Raft Motors, a Mumbai-based electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, is all set to launch its latest e-scooter with a claimed battery range that could trounce the domestic competition. On 2 November, customers can book the Indus NX, which Raft Motors claim will have a battery range of 480 km on a single charge, making it India’s longest-range electric scooter.
In an announcement late last month, the venture said that the Indus NX will be available in three variants:
Base: A portable 48V 65Ah lithium-ion battery that can deliver 156 km range (Ex-showroom Price-Rs 1,18,500).
Mid-range: A portable 48V 135Ah battery, that can go up to 324 km in range (Ex-showroom price-Rs 1,91,976).
High-end: A dual-battery option with a capacity of 9.6 KWH, that can offer range up to 480+ km in a single charge (Ex-showroom price-Rs 2,57,431).
All these variants will be backed by an in-house assembled lithium-ion battery with a warranty of 1 lakh km (three years), which the venture has been developing since its inception.
“Our objective was to build an EV two-wheeler with such a battery range that riders do not have to worry about charging at all. We were able to achieve this thanks to our dual-battery option on the Indus NX. The fixed battery under the footboard with a capacity of 48V 135 Ah offers a battery range of 325 km on a single charge. If the rider completes 325 km and runs out of charge, they don’t have to immediately charge this because we have installed another portable battery with a capacity of 48V 65Ah, which offers a range of 156 km on a single charge. All a rider has to do once the fixed battery has run out of charge is to switch the miniature circuit breaker (MCB) and the EV will start running on the portable battery. It creates security in the mind of riders,” says Parivesh Shukla, co-founder of Raft Motors, speaking to The Better India.
“Along with the e-scooter, we are offering a 10 Amp charger as well. In the context of the Indus NX, if you want to charge it up to 100-150 km, it would conventionally take about three to four hours. Having said that, we are also offering a 30 amp fast charger for an additional Rs 15,000, which will charge the vehicle entirely in about 6 hours or so,” says Rakesh Salve, co-founder.
In addition to these features, the Indus NX will come with features like reverse gear, theft alarm, keyless-start, remote-locking, child-safe parking mode and a top speed of 45 kmph.
(Image on the left of the co-founders Parivesh Shukla and Rakesh Salve and the Indus NX on the right)
Building a Nation-Wide EV Biz
Rakesh Salve and Parivesh Shukla started Raft Motors in 2016, manufacturing two-wheeler and four-wheeler accessories like helmets and safety guards. But in 2018 when the government banned the use of safety guards for four wheelers, all their attention went towards the emerging EV sector in India. They had already begun developing products for the sector in 2017.
Earlier, they had to work with lead acid batteries that would stop functioning properly in six to eight months. With these lead acid batteries, the savings on fuel costs associated with EVs weren’t happening. Later in 2017, they transitioned to assembling lithium ferro-phosphate batteries, and became the first venture in India to offer customers a warranty of 1 lakh km. “This created a semblance of trust among customers for our products. Our clients in 2021 claim to have run their EVs for 1.25 lakh km thanks to our batteries,” notes Parivesh.
“Parivesh and I started this venture around five years ago. Within the span of one year, we understood that the automobile industry, particularly the EV segment, is very challenging which requires consistent innovation and improvisation. Over time, the direction and face of Raft Motors changed. As a company we have a presence in over 550 dealerships across India today, but we still call ourselves an established startup,” says Rakesh, who has over 15 years of corporate experience, while Parivesh is a veteran of the automobile industry.
Following their introduction of lithium ferro-phosphate batteries, the venture went on to launch a series of EV two-wheelers with battery ranges extending from 60 km to about 125 km. However, the lack of charging infrastructure in India, mean range anxiety was still a concern. Parivesh believes the lack of charging infrastructure comes down to building charging stations being a loss-making enterprise. Anyhow, to address this concern, Raft Motors has developed a portable charging station, which would cost the end user a further Rs 5,000.
“This portable charging station runs through an app, and you don’t need to employ anyone to charge your vehicle or need additional space. Once you scan the code on your app, you only need to pay Rs 25 for one hour of charging. This portable charger can be installed anywhere from a general store in a market to an office complex and mall. We launched this portable charging station about less than a month back. We’ve been working on it for the past six to seven months and from 2 November will start delivering them to our customers. Although the Indus NX may render our portable charging station useless, it shall help EVs manufactured by other companies to use this network and enable faster adoption,” explains Parivesh.
The Road Ahead
These e-scooters are largely being made at their manufacturing facility in Vasai-East in Mumbai. Moving forward, their approach to manufacturing is all set to be different from convention. Instead of building or expanding one large facility, their objective is to build smaller manufacturing units. They seek to build one such small unit for every 10 districts.
“Aside from the vehicle, the charger requires repairing, and you need spare parts as well. As an EV maker you need to have these close to where your customers are located. In this model, our dealers also get quicker delivery of products, while clients obtain faster services from us. The market does not have enough EV technicians because our education system doesn’t teach students about vehicles like e-bikes,” Rakesh says.
He adds, “At these small units, we will also train the local populace on fixing, servicing and repairing EVs as well. Until there aren’t trained technicians, our business cannot succeed. Today, customers fear that if their EV breaks down on the road, only their respective company technicians can fix them and not any other conventional mechanic.”
Those interested in learning about EVs have to pay Rs 99 for 30 days of training.
“Whoever completes our training programme can work in our unit, open their own service centre or work in any other EV company’s showroom,” adds Parivesh.
Raft Motors are currently building smaller units in Bengaluru and Bellary in Karnataka, Dindigul in Tamil Nadu, Valsad in Gujarat, Raisen and Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, Ganjam and Kendrapara in Orissa and Sangrur in Punjab.
These other small units are slated to be operational by 10 November 2021, claims Parivesh, and by March 2022, their target is to operationalise 100 such units. What’s particularly remarkable about this enterprise is that they are bootstrapped with no external funding. Whether Raft Motors can deliver on their claims is yet to be seen, but the prospects look exciting.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)