How BluSmart operates 400+ electric cars in its passenger taxi fleet

This article aims to explore the nuances of managing business operations for a passenger fleet company running electric cars. Many thanks to Anmol Jaggi and Tushar Garg from BluSmart leadership team for sharing their data and insights.

Quick facts about BluSmart

1. Fleet size – Present fleet size is 402 electric cars. 300 more ordered for inclusion in the fleet in July 2021.

2. BluSmart operates two electric car models on its platform – Tata eTigor and Mahindra eVerito. More than 70% of the BluSmart fleet comprises of Tata eTigors.

3. The service is available in Delhi and Gurgaon.

4. The cabs collectively make thousands of trips everyday with an average daily run of 250 km per car.

5. No cancellation by drivers. No surge charges for the customer. Prices are fixed based on distance slabs.

Trip allocation and management | ETA optimisation

ETA (estimated time of arrival) optimisation is the point of focus for on-demand ride hailing companies to ensure minimum waiting time for the customer. Companies work on the trip allocation algorithms to ensure the nearest and most suitable (as per customer preferences) car is allocated to a customer request. However, running an EV adds new dynamics to the mix which have to be taken into account while designing for trip allocation. Factors that are taken into consideration by BluSmart ride matching algorithm for trip allocation are –

– Which car is available and is closest to the pick up location?

– Current SoC (state of charge) of the EV’s battery. Does it have enough charge to make the trip and then reach the nearest charging station if need be?

– When driver completes the trip – based on the SoC at that point – where should the driver be directed to go, on another trip or to a charging station? Is the nearest charging station to the drop location available?

– Add to this additional parameters of changing driver shifts, and uncontrollable elements like weather events or road event like jams, blockage or diversions.

Managing Charging of its fleet

– BluSmart has set up 5 EV charging hubs in NCR till date. Some of the hubs can simultaneously charge up to 100 cars.

– These hubs ensure availability of a charger within 5 km radius from anywhere in Gurgaon.

Map showing the locations of charging hubs set up by BluSmart

– Fast charging of a cab takes approximately 90 minutes. However, the drivers do not have to wait with the cars while they charge. They can take another charged car from the hub to provide service to the customers. Putting COVID safety measures in place, the cars are sanitised while they are charging at the hub. Other COVID measures include sharing driver’s latest body temperature and vaccination status with the customers over the app.

Asset light business model

The start-up operates an asset light model where the EVs that run on the platform are owned by its asset investors. BluSmart pays a monthly lease amount for the EVs that are exclusively managed and operated on its platform.

BluSmart has been a beneficiary of the falling cost curve of EVs. The first set of EVs that they got in 2019 came at an average monthly lease cost of Rs. 34,000, which fell to Rs. 22,000 for the cars that came onto the platform in early 2020 and now the lease cost of the latest set of EVs have further come down to Rs. 19,000 per month.

This is on account of falling prices of EVs with improving battery technology and better financing terms available to the asset owners.

Running cost – BluSmart witnesses a running cost of INR 1.20 per KM on account of operating EVs. This is 1/3rd the cost of running a CNG operated car and 1/5th the cost of running a diesel car.

Monthly payout to driver partners

BluSmart driver partners on an average earn INR 20,000 per month. They don’t need to own the EV or worry about its charging (or be troubled due to the lack of public EV charging infra in the city), which saves them from the financial burdens of owning an expensive asset (car ownership in India is still a costly affair) or the mental stress of upkeeping/ maintaining an asset.

Thus, the earnings that a driver partner makes on BluSmart is something that he fully pockets and does not need to pay for any costs associated with driving or running a car. Also to ensure that a driver partner makes sustainable earnings to survive in the city where BluSmart operates, the driver earnings are structured such that it is linked to their hours of work and they also get an upside as the business grows.

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