Euler Motors is a start-up aimed at enabling sustainable last-mile transportation, despite slow adoption of e-mobility in the country
Despite the slow uptick of the e-mobility ecosystem in the country, there is no dearth of start-ups that are coming up with innovative technologies to boost electric vehicle (EV) adoption in the country. Euler Motors, the Delhi NCR-based technology start-up, is one such player focussed on sustainable last-mile transportation.
Euler Motors’ approach to business has been Capex-heavy. Even as it is largely focussed on developing electric light commercial vehicles (eLCV) for sustainable last-mile transportation, the company is also investing in building infrastructure to introduce a logistics portfolio. This, Saurav Kumar, Founder & CEO, Euler Motors, believes will enable customers to avail benefits tagged with e-vehicles over a fixed time period in the intra-city logistics space.
Kumar has until now raised $ 2.2 mn in pre-Series A funding from angel investors Andrew Lee, Blume Ventures and Emergent Ventures. Even before introducing the eLCV, Kumar approached e-commerce companies and hyper-local grocery players such as Big Basket, Ecom Express and Udaan, who were willing to try EVs and reduce their CO2 footprint, but were running short of options. He did encounter ecosystem challenges, in terms of adopting a ground-up approach, as the country’s EV market requires the development of support infrastructure as well as awareness for new EV adoption and its operation.
Modelling an EV is a pretty simple process as simulations and real-time developments are close to each other since a lesser number of components are involved as against an ICE-powered vehicle. The company initially could not find any stakeholder developing battery packs for automotive used cases or anyone who managed all the aspects of mechanical vibrations and battery life cycle, among others. Subsequently, Euler Motors decided to foray into battery pack manufacturing as well – adhering to AIS-048 standards – and today Euler vehicles run on its own batteries.
The eLCV developed by Euler Motors is a 500 kg payload vehicle equipped with a 5.76 kWh lithium-ion battery that offers a range of 80-100 km. The vehicle is equipped with thermal management and charging management systems that are governed by the vehicle control unit (VCU), powered by the microprocessor for efficient resource optimisation. The VCU also sends back the data to the company, which is processed by AI-based systems to offer predictive maintenance, vehicle range optimisation as well as evaluating load conditions for temperature and humidity. The battery pack the company is currently offering is expected to last 3-4 years, depending on the usage.
Some of the major parts still remain the same, including chassis, commercial vehicle (CV) joints and axles, but the engine, clutch and manual transmission are replaced with motors, different gearboxes and controllers. Of course, there is the bigger battery pack too. EVs offer full torque availability even at static conditions, which also makes them ideal to start with a heavy payload, said Kumar.
Parting ways with various ICE vehicle-based components will also enable CVs to take advantage of the reinforced chassis and battery pack build design, to lower the centre of gravity for better stability, safety during T-collision as well as avoid vehicle roll-over. Imbibing learnings from its first pilot, Euler Motors continues to develop capacities for better human-machine interaction and simplify functions for robust on-road operations.
Kumar and his team have also been exploring the possibility of using various materials such as fibre-reinforced plastic to reduce the overall vehicle kerb weight. Such materials carry similar structural rigidity as in the case of sheet metal parts, the company said. Euler Motors has drawn up plans to increase aluminium content in its vehicle as it is lightweight and offers good thermal conductivity, which is ideal for thermal management systems.
Euler Motors currently operates two manufacturing facilities – one at Okhla in Delhi and the other at Faridabad in Haryana. The Okhla facility undertakes major developments including R&D, while the Faridabad facility manages the assembly work and has the capacity to roll out 50 units monthly. This will be scaled-up to 200 units per month by 2020-end. The company currently owns eight charging hubs across Delhi-NCR – these hubs are equipped with 70 charging stations and serve as a service station with trained manpower to manage mechanical as well as electrical systems of the vehicle.
Euler Motors has supplied over 100 prototypes of its eLCVs in the pilot phase, so as to graduate to the actual version fairly quickly. The final version of the eLCV will be rolled out later this year. Kumar said it is critical not to over-optimise the vehicle performance since it is designed to operate within the city. Although the company did face challenges due to lack of an organised supply chain for EVs, it has achieved 70 % vehicle localisation and aims to attain 100 % localisation over the next three-four years. The company is already carrying out critical operations such as vertical integration of battery packs, chips, thermal management systems, and vehicle management systems in India.
The company has banked on Kumar’s software education background to enable flexibility of software deployment on its EVs. Euler Motors manages its own thermal management systems for battery temperature control for an increased range. Kumar said software deployment is a critical operation as India faces varied problems – uneven temperature conditions, overloading as well as no air-conditioning in vehicles. Thus, customer awareness & education will be crucial towards operating EVs in an optimised way, noted Kumar.
Stressing that overloading is a long-standing problem in the CV segment across the world, Kumar said it is important to ensure the vehicle DNA does not get affected during abusive operations. Thus, Euler Motors’ team has also equipped the vehicle with protective circuits to avoid current overflow into the motor that could lead to short circuit or unwanted damage. This explains why the company approached organised e-commerce entities to note down critical observations before officially launching it. Any linear increase in current works non-linearly on the heat scale; thus, more current means a lot of heat, which will ultimately kill the battery pack as well as the vehicle, he observed.
While Euler Motors continues to develop capacities for urban centres, it also has a sharp eye on expanding horizons in the Tier II & Tier III cities. A vehicle battery does lose out 40 % of its capacity if it operates in over 45 °C, while its life cycle reduces to two years. The company is conducting substantial R&D work at the battery level to increase life span to five years along with enabling modularity of battery pack. Euler Motors has been working on reducing vibrations as well as performing robustly while sustaining abusive operations such as waterlogging, temperature among others. Kumar said the battery chemistry mixture of Nickel, Cobalt, Manganese (NCM) earlier was 1:1:1, but the ratios have transformed significantly to 8:1:1. Thus, from the material perspective, companies are reducing their dependence on critical minerals like cobalt, which Kumar believes will push EV adoption and address its hefty price tag.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja
PHOTO: Euler Motors