Hero MotoCorp and Gogoro to build electric 2W battery swapping network in India | Industry experts share their views

Hero MotoCorp will develop Gogoro powered vehicles for the Indian market under a joint venture between the two companies. This recent announcement is an exciting development for India’s electric 2W space.

Battery swapping requires collaboration between the OEM, battery supplier as well as swapping infrastructure provider to build the complete ecosystem. Taiwan-based Gogoro provides Gogoro Network – a battery swapping platform. Gogoro Network manages 265,000 daily battery swaps, has more than registered 375,000 riders and 2,000 battery swapping stations, has actioned more than 174 million battery swaps to date. This partnership aims to bring Gogoro’s battery swapping platform to India that would be used with Hero branded EVs developed through collaborative efforts between the two companies.

Notably, Hero MotoCorp – the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters for the last 20 consecutive years, does not offer any electric models as of today. With this tie-up with Gogoro, Hero aims to establish the swapping infrastructure in India, help expedite the electrification drive in the country and also replicate the model to other markets.

Chetan Maini – Co-Founder & Chairman, SUN Mobility welcomed the news and said, “Players across the e-mobility ecosystem, including SUN Mobility, have a common vision of driving mass EV adoption. The partnership further validates the potential of battery swapping, especially in micro-mobility segments. More collaborative efforts like this are needed to bring about the transformation of the urban mobility landscape, and the development of smart cities worldwide.”

Electric 2W space heating up in India

As per SMEV – 40,836 high-speed electric 2Ws were sold in the country in FY20-21. After a pandemic stricken year, India’s electric 2W segment is buzzing with excitement right now.

Ola Electric has unveiled plans to build the world’s largest 2W factory (construction underway) and the largest 2W charging network with more than 100,000 charging points across the country. Homegrown EV pioneer Ather Energy (backed by Hero MotoCorp – only makes fixed battery models) moved to a brand new factory in Hosur with a yearly capacity of producing 1,10,000 scooters and reported a 250% quarterly increase in sales for Jan-Mar 21. Ather crossed 500 units in monthly sales from its Indiranagar (Bangalore) outlet alone this month. Hero Electric sold more than 5,300 units in March 2021 (Source: Vaahan Dashboard data from 1273 out of 1480 RTOs). Start-ups like Ultraviolette and Orxa are gearing up to launch their premium electric motorcycles in the market.

Kartikey Hariyani, MD of EV CHARGE+ZONE says, “With the battery pricing now below the US $200 per kWh, the adaptation is widely possible across e-mobility applications. The market now buzzing with OlaElectric and HeroMoto in 2W space, the time is ripe for the other ecosystem players to join this bandwagon”.

Swapping infrastructure in India

India has already seen companies like SUN Mobility, Lithion Power, Charge-up, CHARGE+ZONE lay the groundwork and start operations in the battery swapping space. These swap stations are largely used by electric 3Ws only. In fact, OLA electric also established 31 swapping stations across 4 hubs in Delhi NCR, which were later acquired by CHARGE+ZONE. With this and the hypercharger network announcement, it seems that OLA electric is looking to focus only on the fixed battery/charging ecosystem for its electric 2Ws.

The partnership between Hero MotoCorp and Gogoro is expected to give a major boost to the battery swapping network for electric 2Ws in the country.

Policy Perspective – In Aug 2020, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways released a statement that electric 2Ws and 3Ws can be sold without a battery pack. The purpose is to delink the cost of the battery from the vehicle and make the electric vehicles more affordable. However, clarifications are still awaited on subsidy re-distribution and tax structure in the case of de-linked batteries.

The upfront premium on EVs is the biggest barrier in their wide adoption. Varun Goenka (CEO & Co-founder at Charge-up) says “Battery Swapping will help to reduce the cost of the vehicle and this will act as a catalyst for further growth of the market. It will also help organise the market and open up avenues for other players to become a part of the ecosystem”.

Experts in the swapping and EV space see this partnership as a validation of the hypothesis that battery swapping is a viable alternative for the Indian market. At the same time, some also underline the need to adapt the model to the Indian market.

Karan Saini, a professional in the EV infrastructure space points out that the segment that they (Hero MotoCorp and Gogoro) will be operating, based on their current pricing, in the luxury personal-use eScooters which is still very underdeveloped in India. “I strongly believe that to achieve mass EV adoption, you need to achieve cost parity with the ICE variants in the budget segment (comparable to Honda Activa for example). In my opinion, this can only be achieved with the combination of a budget-range eBike combined with battery swapping (saving 40% of upfront cost since you don’t buy the battery)”, he adds.

Thiru Srinivasan, CTO at Ampere Electric Vehicles acknowledged Gogoro’s great experience in the battery swapping space and noted that they have been trying to get some of their technologies into India (including power train) for a while now. Though he adds a word of caution, “I feel that for the Indian electric 2W B2C business, swapping is not a big need. People seem to be happy charging overnight at home, or during the day at their business place.  I will watch the swapping evolution here closely”.

For Hero MotoCorp and Gogoro JV, more details on timelines and structure of implementation, how battery ownership will be managed etc. are yet to emerge.

Watch this space for more.

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