SUN Mobility has introduced an interoperable smart mobility solution.

Story & Photos:

Bhargav TS

The launch of interoperable smart mobility solution from SUN Mobility in India aims at two-wheelers and three-wheelers. It includes smart batteries to propel them such that they could be swapped at battery stations. Referred to as an energy infrastructure platform that is also universal in its architecture, the interoperable smart mobility solution follows close on the heels of the company’s announcement with Ashok Leyland at Auto Expo 2018 regarding the development of smart bus batteries that could be easily swapped to ensure superior efficiency and maximum uptime. Similar in concept to what SUN Mobility has developed for Ashok Leyland, the interoperable smart mobility solution for two-wheelers and three-wheelers includes battery charging and swapping stations apart from smart batteries.

Claimed to be the first of its kind by Chetan Maini, Co-Founder and Vice Chairman, SUN Mobility, the interoperable smart mobility solution separates the battery from the electric vehicle and brings down the initial cost, making it economically viable. Aiming at the burgeoning electric three-wheeler market in India perhaps, which is growing into an important part of the commercial vehicle ecosystem in the country, and is forecasted to cross USD-one billion by FY2022-23, the interoperable smart mobility solution will get SUN Mobility to own the lithium-ion batteries and swapping stations. SUN Mobility would thus build a network of battery swapping stations in the country. “Apart from the swapping station infrastructure, we will also work with OEMs to integrate our solutions into their products,” said Maini. With India being a big three-wheeler market, SUN Mobility could look at good volumes. As last mile connectivity solutions, three-wheelers, as cargo and people carriers, make a big market in India. The fact that 511,658 three-wheelers were sold in India in FY2016-17 should indicate. The share of electric three-wheelers is estimated to be 10 to 12 per cent of these. It is growing at a quick pace and is expected to account for 20 to 25 per cent in the next two to three years.

The success of the interoperable smart mobility solution in the case of three-wheelers alone getting SUN Mobility large volumes, consists of two key elements – modular smart batteries that are intelligent enough to be customised to the needs of each vehicle type and quick interchange stations that can be easily erected. Facilitating easy swapping of batteries, and offering the flexibility to employ lithium-ion batteries in combinations of one or more batteries such that they meet the performance and range expectations of the users, the interoperable smart mobility solution will make it convenient to swap the battery or battery pack in less than a minute. This would help address concerns regarding the charging time and efforts. Backed by a smart network that connects modular smart batteries and quick interchange stations, the interoperable smart mobility solution also claims to optimise battery performance. Enabling users to locate stations and make payments via an App., which will tell them about the need to go to their nearest station to swap the battery, the solution, according to Maini, will be economically advantageous for all the stakeholders.

The unit economics of the interoperable smart mobility solution in the case of three-wheelers as commercial vehicles, having certain requirements regarding range and payload, The challenge would be to have an efficient swapping (and changing station) infrastructure in place. The other would be the ability of SUN Mobility to subsidise the cost of the lithium-ion battery. With maximum uptime and low TCO a priority for three-wheelers, if SUN Mobility will adapt a franchise model to put its infrastructure in place, and associate with OEMs to leverage their dealer network is yet to be clear. Also, the time it will take to have an efficient infrastructure in place.. Of the opinion that there are over one-million e-rickshaws plying in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi alone, Maini expressed that his global mission is to enable clean energy mass transportation. Working on electric buses that are a key component of the Smart Cities mission with Ashok Leyland, SUN Mobility, according to Maini, is developing lithium-ion batteries that would be 30 to 40 per cent lighter in comparison to batteries that are found on some of the existing electric vehicles in the country.

Keen to showcase a technology portfolio that can redefine the future of mobility, the company, said Maini, is consciously exploring. Eager to change the way the world commutes, SUN Mobility is developing batteries that could recharge faster; batteries that would operate more efficiently in hot regions of the country like Rajasthan. Containing in-built electronics, and an ability to communicate using GSM and GPS technologies, the smart batteries of the interoperable smart mobility solutions will play a crucial role. The manufacture of such batteries (except the cells), said Maini, will begin in a year at its newly commissioned development centre at Bangalore. Initially, the company intends to manufacture 20,000 batteries per annum. Expected to make the electric vehicles power cost neutral as compared to the equivalent petrol and diesel propelled vehicles, the interoperable smart mobility solution, at the OEM level should support a range of new models.

Capable of making an effective retro-fitment solution to ensure that upfront costs are not high, and the running costs are far lesser, SUN Mobility is working with its partners to quickly roll out a network of Quick Interchange Stations. The same would be done in a phased manner, and across various major cities, enabling customers to adopt electric mobility as an innovative pay-per-use model. “The interoperable solution for electric two-and three-wheelers will transform the way people commute. Through an interoperable solution that is convenient, cost-effective and scalable, we are enabling an electric mobility ecosystem in the country,” mentioned Maini. Working with the State Transport Undertakings (STUs), fleet operators, shared mobility providers, and automotive OEMs to offer innovative and localised electric mobility solutions, SUN Mobility, established in 2017, is a 50:50 joint venture between Virya Mobility 5.0 and SUN New Energy Systems.

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