product design and finding new ways to shave weight without compromising quality. Keen to offer products that are no second in terms of quality, the company is determined to stay ahead of the curve. Striving to carve out a niche for itself, it is leveraging its experience and knowledge from light-weighting of wiper motors. Lucas TVS successfully reduced the weight of the wiper motor by as much as 40 per cent to contribute to vehicle light weighting. Focusing on light-weighting without sacrificing the metal content of its motors, the company is looking at various techniques. It is, according to Babu, looking at optimising the design of the motor and the controller such that maximum efficiency is achieved. This, he said, will help to lower the energy consumption. “One could drive 30 to 40 km and extract the best efficiency,” he added.

Stating that much depends on how much power is needed, and for how long the battery lasts (in terms of the driving range), Babu expressed that most of the two-wheelers and three-wheelers could do with a 80-100 km range. He explained that an efficient motor could be smaller in size, and lead to an increase in the range. “If the efficiency of the motor can be increased by 10 per cent, the size of the battery could be reduced by 10 per cent. This would have a profound effect on range and the carbon footprint,” he opined. Striving for over two years to design and develop the traction motor, the advanced engineering department at Lucas TVS is working on a variety of electric vehicle products. It is striving to build products that will be of high standards.

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