Zoomcar to onboard 10,000 electric cars by 2021: Nirmal NR

The self-drive rental company Zoomcar was in news recently for their electric cars covering over 1 crore km in the Q2 of 2019-20. Inclusion and success of electric fleet in rental services is a welcome trend in the interest of clean transportation as it presents an excellent opportunity for people to get familiar with the electric vehicles and experience them without any burdens of ownership.

We, of course, wanted to know more about Zoomcar’s experience with their EV fleet. So, we caught up with Nirmal NR – Business Head for E-mobility at Zoomcar.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

 Nirmal NR,
SVP & Business Head, E- Mobility, Zoomcar

Could you share some insights into the demography of customers who opted for electric vehicles?

The demographic cohort is not too different from our regular business. Cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Pune remain the largest cities. Most people prefer electric cars for intra-city errands and usually drive around 60-70 km per trip. With subscribers, we see a lot of awareness for people who have experienced electric cars before preferring to subscribe to these. It really reinforces our concept of how many of our renters go on to become subscribers. 

How did the customers manage to charge the vehicles during their trips? Was charging mostly done at designated charging stations or at homes/hotels?

We have been mindful of only getting the EVs on board which either offer fast-charging or longer ranges. Also, our unique shared model allows users to easily charge the vehicle at their homes or hotels etc. We set up charging points for our subscribers at their homes to make it convenient for them to charge overnight. Furthermore, we have also installed charging stations at some of our parking sites. There are fast charging networks being set up by different players and our subscribers and renters are regular customers there and they make the most of their EVs.

Did you or your customers face any issues because of an EV that would not have risen in case of an ICE vehicle? Trying to figure if you or the customers found any downside to renting out an EV.

The fundamental challenge preventing larger scale adoption of vehicles today stems from the fact that the range is quite limited, thereby constraining the use case. Again, this is largely solved through scale since it becomes a game of more supply that accommodates for larger, more cost-effective batteries that provide a better overall range. Once this performance reality sets in, there will be no turning back from electric vehicles. Given the fact that electric charging infrastructure will take considerable time to replicate the ubiquity of the liquid fuelling infrastructure in India, it is essential that batteries become far more durable to better compete with the internal combustion vehicles.  

What are your future plans with respect to the electric fleet and which category of cars (Sedan/SUVs) do you plan to bring onboard?

Our current EV fleet is 500 strong, comprising of Mahindra e2O plus and Tata e-Tigors. We aim to increase it to 1,000 electric cars within the next one year and to 10,000 by 2021. To the same end, we are also looking at a mix of sedans and SUVs, in order to best serve our diverse clientele with diverse preferences.

How much can electric vehicles contribute to a clean environment given India is still largely dependent on coal for electricity?

Electric Vehicles can dramatically reduce carbon pollution from transportation and improve air quality. Even if EVs were charged with 100% coal power, the overall pollution levels would still reduce by close to 25%. The emission from one ICE car to an Electric Vehicle is in the ratio of 18:1. India can cumulatively save up to 1.5 gigatonnes of CO2 through 2035 if sharing and vehicle electrification is promoted.

Carbon emissions generated by ICE vehicles for 1 crore km would have required around 68,000 trees to offset them.

What has been the customers’ feedback on using electric cars?

At a fundamental level, EVs offer a dramatically lower operating cost compared to conventional internal combustion engines. On average, electric vehicles are 75-80% cheaper from a fuelling and maintenance perspective. This reality holds true across form factors because it’s materially cheaper to charge a battery compared to refuelling a conventional liquid fuel tank. Moreover, EVs have 75-80% fewer moving components and this ultimately translates to a much lower maintenance bill. 

Over and above the robust operating cost angle, EVs also possess an inherent advantage when it comes to performance and driveability. The instant torque of the electric motor provides lightning-quick acceleration and an overall better vehicle handling experience regardless of the form factor. Customers not only enjoy the pleasant aesthetics of the vehicle but also the optimum performance. Most importantly, the entire experience is made better, knowing that they are contributing to the sustenance of the environment. 

How would you describe your experience with your electric fleet?

Over the past seven years, we have been transforming urban mobility across emerging economies. Zoomcar aims to make the future of mobility more connected, shared and powered by zero-emission technologies. We are thrilled to bring innovative, green mobility solutions to the people and our recent milestone of covering over 1 crore km in the last quarter is a testament to our endeavour in promoting a clean environment. We will continue empowering our customers with better mobility alternatives with new announcements on several additional EV offerings in the coming months.

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