Plugzmart, a Chennai-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of electric vehicle (EV) chargers and SAAS provider of electric charging infrastructure, is all about going local.
Speaking to The Better India, co-founder Ragavendra Ravichandran says, “A majority of EV chargers in India today are being imported and are of low quality. They’re largely imported from China. [This is because] Chinese chargers are priced low, but there is no support from Chinese manufacturers once installed, which is a key issue.”
“We miss the technical stronghold of the imported products and find it difficult to resolve issues without service support. As EV adoption increases on the consumer and commercial sides, the requirement for chargers from manufacturers of 2, 3, and 4-wheelers and charge point operators is going to scale rapidly.”
Incubated at IIT Madras in 2019, Plugzmart has built its own IoT-enabled smart EV charging management system to integrate and communicate efficiently with chargers. Their portfolio of products includes chargers for 2-, 3-, and 4-wheelers.
Founded by Vivek Samaynathan and Ragavendra Ravichandran, Plugzmart has a portfolio of nine products across different power ranges including AC chargers (7.4kW – 22kW) and DC chargers (30kW – 120kW).
Who are Plugzmart?
Before establishing their startup, Ragavendra and Vivek were enjoying the fruits of a successful corporate career. Ragavendra, a postgraduate in business analytics, was working as a data science professional with Verizon, an American telecommunications giant. Vivek, meanwhile, was working with German automobile giant Volkswagen following a master’s degree in automotive service technology. In 2017, they commenced work on EV chargers.
“We foresaw that EV is the future of commuting in India and around the world, and knew that chargers will play an important role in supporting it,” recalls Ragavendra.
According to JMK Research, a Gurugram-based boutique consultancy firm, India will have about 5 crore EVs by 2030, of which electric two wheelers alone will account for about 70% of total sales. In order to support this massive growth spurt in the EV sector, the report claimed that India will need about 20.5 lakh charging stations by 2030.
“Currently, the number of charging stations are too less, of the order of approximately 32 EVs per charging station in India,” the report added. How is Plugzmart contributing to the solution?
“We are manufacturing chargers with European standards. Our intention is to produce high-quality chargers at competitive prices. This will eventually make customers buy a quality product at an affordable price. We are leveraging this with our indigenously-designed product and have a strong hold on the technology. By 2025, customers and partners will have helped us deliver one million charging ports to make commuting cleaner and more accessible,” he claims.
Building charging infrastructure
“We first developed the AC001 Bharath standard EV charger with three outputs. Each output supplies power amounting to 3.3kW. It takes eight hours to charge an EV with this charger. But the time taken to charge an EV depends on battery specifications of each vehicle,” says Vivek.
Among the standout aspects of smart chargers developed by Plugzmart include a software-based EV charging system designed to meet the growing demand in the charging infrastructure in India. An algorithm will optimally schedule charging in order to maximise the usage of available grid resources for charging EVs and thereby maximising the number of EVs that can be connected to the grid while enhancing grid stability.
This homegrown smart controller can be used in third party chargers as well. As a result of this flexibility, the system can grow and change as technology changes.
“It is called V2G – Vehicle to Grid. Here, the energy in the EV can be given back to the grid when it is not utilised and users will be paid for it,” he says, adding that if there’s a power shortage, this process will optimise energy usage. “We have built our own CMS (Charging Management System) where data from chargers are sent to servers and then to an app. It’s a two-way communication system where you will control the charger via mobile,” explains Ragavendra.
“We have also developed IOT-enabled smart EV chargers for all electric vehicles along with OCPP-enabled (Open Charge Point Protocol, an open-source communication standard for EV charging stations and network software companies) mobile applications. The smart chargers can work independently from authorising customers, measure energy consumption and make payment-by-payment gateway; it can reserve, book and cancel bookings remotely,” he adds.
In short, Ragavendra lists out the key features of their product portfolio:
• Customers to locate EV chargers in map
• Know the availability status of an EV charging station
• Reserve the station
• Authenticate the customers using RFID or OTP
• Measure the energy consumed
• Charge time and charging pattern
• Payment gateway
The fastest EV charger in their portfolio is a 60kW DC charger which charges a vehicle within 40 minutes. “The charging time depends on the battery capacity,” he adds.
Meanwhile, about 70% of their components are sourced in India with the remaining coming from the US and Europe.
Funding and looking ahead
Earlier this week, the IIT Madras-incubated smart EV charger startup raised Rs 3.63 crore in seed funding, led by early-stage VC (venture capitalist) BlueHill Capital and followed by investors such as Meera Reddy of SKCL (Sri Kausalya Constructions Ltd), Kartik Meyyappan, L. Ramkumar, Sivadas Raghava and Shailaja Reddy, among other investors.
The company plans to use the funds for R&D and scaling up the team besides ramping up production to meet the large order pipeline already in hand. The startup is targeting to deliver at least one million indigenously-designed and manufactured chargers in the next three years.
Manu Iyer, Partner at Bluehill Capital, says, “As the EV segment in India takes off, we are excited to partner with and invest in Plugzmart, and add to our EV portfolio. There is a gaping hole in the Made-in-India, safe and quality EV charger hardware+software market which we believe can be addressed by Plugzmart. Plugzmart is an exciting startup in the greenfield industry and we are glad to back the team to achieve new heights.”
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
(Images courtesy Plugzmart)