Indian OEMs need to move beyond 48V configuration for logistics – Amit Arora

EVreporter organised an ‘Ask me anything’ session with Amit Arora – CEO of LoadExx, one of the biggest aggregator and operator of electric L5 vehicles in cargo segment. This write-up is an edited version of the dialogue at the session ‘Electrifying Logistics – First mile, Last mile, Line Haul‘. The full session is available on YouTube.

What are the major performance & maintenance issues while running a fleet of EVs?

The biggest problem is that there are no OEMs making Indian road fit EVs. Importing parts from China and assembling it in India will not solve any problems in near future.

We invest a lot of time with OEMs before onboarding an EV to ensure our vehicles survive for three to five years in Indian road conditions. We save a lot of time and money by investing in EV procurement process. Post-deployment, we schedule preventive maintenance every fifteen days. Essentially, we invest a lot of time in procurement, after which our major work is being done by our maintenance team.

What is the unit economics in last mile using Electric Vehicle?

It depends on the model on which fleet operator is running their EVs. Our L5 vehicle can carry 800 to 1000 kg payload. An L5 vehicle in B2B operations i.e. FMCG, e-commerce & modern retail earns 31,000 to 39,000 INR per month. Whereas for on-demand B2C segment, earning ranges from 28,000 to 44,000 INR per month, depending on the type of trip. If we get a trip beyond 50 km on one side, we charge 1,500 INR, otherwise, our charge ranges from 700 to 1000 INR.

In B2C, earning is higher but the vehicle utilization is low. For B2B, utilization factor is >98% whereas for B2C utilization factor is >60%. Overall, for B2B & B2C business models – we make 32,000 to 35,000 INR per month per vehicle.

Ideally what vehicle configuration suits your business model in terms of load area dimension, carrying capacity, range etc?

The current ecosystem of EV generally works on 48V battery configuration. But I feel that 48V battery configuration is only good for last-mile delivery where the payload is not more than 550 kg. For logistics where you have more than 550 kg payload, 48V configuration will not work.

So, our vehicles are 60V battery configuration with 130AH battery capacity. As each tire of the 3W EV can carry 500 kg load, our cargo vehicles have even carried 1250 kg payload in some cases. Our container size is 6’(L) X 4.5’(W) X 4.5’(H) i.e. 120 cubic feet volume.

Do you have any L3 vehicle in your fleet?

We have five to six L3 vehicles and all are oversubscribed. All are running 31 days per month.

As you are making custom vehicles, what is the cost of these L3 & L5 vehicles?

An L3 vehicle with 60V, 100AH battery configuration, we source it for INR 1.05 lac – INR 1.10 lac including battery. For L5 vehicle with 60V, 100AH battery configuration, we are sourcing it for INR 1.75 lac to 2.25 lac depending upon container, fabrication & battery configuration.

Battery configuration can be Li-ion or Lead-acid. But still, we feel Li-ion battery price need to come down as there is a 50% difference in CAPEX among the two chemistries.

Do your vehicles use all Indian Components?

The OEMs (we work with) import motor controller part from China & Taiwan. But the vehicle body and other configuration, everything is done at OEM’s in-house facility. Around 20-25% of components still sourced from China by these OEMs.

What motor power you are finding most useful, assuming you have different vehicles with different motor power?

It depends on which OEM you are buying from. For BLDC motor from China’s top company Datai, a 1.5 kW motor can carry 1000 kg payload whereas for other suppliers 1000 kg payload can be carried by 2kW motor. Right now, we are using 1.5 kW motors.

Do you prefer that your loader has a larger battery with a long-range or swapping facility with the smaller battery? Are you using swapping facility or are they all fixed battery?

Our 80% fleet is on a fixed battery model, rest is being planned on swapping mode. Battery configuration will be on 60V (not 48V) for swapping as well.

In case of a fixed running range in between 50 to 60 km per day, I will be comfortable with Li-ion battery swapping but in case of a larger running range requirement say 140 km every day, I will be comfortable with a fixed lead-acid battery vehicle. The main reason for this is that Depth of Discharge limit kicks in for Li-ion battery packs when the battery goes low, whereas a Lead acid battery can drive on very low charge as well.

What is the general range for your EV?

Around 100 to 125 km on full and partial load condition respectively, on a single charge.

How do you decide the area of operation with the given battery life? How do you do route planning?

It depends on three factors i.e. battery charge status, garage or driver’s home location, whether the battery retention factor is over 0.3/0.4 so the driver can come back. Our tech support team ensures no driver gets a trip beyond 20km radius of his/her garage location – either the pick-up point or the drop point will be in that radius. And also by the addition of one or two garages in our portfolio every day, we have created a good charging hub ecosystem in a decentralized model.

How do you manage vehicle registration in different states?

Till now we were catering to Delhi NCR & West Bengal. If we want to register a vehicle in a different state, we need to have an office and GST there. To avoid this long process, we have started a franchise scheme. In the franchise scheme, any individual can buy a vehicle from our local recommended OEM and they will register it. The vehicle will be run by us with a contract to deliver a fixed annual return to the owner.

What components mostly fail in an EV?

Firstly, the body of EV generally fails. The plastic/fibre mode containers generally tear out in Indian road condition within 12 to 13 months of procurement.

Secondly, excessive drawing of current (in case of overload) overheats the battery and as result destroys the BMS, and can even cause battery failure.

Is there any disruptive technology in western countries which we can use in our last mile EV segment?

As per me the biggest mistake for India is copying the 48V configuration for EV, for which vehicle load carrying capacity limited to 500 kg payload. In the western countries, fleet operators adhere to the OEM’s prescribed payload which results in better performance of those EVs which is not the case in the Indian market where overloading is a common practice.

One thing that will come to India from west is fast charging capability.

Can you elaborate on your charging system? What kind of charging system do you have like captive or you have to depend on any Public charging stations?

We have a decentralised charging ecosytem. We hire our drivers within 2km radius of our garage locations so that he can reach his vehicle in the shortest time and spend the least time for charging in the garage charging facility. We also install basic charging facilities at the driver’s location wherever possible and pay them extra for charging/electricity cost incurred at their place.

Are you using 1500W motor controller for L5 vehicle?

Yes. We are using 1500W motor controllers, and also 1250W motor controller where our payload capacity is 750 kg.

What is your suggestion for the OEMs? How can they improve the whole EV experience?

OEMs need to broaden their vision in India. Selling only 1000 or 2000 vehicles will not be enough. They need to build good quality vehicles for Indian conditions.

For IC vehicles, we take the depreciation for over 10 years whereas for EVs, all the financiers, banks take the depreciation between two to five years. This means no bankers believe that your EV will survive after two years. Thus it is evident that the current EV manufacturing ecosystem is in a bad state.

Secondly, OEMs need to improve their after-sales. The repair time period of EV in case of a breakdown needs to be shortened to avoid business loss.

Can you please share your experience on retrofitted vehicle e.g. retrofitted TATA ACE converted to EV?

As per me, these vehicles do not catch the market sentiment. You can get a brand new TATA ACE at INR 6.5 lac with one-year after-sales service, whereas the old retrofitted TATA ACE for 8.4 lac INR with only 5 years of warranty and much lower payload capacity does not attract the buyer.

Also, retrofitted vehicles are not allowed in all Indian states. e.g. in West Bengal, you can not register a retrofitted vehicle.

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2 thoughts on “Indian OEMs need to move beyond 48V configuration for logistics – Amit Arora

  • As I see it, all EV “manufacturers” in India are not considering what the customer needs.

    Instead of fragile two wheelers, can they not make two seater cars?

    Also, can they not make vehicles with customisable battery sizes as per customer range requirements? Not everybody needs 500 kms on a car for city driving!

    Can you all not go for single size battery for swapping?

    Why do you sell the battery? Can customers not rent batteries?

    Car and two wheeler batteries should be of same physical size and configuration. Number of batteries can differ.

    Think ahead. You are selling junkies.

    Reply
    • 2 seater car is actually a good idea.
      I believe EVs should have the highest range possible, which will lead to lower charging cycles and better battery performance.
      Single size battery may pose a hurdle to innovation and R&D space as companies benefit by protecting their technology.
      I think the regulators have allowed registration of some category of EVs without batteries. So the buyer may get an option of renting them for a specific period, given that there are services providers.
      The battery technology space is still evolving and putting constraints of size and configuration will not do any good. As the industry matures and we have a clear winner then standardization of batteries will be more fruitful.

      Reply

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