Dr Archana Verma
Akshay Kashyap, Founder & MD, Greenfuel Energy Solutions, feels that instead of importing technology from outside and selling them in th e Indian market, Indian industry leaders should invest in indigenous R&D, evolve Indian Technology and export it to the world. This is the only way India will be a world leader. In this interaction, he discusses some aspects of his E-Vehicle related enterprise.
How did you think of working in this direction and how did you begin?
I started GreenFuel in 2006. I was in the US where I studied Engineering and where I worked in a company where I was responsible for the ECER110 certification of components natural gas vehicles in Europe. So I have a lot of exposure to the right standards for the components of the natural gas vehicles. When I came back to India in 2004, I started working with my father and we were selling the same components. But I realised that there was a huge gap between what was being done internationally and what was done in India. That was the genesis to form GreenFuel. The idea was to have international level components and systems and to modify them to the Indian requirements. So, primarily we started with the natural gas vehicles and that remains the core of our business. We supply to all the main companies like Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki etc. Our expertise is in the high pressure system. You see the Tata Marcopolo buses in Delhi; they are all done by us. We’ve covered 3 Billion Kms without a failure of these systems. The idea was to try and upgrade the system without increasing the cost too much.
About two and a half years ago we decided that the part of sustainable mobility is definitely going to be electric. We looked at various options and found the major option to be the battery technology. We have now launched a battery product which is absolutely suitable for the Indian conditions and is compliant to the international standards. We have also applied for patents.
Do you manufacture these parts or do you import them?
Certain parts are imported and others are made in India and we assemble them to a system. Our Greenfuel factory is in Manesar and we have a second plant now only for battery systems. We select the parts for different vehicles and decide what parts we should make ourselves. The cell has to be matched to a battery system. The thermal factor has to be managed. We only buy the cell. Rest all we design ourselves. The Greenfuel battery pack has four parts – mechanical, electronics, software and chemistry. The PMS which is under electronics, has to be matched to the cell chemistry. In CNG engines, it’s all about being able to make the components sustainable. We at Greenfuel design the parts to withstand very high pressure in a safe, reliable manner. The battery has to follow the safety standards closely, because it can explode otherwise.
Now you’re supplying parts for two wheelers and three wheelers
We believe that the electric vehicle parts have to primarily for three wheelers and percolate to two wheelers. At Greenfuel, we can connect 2KWt packs in parallel systems to general 8 KWt or more. This was one of the one of the things we designed from the beginning. Our modular concept helps in battery swapping without investing time and money into the system. So, each pack is an individual entity and when it’s connected together it’s a multiple entity. Our 2 KWt pack is 13.5 Kgs. A similar lithium-Phosphate pack from China would be 21 Kgs. During swapping the battery has to be light. Further, in electric vehicles, energy density is very important. Primarily everybody is trying to get E-Mobility from storage. But automobile electromobility and storage are two different ball games. Two wheelers and three wheelers are our primary target because of that. In cars, we see hybrid products before going to pure electric cars. The electric cars will take some time to become the norm. Public transport will be the first adopter of electric vehicles.
The E rickshaw market has to change from its present situation of unorganised sector and E rickshaws travelling only for short distances.
Many manual rickshaws don’t change to E Rickshaws because first, they can only travel along certain routes and second, they have to charge the battery frequently
Yes, their routes have to be widened. As for the problem of charging the battery, I see swapping as an answer to it. There have to be charging stations at short distances where they can give leave their uncharged batteries and take charged batteries. Then, they use Lead-Acid batteries which take a long time to charge. Besides, lead can be recycled but they have to keep filling in the acid water which is not very clean and it’s a polluting industry. Further, Lead-Acid battery has a degradation of charged power. in the first two months, you can get 70 kms with a charged battery. In the sixth month, for the same charge, you get only 35 kms. In six to seven months, the battery has to be replaced. Changing to Lithium Ion battery will be sustainable and less costly for them in the long run.
Any adoption of clean fuel means the consumer has to buy it. That’s why I feel the swapping model is a good solution. It’s better to have more hybrid and electric vehicles than petrol and diesel vehicles and more CNG vehicles. Dependence on petrol and diesel is also linked to outflow of revenue and global policy problems.
Could you elaborate on that?
Import of oil means that we are losing revenue in exports. Oil is the basis of all the geopolitical problems in the world. If India wants to shield itself against geopolitical shocks, then it has to become as independent of oil import as it can be. Further, India has the dubious distinction of being in the top 3 countries with most polluted cities in the world. 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India. So, the petrol and diesel vehicles lobbies have to realise that it’s not a necessary evil to shift to E-vehicles; it’s mandatory. The faster we do it, the better off we are. We should not wait for the world to do it first and then import their technology, because then we will never be able to come out of technological dependence on other countries. We can develop our own technology and then we can also export it to the world. The IT industry the world over is running on Indian IT innovators, but they are not innovating for India. We are only importing IT technology and this is a serious issue. If China can export, why not India? South Korea was importing technology from Japan. But now they have several brands of their own and they are exporting all over the world, even though South Korea is a very small country. They have invested in R&D and made better products. Indian industry has to do the same.
Are you also investing in R&D?
We invested for two years a total of 7 Crores on R&D, which is a big amount for a small company. But we’re very clear that we want to have a technical edge. We don’t want to just buy from others and assemble the products. We are developing our own products because we want to have our edge and go global to export our products. Simply assembling products is a disservice to India and a disservice to the E-Vehicle. It’s a disservice because if tomorrow something happens to the components which don’t turn out to be safe, then people will say that the E-vehicles are not safe. But that’s not true. It’s not because of the E-Vehicles, but because of the low quality assembled products. That would be a disservice to the industry for short term gains. This is the problem why India has not been able to become an export leader in technology. It’s because of our industry’s short term gain strategy and this mindset has to change. We missed the bus in smartphones, we missed the bus in solar panels, most of which are imported from China; we should not let it happen to E-vehicles. We are the fourth largest market in the world. But we’re only selling other countries’ products. We are not inventing our own technology. It’s a problem and we shouldn’t let it happen to E-vehicles, otherwise we’re out of the world competition we won’t have a sustainable future.