Bengaluru-based commercial electric vehicle (EV) maker Altigreen, in collaboration with energy startup Exponent Energy, has launched a new variant of its three-wheeler cargo EV neEV — the neEV Tez. This is a very significant development not just for the Indian e-mobility sector, but also for EV enthusiasts the world over.
Featuring an 8.2kWh e^pack (battery pack), a proprietary battery by Exponent built using regular LFP (lithium ferro-phosphate) cell chemistry, neEV Tez delivers a city drive range of 80-85 km. More significantly, Exponent’s proprietary liquid-cooled battery charges from 0-100% in 15 minutes at its e^pump charging network, making it the world’s fastest charging electric three-wheeler, according to the respective startups.
According to a press release issued earlier this week, this is achieved by the e^pump delivering 600A of current to the e^pack (15x industry standard) while managing individual cell characteristics including thermals to ensure safety, long battery life and performance consistency even at 50 degrees Celsius.
The release goes on to add, “So certain are we of their rapid charging capabilities, that we have offered the unprecedented warranty of the battery, with 3000 fast-charge cycles tested!”
The neEV Tez starts at Rs 3,55,000 with a vehicle warranty of 5 years/1 lakh km. Also, it offers an ‘unprecedented battery warranty’ of 5 years/1.56 lakh km.
It was in August 2022 that Altigreen and Exponent Energy announced their partnership, aimed at making rapid charging a reality for EVs on Indian roads and the neEV Tez is the first product to emerge from this partnership.
Addressing media, Dr Amitabh Saran, founder and CEO, Altigreen, said, “The neEV Tez will ensure maximum utilisation of the vehicle owing to its long range and low charging time, thereby resulting in more trips on a single charge and opportunities for high earnings. While consumers acknowledge that EVs offer a smoother driving experience, there are myths of them being unpredictable and unreliable — with range and prolonged charging time forcing a cap on the delivery jobs one can take.”
“The game-changing neEV Tez offers a new and robust solution with its 15-minute full-charge capabilities. So the next time a consumer asks us, ‘Kitna chalti hai? (How long does it run?)’, we’d like to tell them, ‘Chalti rehti hai! (It runs all the time!),” adds Dr Saran.
Mechanics of charging
Speaking to The Better India, Arun Vinayak, co-founder of Exponent Energy, explains, “The neEV Tez comes with two options to charge — at home using a slow charger or at our e^pump (charging station). We already have 20 e^pumps live in Bengaluru, and are planning to add 10 more this month as part of phase 1. By the end of this phase, we will have 30 e^pumps across a 5 km radius, covering all critical locations.”
“In phase 2, within the next six months, we will have 100 charging stations in Bengaluru, which equals the number of CNG stations in the city. You can charge your EV faster at our e^pumps than at CNG stations. Our e^pumps will be easier to find, as we have an app coming up which allows users to find the nearest one. If the e^pump is down for some reason like a power cut, we re-route traffic because we are setting e^pumps within 2 km of each other,” claims Vinayak.
Another interesting approach they have taken is populating one gun (charging point for EVs or the device that dispenses petrol/diesel at stations) per e^pump.
“For a petrol pump, you need a certain amount of real estate. It should be located on a main road and requires a massive petrol bunker. Also, the number of petrol-run vehicles requires you to have at least two or three guns at each petrol pump,” says Arun.
The 15-minute charging system means you need only one gun per e^pump, because of the quick turnaround time. “Instead of 400-500 concentrated locations, we are planning to set up 100 single guns across the city. It’s very easy to set up a single gun 500 metres down the road from the next. With the current slow charging guns, it takes four to five hours to charge a vehicle, you have to pay for a lot more real estate, manage multiple connections etc.,” he adds.
“There have been instances where two vehicles enter our e^pump at the same time. Even then, you need just 20-22 minutes from the moment you drive into our e^pump and drive out with a fully charged EV.”
Can Exponent’s e^pump fast charge other vehicles besides the neEV Tez? “Right now it’s the neEV Tez that’ll be using our e^pumps but we are also looking at other categories of vehicles as well,” says Arun.
Three-wheelers at the heart of the EV charging revolution
Why does Arun think the EV charging revolution starts with the three-wheeler?
“Our focus is on commercial vehicles. India sells about 20 million two-wheelers a year, but cumulatively on the road they consume only 5% of our total energy. Passenger cars don’t significantly move the needle when it comes to sustainability because they consume only about 20% of our energy,” explains Arun.
He continues, “Three-wheeler passenger vehicles, cargos, four-wheeler LCVs, trucks and buses are segments that are really energy hungry. They only make up 10% of vehicles, but consume 70% of energy. These vehicles need rapid charging the most and price points are sensitive. They also have batteries weighing more than 100 kg, and in trucks, this can go up to 300 kg. There is no better solution than rapid charging.”
Also, nearly 50% of three-wheelers sold in India are electric, Arun points out. “The three-wheeler market is more ready for our technology than, say, large trucks. And a lot of last-mile commerce is moving to three-wheeler electric. Most passenger vehicles and two-wheelers park and charge at home or the workplace. They don’t really need rapid charging stations in the city,” he says.
Coming back to the neEV Tez three-wheeler, it has been indigenously built keeping in mind India’s road conditions and temperature and are set up for intercity and intracity transportation. Available in three variants — the High Deck, the Low Deck, and now Tez — neEV is a solution for last-mile delivery and has 177 cu ft more cargo space than other EVs in the market.
“neEV Tez has been launched keeping in mind all business owners — from those owning a single vehicle to an aggregator of thousands of vehicles in the logistics space. The aim is to deploy 2,000 neEV Tez three-wheelers as part of the first phase of commercialisation,” says Dr Saran.
(Edited by Asha Prakash)