When Log9 Materials, an advanced battery-technology and deep-technology startup, unveiled India’s first indigenously-developed cell manufacturing facility in Bengaluru last month, there was one beneficiary who stood out.
Nikhil Gonsalves, founder and CEO of inGO Electric, a Bengaluru-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM), whose team has built, developed and sourced every component of the scooter indigenously, finally had the once missing piece that would make his products entirely ‘Made in India’ — lithium-ion battery cells.
“Our company’s name literally stands for ‘India Goes Electric’. We incorporated the company back in 2018, but months earlier in 2017, I was introduced to Dr Akshay Singhal of Log9 Materials by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru. During our conversations, I told him that we were able to crack each component of this vehicle, including the motor and controller, but we had to rely on imports for the battery cells. We now have the last missing piece of the puzzle,” recalls Nikhil in a conversation with The Better India.
These Li-ion battery cells will be installed into their Tron and Flee models of e-scooters. At present, the inGO Tron, an e-scooter for your average rider designed for all kinds of roads and backed by a 800W BLDC motor and 1.6 kWh battery, has a top speed of 50 kmph and a battery range of more than 50 km on a single charge. With the installation of Log9’s tropicalised-ion battery (TiB), inGO is looking at a battery range of 80 km and top speed of 25 kmph, backed by a 2 kWh battery and 250W motor for their latest version of the Tron. Consumers will be able to place orders for these specific e-scooters approximately in the next three months, claims Nikhil.
Inspired to go electric
Before establishing inGO Electric, 42-year-old Nikhil had extensive experience in the corporate world with companies like Oracle and Netapp in roles like information technology (IT) infrastructure administration. Over time, however, he transitioned more towards the business process and sales operations side of things, where he developed teams and systems that facilitated processes like invoicing, quote-order, lead management and more.
“I was tasked with transitioning services from overseas into India and creating centres of excellence with various processes. I then underwent the ‘Advanced Management Program’ with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Bangalore, a one year course for senior leaders to hone their skills for running organisations. During this course, I had an ‘awakening’ which rekindled the dreamer and gadget guru in me. After this there was no looking back,” he recalls.
During his stints working overseas, electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, Tesla and Prius were very popular. He would often drive in these cars and wonder why India doesn’t have such EVs.
“This ‘bee in my bonnet’ never left and during my IIM course, I took it to the next level. Analysing traffic woes in 2016, I realised that the issues were with first/last-mile vehicles and understood that there was no vehicle specifically designed to handle these majority use cases. I found that 80% of the population commute less than 10 km a day. With this statistic, I sought to design two vehicle platforms… one for portability and the other for any terrain last mile use,” he notes.
Make in India
One negative externality of the e-mobility boom in India has been the proliferation of dealers sourcing low-grade electric vehicles (EVs) or components from countries like China, and reselling or assembling them in India. This has sometimes resulted in bad experiences for some of India’s early EV adopters, as well as poor supply chain practices.
“After my IIM-B course and envisioning the creation of inGO, I used my connections/network to meet decision makers at high level auto component suppliers and sought to steer towards e-mobility. After months of convincing, I was able to get them to take EVs seriously. Today, many of them are in agreement with the deployments made on their production. A few of them could not be convinced or they did not have the bandwidth to do so. In such cases, inGO invested in the resources to make that in-house. Today, inGO makes the entire chassis, motor and electronics in India. The only items imported are the magnets, which will be removed with our next generation of motor, LCD screen crystals and Lithium Cells. After the engagement with Log9, I only have Rs 60 worth of imported material on my vehicle,” claims Nikhil.
However, he argues that the entire process of going ‘Make in India’ has its costs, but the benefits in the long term are even bigger. “To honestly wave the ‘Make In India’ flag, the costs do go up a bit vis-a-vis China. But if I ensure quality and reliability, we are actually cheaper than imported options. With this mindset, we decided to make a vehicle that stands for reliability, safety and ergonomics. Thus the inGO Flee for commercial operations like food delivery is a comfortable, rock solid and smooth riding vehicle for India,” he claims.
‘First electric experience’
Thus far, inGO Electric has raised approximately Rs 2 crore in private funding and secured Rs 4 crore through grants and participation in various competitions. Since opening up sales on their products in February 2022, they have sold more than 200 EVs.
“Suffice it today, we want inGO to be the ‘First Electric Experience’ for many people. We believe that a pleasurable experience will allow us to evangelise the consumers to be more accepting of EVs as the de-facto mobility choice. Presently we are raising a huge round that will see us release three new vehicles that help us execute on our mission to provide the most technologically advanced and superior riding experience vehicle to the markets,” he claims.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
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